Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Haunted Mansion Wedding

My friends Jason and Melissa met at our haunt club, got engaged on Halloween at their yard haunt, and had a Haunted Mansion-themed a cemetery! They've generously given me permission to post some pictures, and I think you'll be amazed at their creativity and artistic skills, as the vast majority of the decor was hand-made by the bride and groom, and their families and friends.

Before the wedding, the couple mailed "Save the Date" notices to guests. These notices were very similar to the Save the Dates sent out by Disneyland for the celebration of the Haunted Mansion's 40th Anniversary. The couple's colorful tri-fold wedding invitations depicted the unique gate at the Haunted Mansion in Florida, complete with it's ironwork bat. The invitations also featured the iconic Haunted Mansion plaque with the words "The Haunted Ghostly Wedding of Melissa and Jason" and invited guests to wear period costumes (but discouraged any gore.)

The wedding took place at Forest Lawn Cemetery, in Glendale, California- or more precisely, in a chapel located on the cemetery's grounds. The chapel was a reconstruction of an ancient stone church in Scotland, complete with Gothic arches. Purple and white floral arrangements made by the bride decorated the pews.The bride wore a traditional white wedding gown, and the groom wore a silver-buttoned black tailcoat over a purple jaquard vest. The flower girls wore white dresses with purple ribbon sashes, and the groomsmen wore black with purple buttonieres. Here's the happy couple with their guests- and fellow haunters- Amy and Chris in their Victorian garb:
The groom and some groomsmen had cast large plaques which then hung on homemade styrofoam-based pillars just outside of the reception area at a local hotel.

The bride's mother Diane- also a haunter- made a fanciful cake based on the version of the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland, Anaheim, California. The zombie-looking cake topper was placed on the "lawn" to it's left, and was a standard (although humorous) one repainted with green faces and hands. The homemade place card holders featured the three Hitchhiking Ghosts.
The guests' dining tables at the reception were round with a purple tablecloth topped with a matching one of black lace layered over it. Chairs were slipcovered in white with a large black sash tied around the chairbacks. Melissa made purple floral centerpieces surrounding candelabras for each table, while Jason and his friends cut 2"thick styrofoam into the shape of  the Hitchhiking Ghosts from the Mansion . These were painted, made to stand, and used as directional signs to point the way to the reception.

Melissa and Jason sat on a dais at a table with candelabras and small tombstones randomly placed. The pennant bunting along the front was modeled after bunting seen under a coffin in the Mansion, in the scene where boney hands inside a coffin try to push open the coffin lid. The portable backdrop behind the Bride and Groom's Table was designed with homemade purple Haunted Mansion-style wallpaper and copies of Haunted Mansion art work, including a "Tomb Sweet Tomb" stitched sampler.

Other props from the Mansion were simulated with the help of friends, including the bat-topped stanchions, and a full set of changing portraits that morphed from normal to creepy. An animated "guy-in-the-brick-wall" and the "deaf man with horn", nearly identical to those seen in the graveyard portion of the Haunted Mansion ride, were borrowed from a friend (James of The Haunted Mansion Northside blog) who sculpted them and uses them in his own haunt.

Guests were given white gift boxes tied with black ribbon and topped with a cardstock version of their Haunted Ghostly Wedding plaque. Inside? Special souvenir M&M candies emblazoned with the couple's names on one side and the motif from the Haunted Mansion's wallpaper on the other, as well as chocolate tombstones and ghosts.  For additional fun, the wedding party danced in sync to Michael Jackson's Thriller. Then the newlyweds departed in a historic automobile and headed for their honeymoon in France, where they visited Phantom Manor, the version of the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland Paris.

Jason and Melissa are now proud parents; their baby boy was born just 2 weeks ago.

Oh, and the baby's name? He is Ramsley... named after the butler in the 2003 Haunted Mansion movie!
Congratulations, Melissa and Jason! 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gargoyle Urn

Urns. I just can't have enough of 'em in my cemetery garden. Especially when they have details like these gargoyle handles. Get yours for $99 from Grandin Road.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Coffin-shaped bat house

Coffin-shaped bat houses are selling fast! There's only 2 left at Lone Star Woodcraft.  Holding 75 bats, and measuring 29"H x 13"W x 2.5"D they're on sale for $98.95.

If that's too pricey, in some places you can just march into your local K-mart and get a Stovall Bat Box for $73.79. It holds up to 400 bats.

I want one, and I don't think I've ever seen a bat outside of a zoo.

How To Haunt Your House, Book Two ...and fonts

Last month I bought "How To Haunt Your House, Book Two" by Shawn & Lynne Mitchell of the Mitchell Haunt.  In July the book was only available through, but it is now additionally available through Amazon or Barnes &

For me, as with How to Haunt Your House Book One,  it's one of those books I just Love with a capital "L" and didn't want to read too fast, because it would leave  me with nothing more to feast my eyes on. It's easy to go slowly through the book, though, as there's so much information crammed around the lovely photos, you must take the time to make sure you didn't miss any tidbit. It's perfect for pouring over- just make sure you have a notepad at hand, because you WILL get ideas!

My favorite idea involved the use of synthetic jaw parts available to taxidermists to create "Wolfenstein", a wolf made from an animated reindeer (something I had tried to do in the past with just a wolf mask).  "The Hand That Stirs the Pot", sometimes known in the haunt world as a "Stirring Witch" seemed easier to attempt with these instructions compared to others I've seen. For those less artistically inclined, the Mitchells also show you how to dress your prop figures effectively, taking it from, say, a PVC and wood creation (such as the "Tomb Turner" leering prop) to a dramatically distressed spook.  

