Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Last Post for 2014!

Hey guys,

Alright. So, as the title suggests, this will probably be my last posting for the year and I thought I'd go over a couple of things.

First, I thought I'd talk about what our goals for the year were and discuss if they were accomplished.

  1. Completely automate the pneumatic props. Yes! We did it! All four of our pneumatic props, Coffin Guy, Andersan the Tombstone Breaker, Vampire in a box and the newly constructed Ground Popper were completely automated. I programmed them using PicoBoo Prop Controllers and they worked flawlessly.
  2. Build a new pneumatic prop. Yes! The Ground Breaker was awesome, but he did have his challenges. He didn't move as violently as I wanted him to. The reason was faulty building on my part. I failed to realize how all that violent motion would impact the prop and less than an hour into the evening he broke! He broke his wrist and threw out the alignment in his back. I was able to fix this but I had to slow him down considerably to manage operation throughout the rest of the night. This made him look less scary in my mind but people seemed genuinely freaked out by him.
  3. Build new column toppers to replace the destroyed ones from last year. Yes! We built them and they looked brilliant.
  4. Build a New, Old Gate. Kinda! We did build most of the new gate, but in the end, didn't have time to build the "gate" part of the gate. So, what we ended up with was a new Hollinger Hollow Cemetery sign. As it turned out, the sign looked so good we may not bother to make it a gate next year so I'm gonna say this was accomplished.  :)
  5. All original tombstones. No, we didn't replace all the store bought tombstones. This goal was, in truth, not achievable. We have a lot of store bought tombstones and the Hollow is pretty big. Add that to the level of detail Lynn is putting into her tombstones and there was no way we were going to be able to replace all the store bought ones. I figure in about two or three more Halloweens all the tombstones will have family names on them.
  6. Fix the tree. Well, no, but it really didn't need fixing. Yes, it still is leaning more than I would like, but the tree actually looked pretty good. So, we just put it in the yard and you can see it in the video walkthroughs. So, nothing really to fix here.

Second, I'd like to share some thoughts on the year.  Mostly, because this blog is my way of taking notes for next year!

As you can see above, we really did finish everything I thought was important at the beginning of the year. So, as far as getting everything done that we thought was important to having a great year then this year was one of our best.

I'll even go further by adding to the list of things done. For the first time ever, our props had sound! The Twins Tombstone had the sound of ghost babies crying. Ground Popper sounded like a struggling zombie. Vampire in a Box (aka Sarcophagus Guy) sounded like a demon trying to escape. Coffin Guy screamed like a crazy man when he opened his casket lid. We even got the Projector Tombstone working, sound and all.

But, there were some flaws. 

The sounds weren't nearly loud enough. We'll have to figure out a way to amplify the sounds if they are ever going to add to the scare. 

Of course, I already talked about how the Ground Popper broke an hour into operation and we had to slow him down to keep him from breaking again. We had a similar problem with Vampire in a Box. His lid was opening and closing so fast that the sound of the wooden lid slamming on the wooded frame made conversation on the bridge impossible. To counter that, I had to slow down how often the lid opened and closed. Again, something that should have been scary was a little less scary due to a lack of planning. To counter that, Coffin Guy and Andersan the Tombstone Breaker weren't fast enough and I would have sped them up but that would have thrown off the sync in the sound so I left them alone. Another case of scary not being scary enough.

Then there is the matter of the turnout. Hollinger Hollow has in past years had anywhere between 600 to 1000 visitors. Sadly, this year, we came in around 200 to 300 people. Last year, we were so excited because Halloween was on a Friday this year. We never for one minute stopped to think about how Friday night in Texas is reserved for High School Varsity Football. 

That's right. I'm afraid that Friday Night Lights caused us to have a terrible turnout at the Hollow this year. The worst part is that despite the things I listed above, this truly had the makings to be our best year to date. And that is leaving something of a hole in my happy feeling for all the great things we did this year.

But, no worries. These things happen. Everything I've mentioned as needing work are easily fixed and we already have so many ideas for what to do next year.

So, see you in August, when the blog will once again become active and we will lay out what we plan on doing for Hollinger Hollow 2015!

See you then!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Couple More Videos!

