Mansion at Midnight: 2011

This is my little not so scary Halloween blog "Mansion At Midnight"
... Inspired by Disney's Haunted Mansion...
I always wanted to be at the Haunted Mansion at Midnight...

Thanks for stopping by...

In Irons

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dave Lowe's Christmas Display...

Dave Lowe posted his design for his niece Devin and it is awesome... here is pic I stole off his site but you have to check it out...Dave is such an inspiration:

Here is Dave Lowe Christmas blog posting..

New For 2012 - Halloween Plans

Well good lord willing and the creek dont rise, hopefully this will be the Halloween set for next year.  I hope I can swing it

I am basically adding the front two columns, the header and talking skull there with his raven friends and then the fencing holding back the haunted tree and his owl friend accompanied by spirit waving a lantern and pointing the way to the entrance between the columns

You can see the existing bust and columns and candelabra in the background between the two new columns.   The tree will essentially be just a plywood cutout possibly covered with celluclay and painted as well as the owl. 

I will use the audio from the Haunted Mansion for the talking skull "Welcome foolish mortals..."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Ok I know its a Halloween Blog, but the best ghost story ever is of course A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens,  and so I love Christmas too... so to everyone I wish the best Christmas Blessings to All

Reflect upon your present blessings - of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. Fill your glass again, with a merry face and contented heart. Our life on it, but may your Christmas be merry, and your New Year a happy one! 

Merry Christmas!
Preston(aka In Irons)

Here are some Christmas pics of the homestead....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Awesome Steampunk Garage Haunt Via Time Machine

I kinda like the Steampunk stuff cause I love Jules Verne and HG Wells and all, but these guys take the cake for steampunk and a garage haunt.  Simply amazing, its a time machine journey through the ages to the time for a murderous rampage by a Jack The Ripper type character.

Did I say they did this all in their GARAGE?!?!

Here is the link to the first person perspective:

Here is the link from the presenter perspective and how they were able to accomplish this in a garage:

It took them 18 months to put this together....

Kudos to the Fangoria guys, here is their Fangoria website.  You can see their other efforts for previous Halloween haunts.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Night, A Little Spooky and a Little Rainy

Well we had a ton of kids tonight, went through 200 pieces of candy with 2 pieces per tot so we had a hundred kids which is a lot more than the previous years, when we first moved in we had maybe 10 kids 6 years ago.

As you can tell, the video camera I have for youtube videos is ok for video but absolutely horrible for pics, sorry for that.  Rain showers came so cut short prematurely our Halloween night before I could get our other camera out.

Here is  a shot of Madame Leota Oakbrook and Haunted Candelabra:

Here is our front door approach on the way to get candy:

And here is daytime walkaround video:

And here is our night shot of our set:

I had my Madame Leota Oakbrook and other lighting out, and after a few hours rain showers came through so I had to take the more sensitive electronics in, I felt bad as I told some of my neighbors to come by when it was darker to see the special effects and they missed it because of the rain.

But I was able to get some shots made, here are some more day time shots:

And some more night time shots:

Rain was a bummer but we were getting low on candy even with the rain!

Well there is always next year and it will be easier to setup and all as its pretty much done now.  Hmmmm except maybe for those walk through columns and maybe the groundskeeper from Haunted Mansion and ....and.......and.....

Ha!  Always planning for next year!

Happy Halloween everybody!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Trial Run Integration Testing

Ha ha....harking back to my days as a aerospace are some trial runs for integration test for Halloween...... you will hear in the background a box fan running (cause its Florida and its darn hot) and on the other video the control relays for the skulls.

Here is my Madam Leota Oakbrook:

Here is the Boys singing Grim Grinning Ghosts...they are the hacked Gemmy Skulls from Lowes they are driven by 2 Mr Christmas Digital Display units (i.e.light organs) which drive relays which cycle DC power off and on to the skulls.  The relays will be inside the house tucked away in a box so you wont hear them outside, that is what all the clicking sounds are...if I could find ac coil solid state relays reasonably cheap I would incorporate that in the design, but alas I am limited to what I can get at Radio Shack.  The relays when mounted in box inside  may garner the attention of the cats who will think its mice or something but it will be more seamless presentation to the TOTS outside, I hope young and old alike will get to enjoy it:

And here is the Front Door Header with the skulls, candles, mad Ravens with red glowing eyes and flickering pumpkins...the large candles are made from plastic bottles of that yucky stuff you drink for cat scans (non-feline more x-ray related), they are mounted on greek yogurt containers with caulk for melted candle effect...

