The Skeleton Spider war

Our neighbor has a 10ft skeleton that they put out every Halloween. He got it all put out a while back, and then this promptly happened:

Down came the rain and washed the spider out. Well, really it had to get pulled down in a hurry due to high winds, but that’s not how the song goes. 🙂

So the spider had to be refurbished a bit and re-assembled. I was out helping him do that and he mentioned that Halloween was his wife’s favorite holiday. “Well, why don’t we go all out and do something really fun then?” I suggested. “Perhaps we could create the skeleton spider war between our houses…” Famous last words.

So off to do some shopping we went. Turns out that early October is too late to shop for Halloween supplies, there are only Christmas trees. But I found some skeletons and decided to finally get some LED lights on the house too.

So now our house is all set up for some spooky lighting. The idea was to have some sort of “spooky laboratory” or “spooky cauldron” effect. A cauldron in the front yard that was being used to create skeletons was the original idea, but cauldrons could not be found anywhere, so we had to rethink things.

“You know what this needs,” we said, “… Blacklight”. A little research later and we found some high quality blacklight outdoor flood lights. (It turns out there are two types of blacklights, the regular/cheap ones you get, which are 395nm and throw a lot of deep purple light, and the high quality ones which are 365nm and create very little visible light.) So some more shopping, and we have some blacklight floodlights and black-light reactive accessories, as well as black-light-reactive spraypaint and colored paint.

We’re officially the only houses in the neighborhood with a joint decorative display! And we got a bunch of comments from people saying “We never thought to put something between the houses!”. The spider nest on the left, with the baby UV spiders crawling across the front of their house and over to the big mama spider turned out particularly nice I thought.

However… We couldn’t stop ourselves. We needed more.

It turns out you CAN fit a 4′ by 8′ piece of foam board in the back of a subaru if you plan your cuts carefully.

Oh yeah, we’re making some tombstones!

Fortunately our neighbor has a jigsaw and a long enough blade to cut through 2″ foam easily. That gave us the shapes. Then we spackled the break lines in the foam to keep it from cracking, and it added some nice texture too.

After a bit of trying with knives we decided that wasn’t feasible for the amount of lettering we wanted to do. We tried coloring in the letters using a template our other neighbor cut out of cardboard using her cricut machine, but it was a bit challenging to follow with the router and wasn’t going to scale to doing more text. A bit more research and Bevin found the best technique, you print out your lettering on paper, and then use washable gluesticks to stick the paper to the foam, and then just router right through the paper. Worked like a charm.

For those who don’t know, “Dear Departed Brother Dave” is a tombstone from Disney’s Haunted Mansion. “Dave” was a Disney Imagineer who worked on the Haunted Mansion. All the tombstones are names of Imagineers, and are tribute to the people who helped build the attraction. I wanted to include at least one of the names from Haunted Mansion because I love that ride, but also to make it clear to anyone who knows that we’re doing a bit of a homage here.

We had to add our name, in the style of the Haunted Mansion

While Bevin worked on carving tombstones I had one other project. Two LED strips powered by batteries that could be deployed outside for a nice spooky eyes effect. Little bit of soldering, and a couple of repurposed meal-prep containers and we’ve got some lights ready to attach to the fences behind the spiderwebs!

So let’s see what it looks like the night before! All Hallows Eve Eve!

And the LED effects on the front of the house look pretty good too!
The spooky eyes turned out great!
The view starting from the neighbor’s side. Spooky Spiders!

Here’s a bunch of pictures of the night before. There are a mix of regular shots and “Night Sight” shots, which is my phone trying take long exposure pictures in the dark. That’s why some look spooky dark and some don’t, but the Night Sight pictures show off some of the detail a bit more.

A tiny bit more decorating to spook it up on halloween day:

And now all that is left is to get dressed up and start spooking the kiddos! Bevin is going to answer the door as a vampire, and I’m… I dunno, a spooky vampire familiar? A crazy inventor? I plan on asking the kids if they’ve come to join the skeleton spider war, and if they want to become skeletons.

And now we’re ready. We just need candy. Good thing we planned far enough ahead to actually get some before the stores ran out!

Here’s a walk-up video of the actual Halloween night. It’s not great as the camera can’t figure out how to focus in the dark, but it gives a decent idea.

And here’s a walk-by video of both houses on Halloween night. In it you can see a couple of final finishing touches that were added, including the glow-in-the-dark lasso added to the skeleton and bull-head coming out of the ground. You can’t quite hear the spooky haunted house sound effects playing from the upstairs window. (It was this)

We did have some trouble at both houses with parents not thinking we were home because “the porch light isn’t on”. This led to me being out on the street walking around correcting people when they tried to walk by and telling them to knock on the doors. Me wandering around in the dark wearing all black led to some fun times too though, including this clip captured from one of the security cameras in night-vision mode:

Apparently they didn’t see me in the driveway and so got quite spooked when I “came out of nowhere”. Fortunately my pockets were full of candy so they got both their trick and their treat. Basically the highlight of my night. 😀

All in all, an exceedingly successful and fun Halloween!

Now on to figuring out what sort of black-light related Christmas decorations we can use…

Living the (dead) dream…

I’ve just scared my first tiny trick or treaters.

I’ve got the lights on spooky flickering, the Haunted Mansion queue music in playing on the speakers, and I’m acting like a Ghost Host and trying to work in as many terrible puns as possible.

I amuse myself.