Hey everyone!

I though as long as I was at it I would add a couple more videos we did last week.

The first is a daytime walkthrough of the Hollow on Halloween. Everything is in place, the power and air lines are connected, we're ready to go.

The reason I want to show you this is just to emphasize how different things look in the daytime.

But I'll let you be the judge...

And that's what everything looks like in the daylight.

The second video is of the Coffin Guy.  I recorded this right after programming him and I thought I'd show you this because I'm not sure you've ever really gotten a good look at him.

So, here he is...

And there you go.

Tomorrow, I will share my thoughts on the year.  I think it was one of our most successful when considering everything we set out to do. Too bad we had so few trick-or-treaters this year.

More on that later.

2014 Walk Through Video!

Hey guys,

Here it is, the 2014 Hollinger Hallow Walk Through Video!

Before I show it, I want to let you know about the sounds I added.

Of course, I always do some sort of ambient sound on these videos. One thing that is different this year is that several of our props had sounds! I didn't want to lose that on the walk through video but I also didn't want to put you through all the talking that was going on during the video shoot. So, I added the actual sounds used for the props to the video. The props that have sound are the Twins Tombstone, The Grave Popper, Vampire in a Box, Coffin Guy and Andersan the Tombstone Breaker. The Projection Tombstone also has sound but I somehow left that off this video and in an attempt to get this video posted today I decided not to go back and add it.

So, here's the video...

And there you go.

I will also be adding a daytime walk through as well as making some comments on how this year went later on.

So, please keep checking in on the blog for a couple more days.

Talk to you later!

Pics From Last Week!

Hey everyone,

Wow! What a week! We still haven't finished cleaning everything up!

I will share my thoughts on this year in a later post. What I want to do here is hit you with some of the pics we took.

So, here we go...

The Grave Popper Completed! (We still don't have a name for him yet)

Grave Poppers tombstone.

Our new sign installed!

One of our new, silly tombstones.

Lynn's costume in the light!

Lynn's costume in the dark!

The new column topper.

A look at the toppers placed at the exit.

The Skulls Tombstone!

A last second addition, made from things we had lying around.

The Twins Tombstone. Wait until you see it in the walk through video!

And everything in the backyard November 1st.  Well, most things.

And there you have it. Just some pics we took the week of (and the day after) Halloween.

Next up, the walk through!


Monday, October 20, 2014

Were'd That Cemetery Come From?

Hey guys,

As promised, I started setting up the Hollow over the weekend.

Here are some pics...

The entrance.

Further down the sidewalk.

Coming up on the exit.

For some reason, I'm walking through the Hollow backwards.

The Bridge

The Hell Hole. It really does look better at night, all lit up with a charred skeleton climbing out.

The Mausoleum.

Entering the Hollow.

Yeah, for some reason, when I took the pics, I walked through the Hollow backwards. That's to say, I entered through the exit. Not really sure why I did that. I guess I was tired and not thinking. And, because of the way I'm facing, I can't flip the order of the pics because that looks odd.

But, I guess the point of this post is to show you that we've finally started setting up the display and I guess this does that.

You may have noticed that the new tombstones aren't in place yet. That's simply because they were getting a second coating of polyurethane and couldn't be put out front yet. Not to worry, they will be out front shortly.

So, later this week I will be setting up the lighting. Then we will finish the new Hollinger Hollow sign. I've been calling that the New Old Gate but the truth is that we won't have time to build the "gate" part of the gate so when we're done it will simply look like a sign, which is fine. It will still look good and next year we will complete the gate.

Halloween day we will put out the pneumatic props, run the hoses, put down the hay in the yard and spread the mulch along the walk way and that will finish up the display.

Until then, we still have some things to add/build and I will be sure to keep you up to date.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

There Be Tombstones Here!

Hey everyone,

So, as promised, here are some pics of this years new tombstones....

The Cross Tombstone will definitely be for the Grave Popper.

Here's a nice, funny tombstone!

I watched this come together and I still can't believe how great it looks!

The Twins are demoned out!

And as great as they look in the daylight, they are even better at night.

These will definitely be where people can see them!

Fingers crossed, I set up the Hollow "foundation" tomorrow!

