Thursday, December 1, 2022

Spooky Season

Nuts to think Halloween is almost a month in the past already.  But what a Season it's been.  I swore I'd savor it, and I did.  This October was truly the best ever.  Usually, autumn feels like it's a million miles away.  And the heat lingers unseasonably and uncomfortably close for far too long.  Then, suddenly, you see some trees changing colors and pumpkins in a bin at a local supermarket.  The air gets crisp and it's a mad dash to get it all in before it slips through your fingers.  And then it's Haunt-prep time.  Lists within lists.  Nervous energy as you pray the weather holds out.  Like preparing for an elaborate, one-night-only theater in the park performance, with no covering to keep your stage props (or your audience) dry from any potential rain (I'm pretty uptight [and theatrical]).  

I mentioned this a bunch of blog posts ago, but this year was the first year I was able to break from the "Tradition" of worrying too much and replace it with some actual fun in the days leading up to the High Holiday.  My good friend Wren was in town, and we crammed in as much Halloween-adjacent activities as we could.  Haunted attractions, prop photo shoots, horror films, Halloween candy shops, Peddler's Village scarecrows, seasonal cocktails and autumnal dinner menus, flights of wine and bourbon, a bar that could have been the bar in Halloween III, and the Lambertville Halloween House.  

The Builders...

This year's Haunt was a challenging one.  My biggest to date, with more props than I've ever built in one season.  It was going to be a ton of work, and I was extremely grateful to have Wren as a collaborator throughout the year and as a co-Haunter on the big night.  We talked a lot about what The Builders were up to.  Why would they be building so many scarecrows, and what would they look like?  What would three creatures use to build their totems?  Were old boards and rusted cans logical?  Were human skulls?  For me, collaboration is a rare event.  It happened back in 2018 when Theo and I worked together to build 2018's CHURCH display (still the most magical and insane memory).  Aside from then, my Haunt concepts and execution have always been a solitary thing.  2022 was a wonderful and welcome change.  

The Haunt became something entirely different than my original idea.  That never happened before.  The glowing red sepulchers within each scarecrow's abdomen - Wren's idea.  The torn and tattered funeral-black cloth hanging above and around The Builders on the porch - her idea and execution.  I could tell that this Haunt was going to be a hit with the trick-or-treaters.  It had a depth to it that made it feel huge.  And the scarecrows, despite being 13 in number, felt like they stretched out into the darkness and across the street and into the endless night.  The spacing and height are something I also need to thank Wren for, as my initial plans were to have them all at the same height and much closer to the porch.  

As we slowly built the Haunt on October 30th, we knew we had something unusually special by the time the sun was setting.  We were exhausted from a full day of building our Dark Theater in the Park, and neighbors and passersby were stopping.  And they were staring - with huge grins.  I gave short tours of the fully lit and fog-filled display.  The photos and video I've posted oddly do not do it justice.  My one neighbor from up the street pulled his car over and hopped out.  He kept saying "Oh my GOD!" and he asked excitedly "Do people KNOW about this?!  We have to tell them!  We have to call the news!" (I had PTSD flashbacks of my mom and her fame-driven motivations and threats to call the local news despite me informing her I would boycott and skip town if I saw a news van pulling up).  


The annual open house Halloween party for friends and family was the best to date.  At one point the house was pretty packed, with people laughing, drinking spirits, and eating some incredibly fun and amazing food (going to thank Wren again for that).  It felt like a Halloween party from a TV special.  I felt a ton of gratitude all night long.  Tons.

Enter Michael Myers...

He was there. Handing out candy.  Head tilts and slow hand movements.  Occasionally he would walk onto the porch anticipating that the last group of kids would look back over their shoulders.  When they did, and when they saw him, standing emotionless and cold (and close), they would shriek and run off.  It worked perfectly all night long.  

Earlier in the day, as the afternoon school buses were passing through this street on Halloween, one of the buses slowly pulled by the display.  A few of the windows were down and one of the bigger kids saw me moving about finessing some props.  I wasn't in costume (Michael Myers had yet to escape the sanitarium you see).  The boy yelled out quite politely "Excuse me, sir?  Sir?!  Are you Michael Myers?!"

I yelled back "Yes!  Yes, I AM Michael Myers!"
And I think I might be.


