Entries Tagged as 'From The Undead Letter Office'

The “flying ghost 200′ 7 ghost”

When a blog reaches a certain point in its life, and the writer refuses to accept that the chainsaw has sung its last, he will typically post an apologetic article promising many upcoming topics, and he may even follow up on one or two, but you can usually bet that you’ll never hear from him again.

What it boils down to is appetite, or how savory a topic is to the writer. When he follows his gut, he’ll speak because he has something to say as opposed to jabbering with indifference, a sort of living death.

That said, perhaps it’s fitting that my first post in nearly a year should take the form of a rant.

“Gene”, whose name I inferred from his email address (an address which bounced when I sent my reply), asked the following question (Although lacking any punctuation, I must assume it was a question based on “can I use”):

can I use 1/2″ drill to make a flying ghost 200′ line 7 ghost
I tried using a 3/8 drill I keep burning them up

What follows is my reply:


The challenge of parsing your question has exceeded this morning’s allotment of brain cells, so I’ll have to make some inferences and move forward from there. Your phrase “flying ghost 200′ line 7 ghost” is the real head scratcher here. Is that a flying crank ghost on a 200′ tall line? Gah! The crank would have to be enormous, so probably not. Perhaps you’re actually referring to an Axeworthy ghost that whirs around an area on a rope threaded through a system of pulleys. This sounds more reasonable.

If I were going to move a mass I would want to calculate the amount of energy needed to accomplish the job. In this case, you have the ghost prop plus the weight of the threaded line plus a certain amount of resistance in each pulley. That’s not a trivial calculation (for me, anyway) so I’d have to google it just to see how to write the equation. Failing that, I would see what other Axeworthy builders have used for drive motors and emulate the best solution.

However, if you’re really talking about a flying crank ghost, then I have to congratulate you on the level of stealth you’ve managed to wrap around its description. In any case, the answer is to stop using drills as drive motors.

A drill motor is not rated for continuous use no matter what its size. It will eventually overheat and seize up. Worse, it could get hot enough to cause a fire. I use a Dayton industrial AC motor (I don’t recall the model) to drive my crank ghost, and even that heats up to the point you can’t touch it. The point is that it is a high torque motor that is designed for continuous use so I don’t really worry about it. If it were an indoor prop, then I would investigate the heat issue so
that we don’t wake up some morning on fire. But it is outside in a mausoleum far from the house; perhaps after years of faithful service it’s in need of replacement. Bearings do wear out, after all.

I hope this has been helpful, and feel free to contact us again if you have any other well-worded and properly punctuated questions.

Your ol’ pal Spook gets the snark prize on this one. (There’s a good reason why Grumble has been accused of being my alter ego.) In my defense, maybe I wouldn’t have fallen off the reservation if my reply had actually reached its intended eyes, but it came back undeliverable, which perfectly punctuates the unpunctuated level of fail on display here.

Call it a public service announcement if you’re feeling very charitable. Maybe “Gene” will find this, turn off that drill that’s been grinding itself to ruin for the past four hours, and not burn down his haunt with a blazing flying ghost 200′ 7 ghost.

Coffin lids and the sweet smell of spray adhesive death

Coffin LidMinion “Pip” writes …

” I love the styroform coffin prop – just wondering when cutting the side walls, did you angle the edges so they fit together better, or did you not worry about that? Thanks for the great idea, I’m an American living in Australia and trying to come up with good Halloween props here is hard – they don’t really celebrate it but some of us are trying to change that. :)”

Hi, Pip!

Angling the walls is one way to keep your coffin lid from sliding down into the coffin. I went a different direction, mainly because angles and I don’t always see eye to eye. Study any roof I ever had a hand in building; it either looks like a church steeple or devolved into a Quonset hut.

In any case, yours is a good idea. Another option that doesn’t involve a protractor is to glue some foam blocks to the inside walls just below the “lip” of the opening. Then, if you attached your walls to the outside of the bottom of your coffin, and if your lid has the same dimensions as the bottom, it should slip right in and sit pretty resting on the blocks.

Spray adhesive is excellent for attaching bits of foam to each other. I like 3M brand. It does an outstanding job bonding foam to itself, to walls, your fingers, almost anything. However, do *NOT* spray directly on the foam unless a melted hole is really what you had in mind for that spot. Instead, spray onto a sheet of cardboard, or into a paper cup, and wait a few seconds for it to stop bubbling. If the adhesive you’re using contains Acetone, then stir well with a popsicle stick. This will help to evaporate the foam-devouring Acetone. Once it is dissipated, it is perfectly safe to apply to the foam. (Not with your fingers. You should be wearing gloves at this point.)

A few notes about spray adhesive …

1. Only use in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors. I’m not kidding. This stuff is killer. It smells sweet, but that’s the sweet smell of death and it’ll mess you up. *

2. Apply to both surfaces. Wait a few minutes before putting the pieces together to allow the glue to set up. The instructions usually recommend 15 minutes, but stirring it can speed up the process. Either way, it’s worth the wait. You don’t need to use clamps, and you get a strong bond almost immediately instead of four to 8 hours later using PVA glue.

