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How to Make Plastic Pumpkins Come To Life

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While I love carving real pumpkins, sometimes a cheap plastic pumpkin will do the job. Department, grocery and hardware stores all carry those orange blow-form beauties in all shapes and sizes but they can be a little lifeless. With a touch of paint and dry brushing you can easily transform a plastic pumpkin into something truly unique. Don't worry if you are not an artist. You will get great results because there's nothing complicated or exact about the technique. The best part is that its takes only a few minutes and you'll have them for years to come. You will need: Plastic or foam pumpkin Liquitex Basics  Red Oxide (dark red), Burnt Sienna (dark orange), Burnt Umber (dark brown) paints (any craft paint will do, but I love Liquitex colors) Flat, wide orange nylon brush Paper towels Spray bottle with water Spray matte varnish or spar urethane The one minute video below shows you the simple technique: Dry Brushing Tips You want a very light, quick touch with the brush, add

Explore the Winchester Mystery House at Home

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One of my favorite memories of San Jose, aside from living between two of its oldest cemeteries, was having the Winchester Mystery House a few blocks from our house. The immediate area is now home to two major malls (sorry, one is an open-air, upscale, urban center called Satan's Row, I think). It's difficult to imagine this as the orchard-filled, rural area Sarah Winchester retired to for isolation and quiet – and spiritual mysticism.  "The Spirit House" as it's sometimes called is a stunning marvel of Victorian architecture and madness complete with a maze of over 500 rooms (160 rooms remain), 2000 doors (some with a steep drop), and10,000 windows (some with intricate web designs) sprawling across six acres. I've been there for many tours and Halloween events, but the flashlight tour in 2008 left me a gasp. I was alone in the Grand Ballroom and witnessed a door open in front of me. I didn't think anything of it and  thought a docent would appear but they

Find Chilling Short Stories in We Bleed Orange & Black

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Autumn nights are about to get a little chiller thanks to author Jeff C. Carter . His new book, We Bleed Orange & Black ,   was recently released just in time for the Halloween 2020 season and it's chockfull of "fun-sized" stories that range from family- fiendly to out right shivers-down-your-spine. There's such a wide variety of short stories and poems, and best of all – they are all about Halloween.  Some of my favorites include “Unsettled” about a little girl hearing the house creak around her and a final line that made me shiver. "Haunted House-1 Star" was a hilarious take on oblivious internet trolls. And in "Working the Roots of the Pumpkins" a mother teaches her daughter a family history lesson while baking a pie with deadly results. Some of the stories end with an ambiguous final sentence that seems to percolate on the mind for quite a while until the horror finally seeps in.  I've keep my copy by the bed and read a couple stories,

Witches! At the Market!!

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I'm a sucker for bookazines from the market checkout lanes & Witches: The Truth Behind the Legends & Lore  delivers a gloss overview of the history, lore, pop culture imagery & even an intro to being a spellcaster. It has some gorgeous photos, infographics & illustrations and perfect for that one person who loves everything witches. At $12.99 it's pricey and I would preferred a softcover book that could stand the test of time. 

The Depot Brings Halloween Home in a Big Way

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HomeDepot.com has unearthed another fantastic line of products this year. I've already posted about their massive 12-foot skeleton which is quite impressive. A limited selection of products makes their way to the brick-and-mortar stores but most of the goodies are online only (but they ship to your home or local store for pick up). Here are some of my favorite items from Home Depot's 2020 Halloween Collection include a giant jack in the box, a headless horseman, a hearse and skeleton horse, and a ground-breaking anaconda. The crouching grave digger was also has a sinister, detailed face, hair and perfect for a tombstone cemetery scene. In the airblown category, I loved the sand snake from Beetlejuice , Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors and a fuzzy orange spider with speckled eyes. Finally in the home decor aisle I loved this rotten pumpkin that has a flame light effect inside, and a really ornate (too ornate?) snow globe with a weird, sparkly mist continually swirling insi

12-Foot Skeleton Wins Halloween 2020

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Several years ago HomeDepot.com  burst onto the Halloween scene with the most unusual collection of decor. And lately, they have been offering some of the  largest  and most awe-inspiring props I've ever seen. Sorry everybody else, you are a very distant second.  This year we got the most impressive, consumer-level prop I've ever seen: a  12-foot Giant Skeleton . This thing is HUGE and heavy (in the box it weighs 93 lbs.). With a metal frame and plastic bone overlay, it's quite solid and must be tied down securely with the included braided wire and supports. Added sandbags are recommended. I can already see the lawsuits from wind pushing this thing over onto windows, cars, pedestrians, etc. It will take two people to assemble this monster and there's even an app to guide you through the process. It's not posable, but the arms do rotate up and down. The head features animated LED eyes that blink, close, look around, and add a lot of life.  I was able to assemble it r

Going to Hellier and Back

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I have been cosmically disquieted by HELLIER, a reality tv documentary following Greg and Dana Newkirk to a small town plagued with strange occurrences. The second season premiered this year and both seasons are now streaming on Amazon Prime or on the Hellier website .  I am a paranormal geek but wouldn't categorize myself as a ghost hunter. I like to visit eerie places reported to be haunted, and anytime I travel, a detour to a mysterious place somehow ends up on the itinerary. I've been around the world to Iceland, Ireland, Italy, China, Mexico, Canada, and all over the United States in search of something scary. I didn't come face to face, literally, with the unexplained until I lived in San Francisco. (I wrote an article about that experience for  Gayly Dreadful  this past June.) I've also watched a lot of the ghost hunter tv shows, read a library of spooky books, and studied the paranormal. The Hellier series however introduced me to concepts I've never come a

