Confession House: Completed!

September 29th, 2013

Whew! After weeks of hard work designing, building, and putting together the Confession House, we can finally say that it is DONE! Overall, it wouldn’t have taken that long to complete, but we’ve been bouncing back and forth between various projects, so it just seemed to take a long time. It’s been really fun to have it assembled in our backyard, and we’ve been playing around with the scares by yelling, “Confess! You’re a witch!” Which surely has been perplexing to our neighbors.

The final piece to be completed for the house is to fabricate plexiglass windows that we can bang on from the outside for a scare. But we’ve already framed them out, and we’ll install the plexiglass when we construct the house on-site in Simi in a few weeks.

Here are some pictures of the construction and final product:

Confession House-15

Completed and assembled (roof was not on yet)

Side view, scare windows

Side view, scare windows


Placement of Sign

Placement of Sign

Happy to be finished!

Happy to be finished!

Here’s a close-up of the sign. It was carved in pink foam using a dremel, and the wood texture was created with a tool from the Hot Wire Foam Factory kit.

Confession House-29

Craig stained the outside of the house using a paint sprayer (we chose the stain color “Early American,” which seemed very appropriate). The fumes were terrible! Shortly after this photo was taken, Craig wised up and put on his respirator.

Confession House-19 Confession House-21

For the roof, we used different stains and a template to create a shingle pattern on lightweight luan panels.

Confession House-23

We’re also working on filling up the inside with props. Craig and Bill constructed a “torture table,” and we’ll be hanging up ropes, chains, and other scary implements.

Confession House-34

Finally, here are some photos of our slat-light test. It was hard to photograph with just a handheld camera, but it looks really cool in person. We can’t wait to hear all the screams coming from the Confession House on Halloween night!

Confession House-26

Confession House-25

The Watcher

September 21st, 2013

Construction on the haunt is coming along, slowly but surely. We are close to completion of the Confession House and Coffin Wall. These two things are our main “set pieces” for this year, and our goal is to complete them this weekend. Our last major set build is the facade of the interior entrance, which will be formed to look like a giant tree, in which the witches of ScabTree Hollow reside. Most of that construction will have to be undertaken at the actual Hellizondo location in order to get the fit and scale just right.

In the meantime, we present “The Watcher.” This prop was actually finished a few months ago, but we haven’t posted it here yet. The Watcher will be positioned in the interior of the haunt (on the porch), where he watches and points the way for victims.  The design of his face will be a motif in our haunt, seen also on the “wraiths” in the graveyard scene. The face design was inspired by the artists Wayne Barlowe and HR Giger:

Barlowe 1

Wayne Barlowe

HR Giger

HR Giger

Here are the photos of the completed prop:

Watcher face

The Watcher
Watcher face 3

And here’s a video of the prop in motion:

The Haunted Forest Comes to Life

September 2nd, 2013

Last week, we brought you some construction pictures of the sets/structures being built for our brand new haunt theme. This week, we’ll focus on some of the props we’ve completed.

First up is the mysterious “Manatree.” Is it a tree? Is it an old man? Look into his eyes:


This tree began as a black wire-frame prop we bought at Target several years ago during their Halloween clearance (90% off!). We paid about $8 for it. It was covered in purple lights, and its arms (limbs) move, as does the top branch on its head, and the eyes also open and shut. We never pass up an opportunity to buy a cheap prop that already comes equipped with motors. This is more or less how the prop looked originally:

Tree - before

Patty has repurposed and totally remade the tree by maché-ing the entire outside and adding a face, extra branches, leaves, and a raven:

_MG_7808The Manatree will be painted with invisible UV paints so that he can readily fit in our blacklight area, which has a forest theme.

We also had a black wire frame motorized cat that has received the same treatment from Patty:


Here’s a video of the two props in action:

We’ve also been working on pumpkin groundbreakers for our haunted forest/pumpkin patch blacklight area. We’ve given their bodies a twisted, root-like appearance. They’re made using PVC frames and papier-maché skin. Their heads are the foam pumpkins available at Michaels (or any other craft store this time of year):

pumpkins frame-1 


kendra Pumpkin Creep 2


craig pumpkin creep 2

pumpkins 1-1

      Craigs Pumkin Creep




In addition to groundbreakers, we’ll also have one pumpkin creep hanging above guests’ heads, suspended in a tree:



kendras Tree Pumpkin CreepLook out below!



August 25th, 2013

Since it’s almost September, we figured it was finally time to get to work on building some sets. It feels like we’re actually finally making some progress, but with a whole new theme this year, we still have a long way to go.

First is the “wall of coffins,” which will fill in a space that comes immediately after people walk off the bridge. This has more or less always been an empty space in our haunt, and we’ve filled it in with a plain black tarp before. But this new wall will provide a transition between the witches’ lair/cauldron scene and the demented pumpkin patch.

There will also be a scare within the wall. A hidden “boo door” will be positioned about head height, and our actors will be able to pull a cord that will lower a spring-loaded door.

