Stump the Haunter

Stump the Haunter! Post a comment to the witch in residence, me, with a haunting challenge of a prop you would like to build or theme you would like to explore. I will respond on this blog with my thoughts on how to build it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Laughing Our Pumpkins Off



The skits after "Weekend Update" on  Saturday Night Live can either be utterly forget-able or legendary.  A year ago, who would have thought that "The Haunted Elevator" sketch would have been the latter.  For those with early bedtimes or a lack of television, I will elaborate.

A couple of haunt-goers board the 100 Floors of Frights ride anticipating the scare of a lifetime.  The couple are seated in an elevator with an operator who has no shortage of haunting puns.  As the doors of the elevator open to different floors the couple are assailed by different scary characters like a suicidal bride and a demonic chef.  Then the door opens on Tom Hanks (the evening's host) wearing one of those three-piece, jack-o-lantern-print suits that emerged on the market some years back.  Tom declares his name to be David Pumpkins and says that he will, "Scare the hell out of you!"  He and the two b-boy skeletons bust out into a spastic, urban, dance routine at the end of which David asks, "Any questions?"  The couple are stunned not with terror, but with the lameness of the routine.

As the skit progresses the elevator door opens multiple times, sometimes revealing horror scenes but other times revealing more David S. Pumpkins themed entertainment.  When the couple complains to the elevator operator about the preponderance of scenes involving the pumpkin-suit-clad man and his dancing skeletons he remarks, "It is 100 floors of frights, they are not all going to be winners."  Finally the door opens on just the b-boy skeletons who wish the couple a Happy Halloween.  The couple appear annoyed momentarily until the booming voice behind them of David Pumpkins asks, "Any questions?"  Then they are rightly scared witless.

The skit went viral and those suits--the hybrid professional wear and Halloween costume that had been languishing in the back of costume shops-went flying off the shelves.  A mythology sprang-up and the response to the character has been so strong that Loren Michaels has executive produced an animated special to air on NBC at 11:30 PM on Saturday, October 28, 2017.  More on that can be found at Deadline.com.

So why discourse on a Saturday Night Live skit?  In actuality, I wanted to write this post last year.  The first chapter in my book, 10 Cheap Tricks to Haunt Your Halloween, covers ideas like using humor in your haunt and having your spectators experience a range of emotions.  The haunt portrayed in this sketch uses both these ideas.  This seemingly goofy scene of skeletons who can't dance and a man in a silly suit that has no connection to anything is what gets the biggest scream in the end.  At one point the elevator operator remarks, "The scariest thing to the mind is the unknown."  I could not agree more, it is in our imagination that fear originates and it is the unknown that leaves the most to the imagination.  Furthermore, when we let our guard down that is when we are most susceptible to the unexpected and that is when we are most vulnerable to a sudden fright.  Laughter causes us to let our guard down; if you really want to scare someone get them to laugh first.  Then take them by surprise.

Nine million plus YouTube views cannot be wrong.

As always, please haunt responsibly.

Any Questions?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Oh Sweet Terror!

Not only is this the season of mocking our fears, but it is also the season of candy. Sure sweet treats are important to a lot of holidays, but, given our modern celebration's ties to beggars night, they are the superstars of Halloween. It is no surprise, then, that candy stores are some of the first places to decorate for the season.

Here's a no brainer, Lambertville's La Chocolate Box, has its window filled with vintage-look cat and pumpkin-head figures.  They also have black branches woven with a black bulb light string to create a spooky thicket against the glass while black vines and bats lead to the ceiling where a dark canopy awaits.

Minette's Candies in Frenchtown, has kept it seasonal with hay bales and artificial squashes including Rouge Vif D' Etampes pumpkins--the preference of Cinderella's fairy Godmother.  It is look that can work from September through November with a little tweaking.  Here the scene takes an eerie bend with the addition of a black light tree and crows.  Amazing how one simple addition makes the difference between fall and Halloween.

The Goody Bag & Basket Company in New Hope, PA has never been a shrinking violet when it comes to the macabre.  Here they show off a split personality with a warm orange window and a sinister green window. The former with autumnal decorations and Jelly Bellies. The latter features everybody's favorite green, electrified, Victorian monster and old favorites like Pop Rocks, wax fangs and licorice pipes.  I like the juxtaposition of the two seasonal windows.




Where do I find brilliance?  All these windows make great use of vertical elements, the vines in Lambertville, the tree in Frenchtown and Frankenstein with green lights in New Hope, that move the eye both up and down to take in the entire scene rather than keeping the elements at normal eye-level.  Although it is difficult to see in the pictures they also suspended things from their respective ceilings which is great way to get more elements into your scene and make it more robust.  Additionally, everybody was well merchandised with smaller thematic items.

Don't let these frightful windows scare you off, take a trip downtown and see how your own Main Street is celebrating this season. While you are there you may want to pick up some sweet indulgences for yourself, how much is between you and your dentist.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fright in Frenchtown

tributary of the Delaware River

I recently found myself in Frenchtown, NJ and before I knew it I was taking stroll through the town. While being one of the more sedate Delaware river towns, Frenchtown offers sublime vistas, historic architecture and small town charm. Moreover, like its urban sister to the south--Lambertville, it is picking up steam as a Halloween town.

Pictured below is a new display.  This exhibit features those very popular skeletons. I find the versatility of these guys amazing. Here the designer choose to use a rocking chair, possibly already on the porch. Also joining in the fun, man's best skeleton, skeletal dog. Notice how the designer gave these skeletons activities. The dog is chomping on a rubber chicken.

Our lesson here: allow your props to interact with each other.


man's best skeleton












Frenchtown also offers some natural inspiration for the holiday as well.  Check out the historic Frenchtown cemetery.



Nothing like Edwardian monuments to put you in the holiday spirit.
Haunt on!