Below are a bunch of photos from this magical October (I'll be blogging later about some of these)...














































































Rain drops on Mr. Myers' cheek.  It was lightly raining at the end of the night on Halloween.  A very fitting image.




16 comments:

Withered Vines said...

Rot, you are always an inspiration!

Rot said...

Thanks!

Holy Tarra said...

What a wonderful post!!! I can relate so well to just about everything you've described right down to the "uptight and theatrical" haha! And the threats to call the local news....yikes!!!
That happened to me one year and it was a nightmare since they decided to shoot live from the slough for their evening broadcast....huge pain in the ....! So glad you dodged that bullet! ;) Absolutely love hearing your account of the events and can only imagine how much fun it must be to have a partner in crime that's as passionate about Halloween as you. Kind of jealous actually...I had lots of friends volunteer to help over the years but no one that actually knows all of the knitty gritty work that's involved in putting up a haunt. So happy that both of you had such a fantastic year!!!

Rot said...

Yup! Really grateful it was such a great season. Loads of fun and a bunch of new things. And a lot of photoshoots in the bag so those pics will slowly drip out : )

MR. Macabre said...

Perfectly worded, your description of the feelings we have going into our favorite night of the year. Halloween is so different from all the other "holidays", mainly because of what it is, it's one night. And we have to depend on the weather co-operating for that brief 3-4 hour window of opportunity. The stress level rises the closer we get to Oct. 31st, will it rain, will it be windy? Will anyone bother to show up?
I wasn't able to put on my haunt this year at our son's home, the timing just didn't work out. I promised our older granddaughters that there would definitely be a haunt in 2023 at their house. I'd love some words of advice on how to raise awareness that their small farming community will have a new presence next Halloween.
I'd like to do some photo shooting in locations scattered around their house similar to what you've done in the past. I think I've come up with a name and story to go with my haunt that's different enough to work for several years of haunting without having to change anything.
I'll have to see what I can do, thank you for inspiring me to make it my best.

Rot said...

I think something weird and mysterious would help to raise awareness. I'm picturing some flyers stapled to telephone poles (assuming there are poles around in like a small town). Just some printed-out papers with a pumpkin that say "Something is coming this HALLOWEEN..." and give the address.

I'm not really sure what I'd do in the same situation, but I know I'd be mystified if I saw signs like that here and there popping up in September 2023. I'd definitely go check it out.

Revenant Manor said...

A great summary of a well-spent spooky season!

All of that is a wonderful reminder that getting tunnel vision producing the haunt can end up crowding out entirely too many of the very things that made you love the season in the first place, AND that being on-guard against that tendency can yield fantastic results.

Having a collaborator to help ensure that the spirit of the season not only remains intact, but also enhances the experience is a true blessing, and the results all clearly speak for themselves.

There’s no question that it’s entirely too easy to get consumed by the anxiety of the ‘One Night Only’ outdoor event, and those that have displays / haunts / walkthroughs should try to ensure that they don't lose the opportunity to enjoy the entire season in the process…the blog definitely provided a great blueprint for that this season!

Rot said...

Yep. That's exactly it. There's such a tendency to fall into that hole of worry, which is healthy in small doses, and it's totally prudent to over-prepare for your life's passions, but I think I was always more like Gollum and his ring. Getting lost in the planning.
It really was a blessing being able to take a step back and see everything else Halloween had to offer. And doing it so close to Halloween made everything feel really electric. Won't ever forget this one.

Willow Cove said...

What a great post, Rot!
Love the foodie/snacks shots.

Rot said...

Thanks, WC! SOOO Much food in October. haha

Wren said...

Such a great write up :) You really captured the feeling of the season!

Rot said...

Thanks! Twas the best.

Autumnleaf said...

Thank you for a great post! You certainly, most thoroughly sucked the marrow out of the Halloween season this year. Kudos! Of all the artful, beautiful photos I have to say my favorite is the school bus driving by the haunt.

K.O. said...

What a blast! Super happy for y'all. Sounds like a perfect October!! You deserve it! ^_^

Mike C(JASONV123) said...

Sounded magical really. I'm with you on savoring the experience of the whole month, I try to enjoy it as much as I can.

Rot said...

Thanks, guys!