Coffin Wall concept art

Coffin wall concept art.

Coffin Wall construction

Coffin wall construction, halfway done.

We’ve also been working on construction of the “Confession House.” This structure will be near the immediate entrance to the yard, and guests will have to walk through it to proceed. We’ve added a couple of windows to the structure to allow for extra scare opportunities. The inside will have various implements of torture, devised to elicit a “confession” from the accused witches.

Confession house concept

Confession house concept art.

Confesson house construction

Confession House consists of many panels, built separately for easier storage and transport.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that the Confession House’s walls are made of individual boards with carefully measured spaces in between. We’re planning to use a “slat light” effect inside here, one of our favorite lighting effects. Of course, this is via use of fog machines and well-placed lights to get those ribbons of lights coming through the slats. Here’s an example from Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor:

Queen Mary slat light

Example of slat light effect.

We’ve only been able to accomplish these builds with the help of Kendra’s dad, Bill, and our friend Derek, from our SoCal Valley Haunters group. It’s been great to get the assistance, also on the some of the hottest days of the summer!

Bill constructingBill uses the chop saw for the Confession House.

Confession house construction 2

Craig and Bill constructing in the backyard.

Also this weekend, Kendra worked on making a sign that we hope will help provide the back story to our haunt. We’ll be placing this on the hedge near the front entrance. We hope that people see “Massachusetts Bay Colony” and the year and figure out that we’re in the era of the witch trials. Nothing is worse than creating a whole back story for your haunt that nobody gets. Although surely, more people will get this theme than our previous one (ie, a carnival during the Russian Revolution).

Town sign Kendra and Dremel.

Town sign halfway done

 Wording done.

Craig will be adding an image of a tree being hit by lightning, further adding to the story of ScabTree Hollow. He’ll also be texturizing it to look like old wood. Stay tuned for the finished product!

Our next blog post will focus on some of the props we’re working on, including pumpkin groundbreakers and a mysterious “Manatree.”

New Haunt for 2013 – The Witches of ScabTree Hollow

April 21st, 2013

The Haunt at Hellizondo aims to create an entirely new haunt every 3 years. This year’s theme will be a pretty big divergence from our Haunted Tiki Island and The Carnival of Risk haunts. We have been doing non-traditional haunts for 6 years, and we have always wanted to do all of the classic things like make cool tombstones and creepy scarecrows. We have also had a mix of super scary and whimsical in our haunt. This year, it looks like we are turning the scary way up, and the whimsical is nowhere to be found so far.

The Witches of ScabTree Hollow will delve deeper into the dark side of Halloween and into the nature of mankind. Thematically, we are trying to blend the true horror of the Salem Witch Trials with a dark and supernatural witch back story. While the villagers accuse and murder each other in the name of God and for fear of witchcraft, the real witches have been busy. In the backwoods of ScabTree Hollow, the real witches have been robbing graves in an overflowing graveyard and bringing the dead back to life. These revenants return in the dark of night to seek their revenge on the town who tortured and murdered them.

So far, we have a rough layout of what we are going to build. Construction will start as soon as we get back from HauntCon. We have five main zones. The Queue features the stock, the gallows, and a jail. The Confession House starts your tour of the yard, where you’ll find the tortured and dead on various implements of torture and execution. Corpses of people hung, stretched, and burnt litter the first half of the yard. The Graveyard is where all of the bodies are dumped and then “recycled.” The Lair is where you find the witches’ den, where the resurrection of the dead is performed and the King of the Witches fills his book with the names of the damned. The Forest is the last zone, which we always do as a blacklight area.

Each year I do concept sketches for the haunt. They help establish the look and feel of the haunt and inspire us to build. They also help us figure out where the haunt is weakest or where we might need to build to fit the yard and fill out the space. Some of these ideas will never be made or change so much you won’t recognize the final props or sets. Some of the sketches will be translated almost exactly into real props.

This won’t be built, but it looks cool. This was going to be the entrance to the covered area of the haunt. In previous years, we had the volcano and the Rasputin head, which were the entrances. I wanted to make this out of foam and carve it to look real, but we have had storage issues that have forced us to rethink how we build props. We will have to create a flat facade that can easily be broken down for storage.

This we will built for sure, although it will get moved around and won’t look like this. We will probably replace the demon with a person tied upside down on the cross. I know you’re thinking “OMG. that’s so sacrilegious,” BUT in fact, it was the church who invented this torture for heretics and witches. So really we are being extra religious with this prop.

This is more of an inspiration sketch. We wanted everything to be tied to birds. I think witches with their long noses and spindly fingers look like birds, so these evil birds are the spirit animals of the witches. They are found all over the haunt, whether watching over the gallows, talking to the dead in the graveyard, or whispering into the witches’ ears.

This is going to be my personal project. He might talk and move, or he might only talk, or he might not even be looking at you when you walk through. He will be the most detailed prop and set in the haunt, though.

Keep an eye on our blog, as we’ll be posting the build this month. See you then.

– DC