Quick Takes: The Babysitter 2, The Owners, Sputnik, The Soul Collector

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The Babysitter: Killer Queen is an insanely gory, ridiculous & highly stylized sequel that recaptures the lunacy of the first one. The returning cast of bewitching satanic cult idiots vs. the amiable nerdy kid makes it quite watchable horror but the syrupy ending needed a major rewrite. The Owners is a well-polished U.K. home invasion horror movie with several expected twists. Outlandish performances hold the film together but after a few gory moments, it sort of stalls & takes on a mean-spirited vibe. It ends illogically & confused with a sort of whimper.  Sputnik takes a familiar #scifi story & keeps the focus intimate. At its core it’s an exploration on the cost ambition, the search for knowledge, heroism & also a vicious alien. It’s a solid debut with a brisk pace that keeps the plot moving toward the expected conclusion.  8: A South African Horror Story (a.k.a. The Soul Collector) has an old-school horror vibe, teeming with slow burn dread, gorgeous atmospher

Can Drive-Thru Terror Become a True Horror?

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Not even a pandemic will stop Halloween and after months of the unrelenting doldrums, folks are looking towards holidays to have some fun. Haunted attractions have mostly been shut down across the country so the clever and creative haunt industry has conceived of the drive-thru horror experience. ( The Haunted Road  in Central Florida is one such attraction.) The concept sounds fantastic and will keep even the most timid safely within the metal frame of a car. I'm excited to see how these are done but do have to wonder about expected and unexpected safety issues.  I have a friend who is an intelligent, college-educated individual but put him in a horror maze and his adrenalin-fueled imagination causes the otherwise composed person to push and shove children and older adults out of the way. I've seen it and it's terrifyingly hilarious to watch. Now put a highly suggestible person like this in a car and that behavior might be cause for alarm. Also, at every haunt I've eve

La Llorona is Reimagined With a Timely Message

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La Llorona is a sobering look at the Mayan genocide at the hands of the Guatemalan military, infused with a keenly reimagined figure of Latin folklore. A former general is being charged with the massacre,  torture and pillaging of the villages of Mayan civilians, including women and children. This was a counterinsurgency operation that followed the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996) and into the " Silent Holocaust " of 1981-1983 where upwards of 166,000 people were killed.  Holed up in a lavish mansion, the general, his wife, and daughter are fending off a large group of protestors that continue their efforts around the clock just outside their gates. The sound design is restless and unnerving with the chants, songs and shouting always present at some level. Inside, the house staff abandon their positions, and the lone housekeeper is left to manage, clean up shattered windows, prepare meals, and caretake of the ailing general. Just in a time a woman with long flowing hair, whi

Beware the Snake Oil from Cerave!

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All this hand washing has left me feeling a little chaffed, and have been looking for a good hand cream. I don't post many product reviews on other sites but when I do, I have strict “brand guidelines” to adhere to. The following review was initially rejected by Amazon for not following community guidelines, but I thought it was fun. At over $10 for 3 oz, this hand cream should be a mystical elixir, right?  Have you ever wondered to yourself, what will make me smell more like a swamp witch? Look no further. Cerave's new and worsened hand lotion is sure to dredge up the intoxicating aroma of decomposing roots and standing water. It's somehow thinner than water and yet has a standing tube design to ensure it sprays out evenly over everything the moment the cap is disengaged. After scooping the precious eau de lotionette off the sink and spreading the chalky coulis across your dry, brittle hand skin, you can remain confident that those hands will indeed remain bone dry. No pes

Quick Takes: The Other Lamb, Blood Quantum, Yummy

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The Other Lamb.  This hypnotic film tells its simple story almost completely visually with a dreamy aesthetic and mostly sparse prattle dialogue. Set in the cold, wind-whipped countryside of Ireland, the cinematography is breathtaking. As is the performance by Raffey Cassidy who hails from the classic Norma Desmond school of "We-didn't-need-words-We-had-faces". Her eyes seethe with anger and when she does scream its almost completely muted. The blunt message being that women with opinions of their own are "broken" – because the sole patriarchal shepherd says so. Movies about cults tend to be infuriating (why don't they just leave) but this movie does not concern itself with the psychology of cult leaders or followers. It's a much more intimate story of one girl becoming a woman in a cult. And though a drama, the film is shot like horror movie with clear directions that this cult is heading towards the inevitable dark road to coven. Blood Qu

Quick Takes: Amulet, Beach House, The Siren

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AMULET tells an ominous story of men, good & evil, atonement & a fascinating mythology. Stylishly shot with a languid pace unfolding in two timelines the horror suddenly explodes into an absurd, ethereal yet totally incomprehensible finish that still lingers & haunts the mind. THE BEACH HOUSE is a steady-burn film that starts in one #horror genre & ends in another. The shift is sly with a wicked, calculated & clever plot that leaves you harrowed by the time you realize what’s truly happening. It’s a very effective, trippy, solid debut film. In THE SIREN , tragedy begets tragedy and then you throw an innocent man from the church into the mix and see what happens. This mermaid tale is grounded in the most unfanciful fantasy with some beautiful shots on a lake, including some tricky night shots. I really appreciated the unique narrative touches, like the dude is hot but mute, the mermaid is really charming but a monster, and the c