When installed and running on Halloween I will take videos and pics and post is just a little sample of lighting and just a small bit of decoration that I have up for halloween:

Friday, October 28, 2011

MMMmmmm Yummy Hobgoblin Ale From the UK

Mmmm such a yummy Ale from the UK.  Its brewed by Wychwood Brewery in Witney UK.  The brewery had its start in 1841 under the name of Clinches and through the centuries went through various name changes and changes of ownership.  The name of the brewery was changed from Eagle to Wychwood for the local woods named Wychwood Forest.   Wychwood Brewery is known for the artistically styled labels.

I picked up some samples of their Hobgoblin Ale and it is a nice dark ale with english style hops. It is great, would like to try some of their other wares.

If you get a chance, please check out their website at Wychwood Brewery

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Channeling Herman Munster's Hot Rod

Ok so in the greater Daytona Beach area we are in Biktoberfest, a long weekend of bikers visiting the area for a mini-bike week.  Not as crowded as the spring bike week.

So I see a guy drive into a parking lot get together with a car that reminded me of  Herman Munster's hot rod, really cool and I got really nostalgic.  I loved the Munsters:

This guy had a nice hot rod, the lid was on electric lifts, he pushed a button on his keychain and the lid came up....really so cool and just like Herman Munster's Hot Rod:

Those straight it was loud.....but cool.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Front Walk Computer Rendering

Ok here is view of what you will see as you come up the drive and see columns and Madame Leota and next to the bust if you can see is the Candelabra...the lanterns on top of the columns will have led flickering candles in them.

This rendering doesnt have all the features the scene will have such as the flashing candles in the window and the puimpkins.   Not a bad effort with Windows Paintbrush

The column on the left will house the projector for the Madame Leota effect.  This rendering kinda helps me visualize the scene and how to layout the rest of the items such as my Ravens with their glowing eyes.

More to come....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gushing a Wee Bit

Mr. Dave Lowe who is one of the most creative and brilliant Halloween designers in the world posted a very nice comment on my very own blog on the posting regarding Cheap Grecian Columns tutorial below....

Ok he may have just been being oh so nice and he is a very very nice family oriented person, but I appreciated it tremendously. It's like Michelangelo telling a first year art student "nice work".

You must make it a priority to view his blog at Dave Lowe Design Blog

He is genius in crafts, art, comics, illustration and video.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mortuus Pupa

The year was 1954, and driving on a Sunday afternoon in the cool autumn was a nice pasttime for sightseeing and to enjoy the weather. 

The Watsons were doing just that, driving in remote parts of Vermont passing over hill and dale with red, brown and yellow leaves chasing the car down the country lanes as it passed by.  It was getting towards dusk and they had made a turn around to head back home, about an hours drive.  As they passed down one isolated road Mrs. Watson thought she noticed something peculiar and out of place.  She hesitated for a moment, was not sure about it at all.  But then she spoke.

"Honey, did you see that child standing off the road?"

"No what child? Are you sure?"

"Now that I think about it yes...and so far from anything.  Maybe we should turn around?"

"Are you sure you saw something?  It wasnt just your imagination?  You sure you just didnt see a scarecrow?"

Mr. Watson had some experience in these matters.  Mrs. Watson would often wake him in the middle of the night to go investigate strange sounds or a light she thought she saw only for him to find out it was the furnace or the radio was left on.

"Yes dear I am was not a scarecrow and besides there are no fields or anything around...and I am worried now...if it is a child what is it doing so far out here in the middle of nowhere? We are miles from the nearest house and it is getting dark!  Please turn around I wont be able to sleep tonight!"

