I have a confession… I am a Halloween junkie. I don’t mean that I have a passing interest in Halloween and make a lot of pumpkin recipes in October…. hmmm… ok, I DO make a lot of pumpkin recipes in October but I’m going to classify that as irrelevant. What I am trying to say is that over the years I have been given the title Queen of Halloween. I have earned that title and the black tiara that comes with it. I plan months in advance, I do my best to find the coolest props, I spend A FORTUNE each year (I often wonder if Mike really believes a six foot animated figure actually came from the Dollar Store) and lets not even bring up the day AFTER Halloween … aka My Black Friday. I take that day off of work each year, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. and hit the streets, running in and out of stores like a deranged lunatic. You know that weird lady you see speed walking up an aisle with a look of desperation on her face that quickly turns homicidal when grandma inadvertently steps in front of her, causing her to come to a screeching halt? Yup, Me. That lady who was so excited that she accidentally left the house wearing her jammie bottoms. Yup, Me…. and for the record, let’s just all agree that yoga pants are acceptable to wear anywhere. Yup, junkie!!
All that being said, it was really only a matter of time before I would delve into the world of Halloween prop building. Mike and I have always lived in apartments since we have been together, which I think we all know pretty much equates to the Halloween Kiss of Death. No decorations, no trick or treaters, one weird guy walking around the complex at 2:00 a.m. in a mask and windbreaker. Not good.
Then, last September we moved into a house and I was able to have my first taste of outside decorating and an over the top explosion of all that was creepy and twisted. And when Halloween finally came around and we made a little girl cry with a hand grabbing candy bowl .. well, I have to admit that nothing pleased me more.
Fast forward to this year. We are still in the same house and we are rounding third base on owning it. Don’t laugh but we are actually scheduled to close on our house on Halloween. Isn’t fate grand? So THIS year is officially my first year of planning and building and creating my first large scale Halloween props. My favorite to date is my crypt and this post is going to show you how I build it. The good, the bad, the covered in mud of it.
First, I have a ton of USPS boxes left over from when I had my own small at home business. A TON!! I wanted my crypt to have different dimensions to it and when I remembered my USPS boxes, they were the perfect height for my base. I wont bore you with measurements because if you decide to build your own crypt, you will have your own idea in mind. I wanted mine to be big and sturdy. I have a four foot high animated skeleton/angel that I plan on setting on top of my crypt so it needed to be strong enough to hold that but not too heavy for me to move by myself. Cardboard and Styrofoam, here I come!!
I put together my boxes and laid them out to get an idea of how big I thought I wanted to make my crypt. When I had the size I wanted, I grabbed my masking tape and got to work! I taped each bottom, I taped each top, I taped each side edge on the sides that would be facing outward and when I was done doing all of that, I taped them all together to form a rectangle.
Please notice that I was supervised closely for this portion of my project. Let me introduce to you my Porkchop, my constant can’t be two inches away from me at any given time companion. He and I have fought the world together and he’s as needy and temperamental as any 2 year old toddler can be. But he’s my buddy and I am the center of his world so together we are and together we stay.
After making my rectangle base, I moved on to the next level. I had sheets of Styrofoam left over from last Halloween and the two panels were perfect to top off the base. I measured extra pieces to fill in the middle section between the two and taped them together. I followed the process again with two more sheets of Styrofoam, this time making them a tad smaller so that the different layers would show through and then I taped it all together to make one solid base.
Now the bad part. We will classify this under First Time Builder Mistake. I knew that when my piece was all constructed that I would be covering the entire thing in Monster Mud, a mixture of joint compound and paint that basically holds it all together. I had picked up thin pieces of foam board (thin sheets of foam in-between two pieces of fortified paper) and set about making the body of my crypt. This all seemed to make sense and it should have occurred to me at this point that things were going much too smooth. So I put it all together, I tape it all, I Monster Mud two sides of it and then I slowly watched the thin foam board sheet warp into something completely unrecognizable. Then I poured a glass of wine and I walked away. I didn’t want to play anymore that day.
Next day with coffee and a Plan B in hand, I went back to work. I threw the mutant foam board out and drove my little Chevy Aveo to Home Depot. I found the two inch thick 8 foot long Styrofoam sheets. I was happy. I had a plan. I was on track. I also have a Chevy Aveo. For those of you who don’t know what the least expensive car in America looks like, lets just say it’s very small but even I have to admit that it is extremely versatile. I have even gotten a king sized head board to slide all the way into my car so I wasn’t worried about fitting my Styrofoam sheet, after all, I had in my possession my husbands pocket knife, a man-sized tape measure and a plan. If anyone asks, Yes that was me cutting my sheet into pieces in the Home Depot parking lot so I could wedge it in my car.. don’t laugh.. bottom line, it worked.
So after I wrestled it in and out of my car, it was time to make magic happen (haha!). I measured out my sides and taped them together. I measured out two flat panel sheets of Styrofoam like I did on the base and taped them together too.
I needed the top to be sturdy, super sturdy. Like I mentioned before, I have plans to sit an animated creature on top of the crypt so I need to make sure it wont crash in. I secured the flat panel piece on top of my structure and placed another piece of the thick Styrofoam on top of it. ….. and …. tape…. lots and lots of tape.
Now, I know that after Halloween I will need to store this. After all, even I know that property values will decrease if I keep crypts and cemetery fences and tombstones out in my yard all year… at the very least, the neighbors would talk. For this reason, I did not secure the crypt itself to the base. The crypt merely sits on top of the base and that works for storage purposes but also this way I can throw a rope light inside the crypt and hopefully it will cast an eerie light out from the bottom. At least, that’s my plan. I also added a front Styrofoam ‘plate’ and printed off the name Kirby from my computer and etched it into the piece and secured it to the front of the crypt. My supervisors said it was looking pretty good at this point .. lol
With everything secured and taped down, I set forth to Monster Mud the entire thing. Styrofoam is fickle and will disintegrate if you try using things like spray paint on it. Joint compound simply seals it and reinforces it and won’t compromise the structure itself. This was the first time I had used Monster Mud and I was surprised at how light (weight wise) it is after it dries. One note, it always dries much lighter than the color you have created in your bucket. If you want your project to be dark, make extra super duper dark compound. It’s just what happens.
Once this piece dried, I knew I needed to paint it.. add some grit.. some fake mold… some shadows. Sigh…. I just can’t do it. I love it the way it is and this being my first year of prop building, I have learned that excelling at a fine arts college and prop shadow painting are WORLDS apart. So I am leaving it as it, for now. Maybe next year I will make it all dirty and forgotten. Maybe.
Well, that’s about it. I sealed the entire piece in Drylok (still drying when this picture was taken) because it will be sitting outside for weeks to come and my plan is to set my front yard haunt up this weekend. I will also be posting how to make cemetery columns but that project went hand in hand with this project. What do you think? Do you have any ideas of what to make next? I’m afraid this is only the beginning (insert evil laugh here)!!