The first time I saw American Scream, I was like WHAT? THIS IS A THING PEOPLE DO? HAUNTED HOUSES IN YOUR OWN HOUSE?!?! And ever since then I’ve wanted to do some sort of haunt in my house. My previous house wasn’t very conducive to that sort of thing, but we may or may not have mentioned our haunt aspirations to our realtor and the house we have now has plenty of space for such things.
According to Home Haunting for Mere Mortals, a book I indeed own, it’s a good idea to pick a theme. I talked Bren into aliens pretty early on. Turns out picking a theme has a lot of benefits – not only does it help you focus your plans, but it also prevents you from buying every Halloween thing you see. Aliens was particularly good because they are apparently not a very popular Halloween theme. There was nothing for me to buy! Well, in physical stores – plenty of stuff online of course.
Since it was our first time – and we are still in our first year of being in this house so we really couldn’t afford to go too bananas – we opted to stay relatively small scale. We decided on the autopsied alien and the frozen alien in a containment pod, plus a plastic tunnel a la ET. Later, when deciding on the mystery boxes, I added alien eggs/pods.
We wanted to keep it cheap(ish) so we decided to go with papier mache.
We also found a recipe for paper clay that we used for pretty much everything. It’s actually really easy to make and handles just like clay, dries hard. We used baby oil instead of linseed oil, so it also smelled good. 😛
We used particle board for the containment unit, most of the panels spray painted black but one was covered in faux stainless steel contact paper. We also got giant opaque plastic tarps for the tunnel and buckets/dry ice for our failed fog effect. And duct tape! SO MUCH DUCT TAPE
Starseed: Autopsied Alien
Starseed sorta changed halfway through – originally I was going to make him with a round belly and cut holes into it for bowls (for snacks), but then he turned more into the “opened” autopsy alien.
I didn’t take too many pics of his body process, but basically I papier mached over a shallow plastic bin to make his rectangular torso; his limbs were just newspaper and masking tape. They ended up looking pretty twisty and shriveled up, which was OK for a drained-out alien. I used the paper clay to smooth the joins between the limbs and body and to smooth out the limbs themselves. Then I gessoed, painted, and mod podged (for shininess).
I made the head separately because I figured it would be good to have an alien head around. I did the classic papier mache over a balloon, then covered the form in paper clay and put in some eyeballs and a lil mouth.
Bruce: Containment Unit Alien
This was Bren’s alien, which is why it’s so much better. He watched a bunch of cosplay videos and learned how to make a duct tape form. That was an entertaining afternoon! He probably doesn’t want me to post that pic on the interwebs so you only get a pic of the mostly-finished form.
He stuffed the form with newspaper, covered it in masking tape and then the paper clay. I think it was sitting on a PVC pipe frame for the arms. Bren said it was kind of like frosting a cake, so when he’d go down to work on his alien he’d say he was going downstairs to “frost Bruce.” He used two silly putty egg halves for the eyes, very smart! The hands were cut out of EVA foam (in the form of an exercise mat tile) and covered in the clay.
Bruce was impaled on a PVC pipe and set in a bucket of gravel. High-tech!!
Here is a close-up of Bruce’s face after painting – Bren went with a light, slightly amphibian look. And this is the best footage of the dry ice we got. 😀
The Containment Unit
Step one: have a squat rack.
We had aspirations of bolting all the panels but we just ran out of time. So we used a lot of duct tape, which unfortunately was white. We didn’t even have time to go get black duct tape. 😛 I think it still turned out kickass.
We did bolt the front panel, which we also covered with faux stainless steel contact paper. By “we” I mean “Bren” and it was a pain in his ass. I busied myself with the tunnel. 😀 We used the project we bought for Halloween last year to project alien autopsy footage on the wall.
We had a dry ice effect to make it look like Bruce was freezing, but we discovered that we didn’t really feel like replenishing the ice all night. He looked pretty cool at precisely 7pm, when the party started! (see video above)
The year I didn’t have mystery boxes, I got a lot of questions about where the mystery boxes went. I had a little extra time (and newspaper) so I made alien eggs/pods.
I papier mached more balloons – I took the balloons out when the paper was still just a little damp, which gave some of them a slightly deflated look. Although I liked the effect (like something just crawled out of them), I can’t say it was intentional. I’m just really impatient. 😀
I painted them black, blocked the opening with black construction paper (NO PEEKING) and put some glow in the dark glue ooze around the openings. Then I put a bunch of random produce items inside for people to feel. This year was avocado peel, pom poms, spaghetti squash, and prunes covered in KY jelly. Nobody got them all right!
We just duct taped a some opaque tarps to the ceiling from the exterior door to the gym aka containment room. We had a couple strobe lights and Bren created an original spooky numbers station track to loop through. It was very simple but I think it really added to the experience! I don’t have any pics of the tunnel itself because it’s pretty boring on its own, but you can see it in action in the walk through video.
Lessons Learned/Things to Keep in Mind for Next Year
- Don’t put a damn belly dance show in the same month as your Halloween prep. 🙂
- Do a full on test build. We both wished we had tried to build the containment unit the weekend before the party (or even earlier), to suss out any issues and at the very least to have pre-drilled holes and whatnot for final assembly. At the very least we would have known to get BLACK duct tape. 😛
- Fog machines! We did buy one but it was too high-powered – one lil’ squirt filled our whole basement. Plus, the model we got would only light up when the fog was running and we wanted one that would also act as a light. We ended up returning it and opting for dry ice, but dry ice didn’t really work either. I’m going to keep an eye out for a smaller scale fog machine.
- Only work on what your guests will see. Bren made himself crazy frosting Bruce, and actually did end up abandoning the entire back half when it became apparent that it wouldn’t be visible. I am already lazy and didn’t do any painting or finishing of any kind of Starseed’s underside. You could see it a little from the side but I relied on the lighting to hide my sins.
- Speaking of: Lighting! Can you imagine this under our fluorescent basement lights?! You gotta get some disco lights.
- Somebody asked if Bruce was interactive. I wish!! The alien pods were the closest thing to an interactive thing we had — I would love to have an active scene. BUT HOW!? Guess I’ll spend the next year learning some basic electronics for some animatronics. 😀
- I can’t overemphasize how useful it is to pick a theme. A lot of people worry that constraints kill creativity but they actually can encourage it. I wouldn’t have come up with alien pods if I hadn’t been trying to come up with a mystery box concept within my alien theme.