Mr. Watson thought about it for a second and the image of his wife tossing and turning and finally shaking him awake about the child at 3 am in the morning drove home the logic of dealing with it now at the opportune time or dealing with the circumstances at 3 am.  Now seemed a better choice.

He slowed down and found a widening in the lane and made his turn.  It was a mile or 2 back to where she said she saw the child.  Nothing was there.

He drove a little bit further beyond the point and asked her "Is it here or where would you like for me to go?  Do you want me to drive a little bit further?"

She replied "Yes dear oh please don't make fun of me, if it was a child we just have to be sure, we just have to!" and tears began welling up in her eyes and she turned so he wouldnt see her upset.  But he knew her too well.

"Honey we will keep looking for awhile, maybe its some kid from a farm off the road, maybe we can ask around?"

"That would be great!...we will look for just a while longer I promise"

They drove slowly for awhile, it was getting darker as dusk was approaching fast.  He would have to turn on his headlights shortly due to the encroaching darkness but went ahead and pulled out the switch just in case.

They kept driving and then turned around a few miles down the road and headed back.     A mile or so further then suddenly off to the side of the road there was a pale little girl standing unmoving in the dusky light.

They slowly pulled up and Mr. Watson exclaimed "Oh my gosh Betty you were right! But how did this kid get so far down the road so quick?"

"I dont know maybe I was wrong where I thought I saw her?"

They pulled up alongside the girl.  She was about 8 years old, thin, oh so thin. Shallow and gaunt features and deep sunken eyes with blue lips breathing deeply and slowly in the night, her long dark hair hanging unkempt.  She was barefoot and on such a cold, cold night with a hard frost coming on strong pained Mrs. Watsons heart for the little girl.  The fog was starting to roll in and they saw in the encroaching darkness on the little girl  what appeared to be small light wounds and scarring on her arms and legs and the thin gown she wore would barely provide warmth to anything.

Mrs. Watson rolled down the window and spoke to her as the girl was on her side of the car.

"Honey are you lost?"  No answer.

"Sweetie do you need help? Are you hurt?"  No answer.

Mrs. Watson turned to her husband "We just can't leave her here!".  Mr. Watson got out of the car and walked around to his wife's side.  He said to the little girl "Now honey we can't help you if you don't tell us who you are and where you live?"

The girl swayed in her stance as though weak in hunger and in strength but said if looking through the Watsons and the car. Her focus of her eyes were so distant as if looking far away.

Mr. Watson shivered under the now night air.   He said "Honey why don't you come with us?  We can take you where ever you need or want to go, so you will be safe.  We cannot just leave you out here all alone, its not safe and its so cold!"

He slowly opened the back door of the car.  He turned to the little girl and said "Now come on with us, we will take you where its warm and safe and we can find your parents.  Someone must be looking for you?"

When he said the word parents, she glanced at him for the first time, her eyes on him.  She slowly padded to the car in a strange motion, her feet plopping as she walked to the car.  She finally got in the backseat of the car.  At the same time the Watsons looked at each other.  They noticed the dark stains on her gown and knew what it was.  Mrs. Watson looked back at her husband alarmed but said nothing.  He nodded to her acknowledging that he saw it too and confirming her fears.

He closed the door and went around and got in.  He turned up the heat in the car to fight off the cold autumnal air and started to drive off, looking in the rearview mirror at the little girl.  He said "Sweetie do you know where you live or where your home is? Do you know who can help you?"

No answer.

They drove in silence for a minute or two, the Watsons glancing at each other nervously.  Mr. Watson said "Maybe we should go to the first police station or hospital we come to, obviously there is some problem here".   Mrs. Watson agreed.

She turned to the back seat with a wide smile and started to speak to comfort the little girl.  Suddenly the little girl shrieked a curdling scream and jumped on the back of Mrs. Watson head, and within seconds was tearing the nose, ears, lips and skin off her face and head and biting her neck down to the bone severing arteries, rendering all flesh in a matter of seconds.

Mr. Watson was so surprised by the attack he didnt even have time to respond to stop the car and even slow down, he kept one hand on the steering wheel and with his spare hand tried to fight the girl off his wife. In seconds Mrs. Watson was ripped to shreds and was dying fast, then she was dead and the zombie girl turned on Mr. Watson.