I think there is quite a  resemblance of both Book One and Book Two to Jason's Surrell's definitive book on the Haunted Mansion, "The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies", and this is not a bad thing, as they will fit nicely together on a bookshelf. Note for yourself the similar sizing, slick covers, Ravenscroft font- which is also the font used on the iconic Haunted Mansion plaque just outside the Mansion's gates- and black background for the photo layouts. These style points made Surrell's book enjoyable; and they work for both of the Mitchells' books as well. However, the Mitchells fit more illustrations to a single page because they trim and layer the photographs, so it has a more casual feel to it than many books. For the authors, it must have been like working a jigsaw puzzle trying to get everything to fit.

How to Haunt Your House Book Two on the left and Surrell's Haunted Mansion book on the right.

I really appreciate that the Mitchells try to be concise, fitting most of the projects on a two-page or four page spread to make it easy for the readers to view and process the information. The book's only flaws are the small grammatical errors, such as abundance of commas. Having another respected Halloween addict perform editing duties in return for a free final copy seems an easy solution. The price for the book is around $35, and for that you don't get dry text with line drawings. Each of the 96 pages is chock full of full-color photographs, and factoring the labor-intensive layout, the price of all that ink, and the usefullness of the instructions, it seems a fair deal.

A moment ago I mentioned  fonts. I'd like to point out that the Ravenscroft font and many other Disney fonts are available for free downloading through the generosity of While Ravenscroft is my favorite (and I like that it was named after Thurl Ravenscroft, the wonderful voice artist of the Haunted Mansion and Frosted Flakes' Tony the Tiger fame), I also like the cute one similar to Walt Disney's signature. It just looks like happiness in font form.
Other nice fonts for Halloween are the dripping blood creepy font, while free font abbadon is great for a haunt sign, and Blackadder looks like Edgar Allen Poe's signature. Other useful fonts can be found by searching  "free font" combined with the name of your favorite horror movie or televison show that had a memorable font,  like "Nightmare Before Christmas", or "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."  This site has a number of title fonts, from the Addams Family to the X-files. The advantage of these fonts is they are already associated with in the reader's mind with creepiness, and seeing the letters rearranged into new words lessens only somewhat the feeling that was evoked.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rogers Garden's 2007 Halloween Carnivale

Here's more on the wonderful plant nursery Rogers Garden's and their past Halloween themes. In 2007, they did Carnivale de Mystique, which had the feel of an old Victorian carnival. I loved the wired canvas banner with it's trailing ends in the photo above. They had another one that said "Fortunes Told" outside the fortune telling room. The photos are blurry because so many stores and designer showcases tended to frown upon photos being taken, much less flash photos, that I was trying to take these somewhat on the sly. Now cell phones with cameras are so common, many places have just given up policing things (except Stat's in Pasadena, more about that another time.) I apologize for the poor photo quality, but the only other place I saw photos of this was here on Pandora's Parlor blog.I just felt the idea had great haunt potential and should be shared.
Roger's had painted canvas posters for  "The Amazing Sword Swallower" and another one for a Fire Eater.

They also had all these black wooden crates piled up, you'd walk around the pile and look in various holes to see oddities in jars and fishbowls. The crates would have colored lights inside, and outside were labels identifying the oddities as things like "Mutant Alien Baby, circa 1901 Roswell, New Mexico" and "Cockrochas Gigantus, found under unknown refrigerator". There was also a Two-Headed Snake and an Amazonian Spider.

To see my blog about Roger's Gardens 2009 Halloween, go here. For more inspiration on the carnivale theme,  watch the HBO series Carnivale. And if you need something to wear, consider Brittany Spears. You heard right. Her corseted outfit for her "Circus" tour has a nice Victorian touch.       I can't believe I just said that.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stalking Hawk

The finches in my aviary are very good about sounding the "danger alert". Today they let me know the Cooper's Hawk was back. He was a stalking hawk, sitting on a tree branch right up above them.

I had a juvenile Cooper's hawk visit my fountain in January. I wonder if it's the same one.

Before fear of death struck them, life was good for the finches today. I had just fed them some egg meal. It's egg mixed with ground-up eggshell.

Why are all these birds cannibals??

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Roaming Gnome

Roam-eo with my Kirby (RIP, Boo)

I never cared much for garden gnomes until the Roaming Gnome, the "spokesperson" for the travel agency came along. I usually TiVo past commercials, but Travelocity sponsors my favorite TV show, The Amazing Race, and their gnome is prominently featured in at least one Amazing Race stunt each season.
In the Travelocity ads, whether they are promoting snowskiing resorts or tropical cruises, the gnome never changes from his rigid pose in a blue jacket and red hat, but is usually additionally decked out with appropriate accessories like sunglasses and a lei or ski goggles and a knitted scarf. He is often seen in precarious situations as well.

The ads amused me, and I do like to travel, so when my brother surprised me one Christmas with my own copy of the Roaming Gnome, I got teary with laughter. I had no idea the Roaming Gnome was available for sale! (Get yours here) Turns out my brother bought himself one, too, claiming that gnomes are very popular where he lives in Rochester, Washington, and often sell out at stores.

Soon after, I was to go on vacation. I decided to send my brother photos of my Roaming Gnome, Roam-eo, on vacation. I took a full-frame photo of Roam-eo
had it blown up onto cardstock on a color-copier machine, cut it out, laminated it and glued something like a ruler to the back to make a handle.

Here's my gnome, roaming out of the garden and into the world:
Pompeii, Italy
Stonehenge, England
Cruise ship safety drill
Outside the Louvre -Paris, France
With me at the Arc de Triomphe -Paris, France
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