Lost Spirits of the Bayou: How We Approach a New Theme

February 17th, 2018

Well, Halloween 2017 is long over, and we’re just getting around to writing about it. Overall, we’re happy with the way it turned out, but we already have some changes in mind for next year. In thinking about last year’s haunt, we thought we’d write a bit about what it takes (for us, anyway) to execute a new haunt theme.

 

The first year of a new theme is always the most difficult. We spend at least half the year coming up with new ideas and then the next half arguing over how to execute them. The first step is to decide on our theme. This happened sometime in the middle of 2016. We knew we wanted to do something with the “bayou,” but we didn’t want it to be about hillbillies or crazy carnivores. What’s worked well for us, themewise, is to get inspiration by thinking about a specific location and time period. In this case, we came up with New Orleans in the 1920s, specifically prohibition. What would Mardi Gras be like if booze was outlawed? Well, there’d be moonshine, of course. And what’s the Halloween spin on that? Well, the moonshine is obviously cursed, filtered through the bones of the dead, so if you drink it….well, just ask the skeletons in the night club scene.

To get more ideas, we look at historical photos online, listen to music from the time period, and watch related movies. We also need to reuse props and sets from previous years in order to keep things cost-effective, so that affects the layout and scenes quite a bit. We simply don’t have the time or money to build everything new from scratch. So this year, we recycled the town scene from ScabTree Hollow into “swamp shacks” that we placed in the front yard. This was one of those things where we had no idea how they’d work, but when they were all up, it was awesome. It really made the haunt look bigger, and it gave us several places for brand-new scares.

We also shook things up this year by reversing the flow. We’re really limited in the path available through the yard, so there’s really no way to change things other than going in reverse. This worked out pretty well for people who’d been coming to our haunt for years.

We also have a bit of the devil in this theme. Did you see the guy dressed all in white? Yeah, that’s the devil. Tempting you to try the cursed moonshine. The rest of our cast was made up of psychotic flappers, rabid temperance supporters, and yes, even a hillbilly or two. We struggled a bit pulling the theme together. For us, the first year of a new theme is almost a “rough draft” of what we eventually want it to be. We find it hard to completely visualize how the haunt will work until we actually get all the scenes up and running. After the 2017 haunt, we noticed some holes in our backstory that we hope to fill in 2018. Some of the characters might change. The swamp shacks will also be getting additional theming to add a bit more life (or “death”?) to the scenes. We may even completely discard the old drop panels, which are a pain to maintain and are totally predictable scares for anyone who’s been through the haunt already.

Our blacklight area continues to be a favorite with our guests. It’s definitely one of the most fun parts to construct, and it almost always looks great, no matter how hokey we’re afraid it will be. Look for additional creatures to show up in the swamp in 2018.

We typically take a break from even thinking much about the haunt until April or May, but the time is approaching soon. We’re going to try to be better about updating this blog with the process and behind-the-scenes construction. We’re also looking for additional actors this year. One of our very best actors, Emily Rhea, is departing to join the US Army. (We’re so proud of her, but what the hell are we gonna do without her??) If you’re reading this and would like to be a part of our rag-tag haunt team, get in touch with us, here or on Facebook.

The Haunt at Hellizondo Presents: Lost Spirits of the Bayou

February 17th, 2018

New Orleans. 1927.

It’s Mardi Gras, but Prohibition is in full effect.

But don’t worry. There are ways to get a drink. All you have to do is go a bit out of the city. They say there’s a speakeasy out in the bayou with the best coffin varnish moonshine you’ve ever had. Just take a walk through Alligator Creek, and don’t mind the snakes. When you get to the tall, black door, knock three times and let them know “everything is Jake.” The party’s inside. We bet you’ll trade your soul for one of the concoctions they’re mixing up.

The Final Year of ScabTree Hollow!

October 5th, 2016

Returning for 2016!

scarecrow

The Haunt at Hellizondo will be back for 2016 featuring the FINAL YEAR of the Witches of ScabTree Hollow!

If you haven’t seen our current theme, this will be the last year to check it out.