The car drove off the road crashing into the ditch with the bumper,  fenders and headlights smashed..  The car sat quietly in the dark wrecked and hissing steam from the radiator was the only sound.

Then there was dead silence and darkness except for small unidentifiable sounds coming from the car.  Then there was the sound of broken glass and the patter of bare feet in the night.

Story:  Copyright 2011 - Mansion at Midnight
Image courtesy of

Lupus Homine

Professor Talbot was overjoyed. The shipment of the supposed werewolf skeleton had arrived!  Now to debunk the superstitious rhetoric and to restore science and fact, he fancied this to be no more than a determined taxidermist's hoax.

There it was, skeleton of the body of a man with a wolf head, laid out in his laboratory with a silver bullet lodged in a rib, ready for his examination. Eager to start his work, he began...

Working carefully, taking measurements and making pen sketches he began documenting the creature, deeply intent on his task.  

Suddenly a loud scream permeated the room startling him, causing him to jerk his hand away, cutting it on a tooth on the skeleton and leaving a deep laceration. With blood dripping from his wounded hand he turned to the source, his housekeeper standing in horror.

"What is all this about?" he cried.

His housekeeper replied:

"Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night,
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright!"

"Nonsense!" the professor admonishing the servant, "I will have none of that superstition drabble in my house!

She replied, "But Professor, it is evil and must be destroyed, there is nothing but misfortune from that devil that lays there!"

Professor Talbot replied, "There is no more evil in those remains than there are spooks in the attic!  Now get the coach ready for tonight's party and let Mrs. Talbot know to be ready, our time for departure nears and we cannot be late"

The Talbot's coach drove the dark lonely lane through the swamp on the way to the party, there were more well lit and less somber routes, but across the marshy land was the most expeditious.

“Oh the full moon is beautiful tonight what a glorius evening for a party!” said Mrs. Talbot leaning out the window and then turning to her husband she noticed his pallor and with concerned look on her face, she asked “Dear are you feeling alright?"

Sweat beading on his grey ashen face he replied "I am fine, I am fine.... probably too much work". He grimaced and leaned forward, the pain coming now.

Coaches lined the drive at the estate waiting their turn to discharge their occupants, the estate well lit with lamps along the driveway and the orchestra played away with the music and laughter from inside drifting across the gardens out into the swampy surrounds.  In the distance, the sound of a team of horses and carriage at full gallop could be heard, moving closer and closer .

Then the coach appeared, bouncing violently over the cobblestones, the horses terrified and lathered in sweat, a pool of blood for the missing driver, the door ripped from its hinges. 

The footmen gathered the team and calmed them and then grouped around the coach, each in turn looking inside gasping in horror as they peered at the gore that remained in the now empty coach.

"Thats the Talbots coach...where are the Talbots!?! There is no trace of them!  Where could they be?" the men cried out.

Just then, the mournful howl of a wolf carried across the dark expanses of the moonlit moor.

Story:  Copyright 2011 - Mansion at Midnight
Image courtesy of

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Next Year this Caretaker will Welcome Guests...

I just love this....I hope to have cemetary columns like Aura Of Foreboding Columns  has and just outside in front of a spooky tree I want to have a caretaker like Disney's Haunted Mansion of course.  Sometimes less is more and instead of too much I think this outside of the cemetary at the entrance speaks of spookieness to come....

I wish Spirit Halloween had something like this....I do see they have spooky caretakers and gravedigger kind of things but I am looking for exactly the above. I hopefully will just animate the arm holding the lantern and have the skinny puppy tail wagging

May not happen but we will see... if I dont make him move, I was thinking of getting one of those shaking motors with the offset cam on it.  I would love to get like a Don Knotts type mask and have him shaking in fright outside the entrance.  Hope to build columns and have tree behind him, I think it would be a hoot having him standing there shaking with wild Don Knotts type expression and having the lantern shaking and rattling...he he

Cheap Grecian/Roman Like Column

I know I am kinda all over the place on my Halloween a little here a little there...its only way I can do it with as busy as I am.