3. Don’t let it dry on your fingers unless removing the top layer of skin with a belt sander is something you enjoy.

Good luck, show that prehistoric biatch how we do things downtown -I mean- how we Yanks do Halloween, and have a great haunt!

* According to the Material Data Sheet 3M provides for their “Super 77 Multipurpose Adhesive”, death is not in the ingredient list. However, it does contain Acetone, Propane, Cyclohexane, Petroleum distillates, and Hexane. It’s a great product that I use regularly. I just don’t ever want to wake up with a splitting headache from a spaghetti/unicorn dream wondering how long I’ve been sprawled on the floor of the shop, so I treat it with respect.

How thick should a paper mache pumpkin be?

Alternate title: How many licks does it take
to get to the pumpkin roll center of a Grumble top?

Horde of Pumpkins“Horde of pumpkins” by our friend Valerie

Minion TSchroder writes (to Grumble, by accident):

“Hey was wondering how many layers it takes to make a grumble pumpkin head. I tried your idea to use a plastic bag and fill it with paper. Hope it works really excited about how it is turning out.”

Dear tschroder,

Grumble say what mean, “how many layers make Grumble head”? Not know what talk about! Not do puny Spook Man mashy paper stuff!

Oops, Spook here. I’ll take this one.

Sorry, Grumble gets agitated when people ask him prop questions. He’s been on this “Dear Abby” kick, and wants questions like “Is my roommate an alien?” or “When is the best time to plant birdseed?” He’s really sensitive, in his own way, and I think he feels neglected because I get way more mail than he does.

Anyway, regarding your pumpkin question, lots.

The more layers you use to build a Stolloween-style pumpkin, the better. You want it to be strong enough to survive the de-gizzarding process (when you cut a hole in the bottom and pull out the insides). If you choose clay for detail work, you’ll need a nice thick shell to hold up the extra weight. Paper clay, when you pile it on, can get heavy. But it’s great for building up all those neat pumpkiny ridges and things. And boils. Some of the best pumpkins have boils.

If you’re lucky enough to have some really thick material, like brown paper shopping bags, then you may only need two or three layers. For newspaper, recycled phone books, and other thinner material, you may want to add up to five layers. The type and thickness of your glue plays a part, too. Try a 3:1 mixture of Elmer’s glue and water. That is, three parts glue to one part water.

You can test your (fully dried) pumpkin head’s tensile strength by pressing down with your thumb in various spots. This will give you a measure of its “Yield strength”, or the amount of stress a material can withstand without becoming permanently deformed. If it gives too easily, or if you push through and accidentally pop yourself in the eye, then you might consider adding a few more layers.

This is a very subjective test, so a dent here or there doesn’t necessarily mean your pumpkin isn’t plenty strong overall. But if it worries you, then add an extra layer. Another trick used by some large-scale model builders is to “harden” the piece with a coat of glue. Just paint on the 3:1 Elmer’s mixture and let it dry. Repeat as many times as you like.

Thanks for writing, and have a great haunt!

Further reading
Grumble’s paper mache pumpkin head
Stolloween – Gourd guru and professional patriarch of paper mache

Scarecrow as Myth

I'm realFrom the Undead Letter Office…

Our friend, Makin’ Bacon’ writes:

Have you ever done a scarecrow that had 3 heads or skulls coming out of the chest? I saw a pic somewhere last year and can’t find it. I’d like to use it as inspiration for one for a charity haunt. From what I remember, it was very reminiscent of your work.
Thank you

Dear Makin’ Bacon’,

There are rumors that H.P. Lovecraft once took a gander at the Necronomicon, which inspired his Cthulhu dreams. I’ve also heard it said that writers often turn to writing in order to expunge impinging demons; lock them up in the Word, so to speak. Still others believe that the artist, driven to create, causes his dreams to become reality. If not in his own mind, then in the minds of others. The world is a myth and we’re all characters from someone else’s pulp fiction.

This makes for some fun thought experiments, but that bucket has a lot of holes with respect to things like free will, and doesn’t hold much water. And yet science reveals that the universe began (has always existed/might not exist) as an infinitesimal quanta of energy. That from le pointe vierge propagated reality, the universe, puppies, and hot fudge sundaes. How does this differ greatly from “I think, therefore you exist”?

Accordingly, and to preserve public safety, I have not built a scarecrow with skulls coming out of its chest. You must have me confused with another, less responsible, haunter.

Thanks for the note,

Update: Our pal “momZax” sent us this link to Witchotastic’s (very irresponsible, very cool) Keeper of Souls, which may be the project M.B. was looking for.

World as myth: See Lazarus Long
Further Reading – Robert A Heinlein: Glory Road, To Sail Beyond The Sunset, Time Enough For Love, I Will Fear No Evil, The Number of The Beast