Northwest News 10/4

Northwest News 10/4

Well September certainly turned out to be a somber month. Even though we were not directly touched by the events of the month, we like all Americans have had a rough emotional month. We fervently hope October brings more positive happenings.

October is a big month for us. Schools are humming along — L seems to be most busy with AP calculus and AP chemistry, j likes Latin perhaps the best (is this my child?). L’s volleyball season is gathering steam; they are 5-1 in league play and have a big couple of weeks ahead. C and I are busy with the minutiae of household and family life. Work is going fine; we continue to find some interesting companies in which to invest despite the economic doldrums.

But what really keeps us busy is Halloween preparations. We have a great neighborhood for trick or treating — flat, reasonably dense for the ‘burbs, a lot of kids in the area. We’ve gotten in the habit of inviting our kid’s friends over and their families. And we’ve gotten in the habit of doing some, er, modest decorating. We’ve become known as the family with ?that Halloween house? and it is a great reputation to have — all the kids in the neighborhood love to visit us.

This year I started planning our Halloween displays in about March. I started buying key gear in April/May. In late August I started deploying gear.

First out was the fog system. We have a water-based fog system that can blanket our yard, the neighbors on either side, and the street with all the fog you would ever want. If we run it full blast, in 5 minutes you can?t even see our house. Fog is great stuff, creates a wonderful aura and a chill in the air. I?ve had that system deployed and working for about 3 weeks now. I?ve also learned more about the pros and cons of the various fog systems available, if anyone wants a primer.

Next out is the sound system. I have 6 separate sound systems deployed with Bose weatherproof speakers. In past years I have used wireless speakers but they have a lot of interference and battery problems so this year I just ran speaker cable everywhere. We have four speakers playing a thunder soundtrack, a set of speakers at either driveway entrance playing moody welcome songs and scripts, a scary growling soundtrack up by our door, a creepy heartbeat and dripping sound off in a corner of the yard, and some mood music indoors. The right sound track makes a huge difference in setting the mood.

I am currently deploying all the lighting. I use a theatrical control system called DMX512 to control all the lighting. My PC runs the DMX control software and I have DMX cables run out to all the lights around the yard. I have a bank of strobes and incandescents which are synched to the thunder soundtrack to give a lightning effect — very cool! I have a number of spotlights shining on props and doors for other effects. I also have a small fog machine up near our door that we use to surprise people, also controlled by the DMX system. Lighting is really the final key element to creating a suspenseful atmosphere. Oh yes I also use the x10 system to control some of the house lighting — it is a far inferior system to DMX but a lot cheaper. Fine for controlling indoor lighting and small outdoor lights that don’t have to be synced with any soundtracks.

This month I will be deploying all the props ? we have a huge number of skeletons and a lot of loose bones — all purchasable very cheaply from anatomical supply houses. We have a haunted doghouse, a sea serpent, cast silhouettes of the seven deadly sins, much pirate paraphernalia, gargoyles, lots of fake rats and bats, and a lot of window decorations and small lights. Oh and I replace all our outdoor lightbulbs with flickering candle bulbs, that alone adds a nice touch. One thing we stay away from is gore — we don’t have any bloody body parts or anything like that. I would rate our house PG or PG-13 — scary because of sudden sounds or lights, but nothing grotesque.

It is a lot of fun although a lot of work for just one night! There are a million projects I want to undertake for next year — some sensors which drive lights automatically based on the presence of a guest, a thing called a vortex cannon which blows fog around, some floating lantern effects, etc. There is a huge community of folks on the internet who trade information all year long on haunted house ideas.

If any of you are ever out this way we’d love to have you by for Halloween. It is a lot of fun. And we’ll think of all of you this Halloween.