For my next project, I am planning on having a Madame Leota head bust in the garden (ok cemetery) out front for Halloween and have been looking for a column ... looked high and low...Michaels, Lowes, Home Depot, etc, but no joy.

I practically gave up on the idea until I saw the sonotubes at Lowe's (for making concrete columns).  I thought well maybe I can get one of those and paint it...then thought heck what if I got some sort of corrugated sheet and wrapped that around the column.   Further searching yielded the excitement of finding corrugated plastic sheeting and you can easily cut it with heavy duty shears (ok heavy duty scissors).

Here is a pic of the sonotube and plastic corrugated sheeting:

I then wrapped the sheeting around the sonotube column and used bathroom shower panel adhesive (to be compatible with plastic sheeting) and screwed it on the back with particle board screws (coarse thread).  I then got crown molding and promptly discovered my miter saw cannot handle a 6"crown molding so I could not put on 45 degree angle.  So I grabbed my handy skill saw and made mitered joints by hand and with a wing and a prayer made my cuts.  Make no mistake, I am no accomplished carpenter or even qualified wood butcher.  But I endeavored and I also made a small pine box and then just wrapped the crown molding straight on it and screwed that onto it and filled in gaps with caulking....didnt get the angled shape I was hoping for but I think it came out ok.

The steps are basically:

1. Get sonotube, corrugated plastic panel (its like 24"x8' and it comes in white!), bathtub panel adhesive, particle board screws, 1x4 pine board, small sheet of luan panel ($3?) and crown molding
2. Wrap the panel in a circle and insert into the sonotube and take a pencil and mark your cut on the plastic corrugated sheet.
3. I just kept the plastic sheet in the sonotube and with heavy duty shears cut it to length of the sonotube
4. I then took the plastic sheeting and ran some of the adhesive on the crowns of the fold of the corrugation (the parts that touch the sonotube) and wrapped it around the sonotube.
5. I just secured the ends with screws, they are on the back of the column so are not visible
6. Then I made a small box with the 1x4 board and cut the crown molding and secured it to the small box and put the luan panel cut to size on top of it.

I will screw straight metal brackets onto the bottom as it will be stuck into the ground in garden (ok cemetery) surrounded by hedges....then styrofoam Madame Leota Bust will be placed on top of it with the fantastic Mr Chicken video projected onto it.  I hope to have movies and pics later when finished...

Then I wanted to have a bust to be able to to do the Madame Leota effect.  So I got some of the components, part of a the stand from pot from Big Lots, a cedar finial for wooden fence post and a pvc finial from a pvc fence:

I then discovered that the pressure treated finial mated to the pvc one...sweet! Note the monster mud on hands:

I then mounted the finial to the stand, I will be spray painting the wood finial to match...

Ok here is the finished column and bust...its strange in the pics it looks un-level and color is varied I attribute that to the lense on my cheap cell phone camera. Ok I know the bust totally stinks....just not good at the paper mache thing...maybe next year I can improve on it.

And here is off to the side...
I just grabbed some spare spooky cloth that is more like webbing from dollar tree and used monster mud to make a hood on the styrofoam bust.  First time I used that stuff I think it came out ok not perfect.  I wish I could make the busts like some of the folks on Halloween forum but I have to do the best I can with budget of time and money.

I hope to post videos soon....its a pain in the butt to upload videos and convert and all....


Monday, August 29, 2011

Haunted Candelabra

Ok here is my attempt at Haunted Candelabra...its made with pvc pipe, romex 12 gauge wire, cable ties, paper towel cardboard rolls, some bathroom caulk and spray paint.  Whats haunted about it?  Not sure yet but will add to overall ambience

First you get some romex wiring, the 12 awg stuff is stiff enough if you make your candles light enough, then with diagonal cutters (called "dikes") and trim the romex to length:

Then you take each piece and bend it to resemble a candelabra arm....

Then add all the arms and align with the pvc pipe.....

Then position and tighten the arms with the cable ties....I also ran some duct tape around the cable ties...not sure if I needed to do that....

