Halloween at the House of the Undead

Since buying my own home I've tried to do something special on Halloween for trick-or-treaters each year. The last couple of years I had a cemetery in the back yard where I'd lead the kids to be ambushed by a werewolf (given unholy form on this plane by my partner in crime, The Demon of Des Monies). My family moved to a new house this Summer, so I wanted to make sure I did something memorable this year to help introduce ourselves.

The layout of this house didn't really lend itself to recreating the cemetery walk through, so I had the idea to take advantage of the front-facing garage. I had a couple of ideas about how to create a "ghost" effect, but ended up settling on making a blacklight reactive puppet.

 I bought a "Bag of Bones" (a skull, two hands & two feet then 4 leg bones, 2 collar bones and a partial spine) from Walmart for a few dollars, then rigged them together with some clothes hangers and duct tape to make a rough armature. I built up the weirdly tiny hands with straws, newspaper and masking tape.

It had an old Swifter handle running out the back to hold onto, and one arm was articulated at the elbow and wrist and had a rod so the operator could make it reach out. I painted it black and then I covered the armature with torn cheese cloth and pasted it down with watered down glue. Under a blacklight, the only thing you see is the cloth seemingly hovering over a black shadow. My accomplice was operating the puppet dressed in all black and was essentially invisible.

I soaked the cheese cloth in a solution made with RIT "fabric brightening powder"before putting it on the armature, and it really made it glow a lot stronger under the blacklight.

Armature, pre-paint.
I sprayed the armature flat black so it wouldn't show in the dark

Under blacklight -- it unfortunately does not photograph very well, but you can see alot more skeletal detail in person.
View of my garage from the street. We put a curtain of black plastic up with a large window cut in it to block the blacklight and give a good view of the Ghost. You can see the Ghost floating back there (as well as the blacklight shining through the plastic)

After once again summoning The Demon of Des Monies to aid me in my diabolical works, the two of us cleared the junk out of the garage and decorated it with strobe lights, glow sticks, black lights, cob webs and a few other odds and ends. I put a fog machine towards the back and a big red spot light shooting up on the house. We cranked out Midnight Syndicate's latest ("Monster of Legend") through hidden speakers. 

I'd been giving out full-sized candy bars at the same time, thinking that if I really wanted to be the house that everybody remembers that I should go all out. My neighbors had said 150-200 kids is fairly typical, so I got candy accordingly.

This is what about $80.00 in candy looks like.

Unfortunately...Oct. 28 -30 (and now Nov. 1) was clear, dry and warm. Oct. 31 was a full day of thunderstorms, with the heaviest rains predicted for 5:00 - 8:00 (official trick-or-treat hours). I figured that I had to go ahead regardless, but was more than a little nervous.

Threw this sign together on the day of since the weather was predicted to be pretty bad. I reused a drawing for one of my jack-o-lanterns and added some glow in the dark paint.
I got dressed up in my black wool inverness and a top hat, with a week's worth of facial hair, fangs and a little red & purple make-up under my eyes. I stayed near the garage door beckoning the trick-or-treaters to enter.

Here I am with the "Son of the Undead"

We had maybe 50 kids, but it was hard to tell because one group of 5 came back at least 10 times. All the kids in my immediate neighborhood came and had a great time. Many of them were at the perfect age where they were scared just enough...

The ghost effect worked really well -- and I think we made it a memorable holiday for the kids that did make it out. The Demon and I had fun too, of course -- though some of that might be attributed to the copious amount of beer I let him drink...


  1. We've got to class it up next year with a plywood wall to cover the blacklight, and metal bars to give it that 'crypt' look.

  2. That's a good idea...maybe faux brick "casque of amontillado" style


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