In the late 17th century, in the small Massachusetts town of ScabTree Hollow, Judge Hearthorne has made a deal with the devil to to sentence innocent townspeople to death for so-called “witchcraft.” For every soul he sends to the devil, the devil pays him a silver piece in turn. But in the depths of the forest lurks a coven of real witches, and they are on the side of the innocents. If you’ve accused and judged your innocent brothers and sisters wrongly, the Witches of ScabTree Hollow will ensnare you in their underground lair and entangle you in the thorny vines of their sinister pumpkin patch, where you will rot away until October 31. On Old Hallows Eve, the witches will release their army of rotting pumpkin souls to exact revenge in the name of those falsely accused. You have one chance to escape: Reveal your guilt inside the Confession House, and they might show you mercy….

confess

t

watcher

wraiths

witch

lordpatch

pumpkin

The Haunt at Hellizondo will return in 2017 with an ALL-NEW THEME! Be sure to check this site throughout the year as we bring you the theme reveal and construction pictures.

Thanks to our Fans

November 2nd, 2014

I just wanted to quickly say thanks to the fans of Hellizondo who came out on Thursday and Friday this year. Many of you said you saw this or that on out blog which surprised me because it usually feels like I am writing into thin air. I means a lot to us and to me that you guys drove out to see us when you could be doing anyone of all the fun fun Halloween things there are  to do out there.

We are still breaking down the the haunt but I wanted to put up a few pictures. We didn’t get a lot because of a sudden torrential downpour.

blue house front

cross

Kendra’s calling me. Time to go finishing taking down the haunt.

 

I’ll be back.

All that Remains

September 22nd, 2014

One of the challenges we have had every year setting up is what to do with the fountain in Patty’s yard. In 2009 we threw black fabric over it and no one really saw it. But its a big waste of space in the haunt so in 2011 we removed most of it and build Dee Dee Dimples around it. Pretty good cover up, but moving the concrete sections of the fountain was tough work and it never really went back together the same way again.

Dee Dee Dimples

 

Last year we kinda tried to maybe make it look like a bonfire that had died down or some kind of ..i don’t know. It looked halloweenish and that was OK but it bothered Patty. Let’s say I don’t have a picture of it so that what a success it was. However, this year Patty built a cover that slides over the fountain that requires no disassembly.

IMG_20140913_173027

 

It’s quite a nice paper mache tree stump. Made from ground cover fabric, blue shop towels, and latex house paint mache it’s very tough and flexible. It will be festooned with scary drippy candles and look like its is still smoldering after being struck by lighting (as out tree that you enter is supposed to look).

IMG_20140913_172946

Patty also got a good deal on cheap foam rubber balls sold as kid’s toys. She cut those in half and using PVC pipe and more mache made some very nice mushrooms to be growing out of the tree. We’ll reserve some for the black light area as well.

 

IMG_20140913_173017

Patty’s paint job is amazing.

 

Also being made by Patty is the classic scared to death gravedigger. Just getting underway he is a Chattering teeth halloween toy you’ll see in store this season with a foam and paper clay head being built around it. Throw in some taxidermy Human eyes for extra creep factor and you can get a feel for how this guy will turn out.

IMG_20140913_173130

 

I finished up the abomination skull I was working on. This was going to be the creature hung from the cross and burnt to death, But I think I might have made him too cool. I’ll make a another abomination and see if it works out better.

IMG_20140911_084923

IMG_20140911_084859

This weekend was way more comfortable than last weeks 107f. At a light breezy 85F we got a lot done. I finished making the facades for the driveway set and Kendra, Bill, and I painted all the facades as well. We invented or adapted a art school technique to make woodgrain on a smooth surface. We painted it a darker base coat color then went over it with a lighter color and immediately scraped away the wet paint. It was photo realistic, but when you look at it it looks like old wood.

20140914_151428

IMG_20140919_174316

 

IMG_20140919_182449

IMG_20140919_174414

Above is a scraper I made from a plexi scrap at work. It was designed for texturing pink foam but once the points were sanded down it made a good wood texture. Something I’ll have to try improve upon as it made texturing very fast and easy.