Got some paper towel rolls and cut them to various lengths, put some tape in the shaft of the paper towel rolls and for now for "dry run" I scotch taped them to the arms just to see and placed the little flicker tea lights.  I got some from the dollar store for 3 @ $1...not bad.   I will spray paint the candelabra black and the paper towel "candles" white and coat the tops with bathroom caulk to simulate melted wax

I found that the little plastic to-go cup ramekins work good for the candle cup holders.  I attached them using cable ties to each arm:

I then spray painted with Valspar flat black, its supposed to be ok for all types of surfaces including plastic which is important for the candle holders and the romex arms and pvc.  

 So here is finished product, I think at night it will be fine....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August Waning...

August is on the wane (ok..ok... end of August) and I am in my design process for this year's Halloween props and decorations.

I got new Gemmy skulls from Lowe's....they are different than what they made last year.  I think last years model was better but a lot heavier....this year's model has these round eyes that light up.  On the web there are some models where these eyes move and light up..

I will be hacking these, this is what these look like:

 Here is what it looks like with the 4 screws removed....

How these work is they have a dc motor that spools a thread that is linked to the jaw lever...energize the motor and it spools up the thread and opens the jaw.   Voltage removed and the spring tension on the jaw closes it....very simple.   They have a circuit card with some sort of custom microprocessor chip that drives the sound with a custom series of sounds, plus drives the jaw and eyes.  There are inputs, one from the switch that comes with it for testing, a photocell that is between the eyes and a microphone that is a silver disk in the back of the skull that reacts to sound.   Either sound or shadows can activate the device.  I will be harvesting these boards for possible use later for triggers and what not.   If the output can drive dc motor, it can drive a relay coil so I can use it for triggering other effects (one day).

If you wish to hack these you basically cut the wires to the motor and tie that into a voltage source (like a relay with 5 vdc powered through it) and tie that into a light organ.  A light organ takes sound and converts that into voltage.  I will be using 2 Mr Christmas Digital Musical Light Show.  It cannot drive too much power but I tie the AC output and drive an AC coil on a relay (from Radio Shack) that switches DC power that ties into the motor and eyes.  You do have to include a resistor in series with the eyes or you will burn out the led eyes. 

Best site for hacking the Gemmy skull is, they are promoting their midi interface but for $45 and driving 2 skulls that is actually not a bad price at all:

Automat3d Gemmy Hack

Here is rough sketch of the Gemmy Skull circuit wiring.  The wire color may change and there is 2 wires going from and to every component:

As the wiring colors may change just be aware but this is what I rewired the above to be. I used the try me switch as my input port for power from the relays that I am driving the skull circuit with. So if there is a problem with a skull I can just change it out by unplugging the try me connector and swap out the skull.  For the connections I simply soldered all the connections and wrapped the connections in electrical tape.  I taped the wiring inside the skull to keep it away from the jaw motor lever machinations.
I have 2 Mr Christmas Digital Light Shows (MCDLS) where my left channel from my mp3 player audio output is connected to one  MCDLS and the right channel drives the other MCDLS.  I bought a couple of AC coil relays and drive those that switch on command DC power to the above skull(s). The relays essentially have their coils driven by the MCDLS whose contacts switch DC power to the skulls.  Its kinda clickity clackity with the sound, I have put the relay box inside a couple of boxes for sound proofing as I run the wiring from just inside my double door front door out under the jamb and up to the door header where the skulls are.

I still think if you are working from scratch, the above noted Gemmy midi link Automat3d Gemmy Hack is best way to go so far that I have seen.   The problem with some of the other hacks they use a Pulse Width Modulated signal to drive servos, that wont work for these simple dc driven skull motors that Gemmy uses.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Halloween 2010

Getting ready for 2011 and since I just created this blog am posting the info a little late...the skulls are hacked Gemmy brand skulls from Lowes that are driven off a light organ singing Grim Grinning Ghosts from Disney's Haunted Mansion.  I am just figuring this interface out, will be posting videos shortly...

Well I tried and its a royal pain to convert the videos and all.   So its pictures for now.