I'll let you know.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Been Working Hard.... Despite All the Rain!

Hey guys,

Well, the first two weeks of October have passed and we still don't have the Hollow set up.  This is extremely disappointing but that is not a sign that we haven't been hard at work.  I can sum up our lack of progress in one word.  RAIN!

That's right, just like last year, October has been our rainiest (if that's even a word) month and has rained the last two weekends.  Saturday was dry, but the yard was such a mud filled mess we couldn't set anything up. Incredibly frustrating.

But we've been working as much as we can.

Lynn is making tremendous progress on the new tombstones and she's even started the new, Old Gate. I've automated 3 of our 4 pneumatic props and have started Lynn's new costume.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures yet. Not to worry, we have been taking pics, I just don't have them with me to post today.

But, I will have updates later this week and rain and mud aside, I will setup the Hollow this week!

So, keep checking in.  Updates are coming!


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Not A Bad Week!

Hey everyone!

I've was pretty sick this last week.  Thankfully, Lynn wasn't and she's knocking tombstones out left and right.

The Cross Tombstone. The detail is incredible.

Add some Monster Mud.

And textured. I love this new tombstone and it will probably the one we use for the new Grave Popper.

Skulls Tomstone!

This was such a simple idea. When Lynn told me about it I thought it would be cool.  I had no idea it would be this cool!

Lynn made a double tombstone once before (see Hollis Weeb) but this one is gonna be awesome! The babies in the picture morph into demons and we are going to add a children giggling sound effect. Very creepy!

And to add to the creepy factor, these dolls will be placed in front of the tombstone.

I wish I thought to get a pic of what these used to look like. These are excellently creepy.

Also, the mask for the Grave Popper came in!

Where are my hands!

I also added the PicoBoo control box to the Vampire in a Box prop that we are thinking we will put in the Mausoleum this year.  That makes it completely automated now. I don't have a video of that prop and now that I'm thinking about it it wasn't highlighted much last year so I will get one soon.

And that wraps up this last week.

We still have to build the new "Old Gate", automate the Coffin Guy and hopefully repair the Tree.

That said, this week ushers in October, which means I will begin setting up the Hollow in the front yard. So check on us next week and I'm sure to have pictures of that.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Grave Popper With Sound!

Hey guys,

Just finished looking for what sound I'm going to use with the Grave Popper prop.  Now that I've got that figured out, I though I'd add it to the construction video I posted a couple of days ago to see if it works.

It was so much fun I thought I'd post it.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Grave Popper!

Hey guys,

Okay. I thought it was time I introduce you to our new pneumatic prop for this year. 

The Grave Popper!

The idea is simple enough. A zombie has dug his way out of his grave and is stuck. It's design is simple enough so let's take a look at what we have so far. Of course, click each pic and you'll get a bigger image.

I made his frame from scrap 2x4 I had lying around. Gate hinges make the shoulders, elbows and wrists. The PVC pipe is for the neck and the part that extends below the shoulders is for stability. All of this is mounted on a scrap piece of 3/4" plywood. The pneumatic cylinders were purchased from as was the mounting hardware. I used wood screws and bolts with stop nuts on the hinges. Here, you will also see wood screws holding the cylinder hardware in place. 

Here you see the pneumatic lines attached to the cylinders as well as the solenoids that controls the direction of the airflow to the cylinders. You can also see where the air supply attaches to a regulator that limits the airflow into the prop. I've also added a jug to the neck for the eventual mask that will be added. He also has a tie around his neck. He was buried after all. You will also notice I have removed the wood screws from the cylinder hardware and upgraded to bolts. Running this prop for 5 minutes proved the screws would not hold (something I was warned about but didn't pay any attention to).

A closer look.

And a look from behind. The big, black box is the prop controller I ordered from With this little box I record the movements of the prop and then loop it. Very cool! So professional! :)

I also added some foam at the bottom of the prop support (something not shown in the above pics nor in the video below). This helps to muffle the "thump" heard when the support rod slams into the base.

And of course, here's a video...

So, this is not what he will look like. although I love it when his hat falls off and the mask spins to look directly at the camera. That mask is the mask I wear Halloween night so the Grave Popper clearly can't have that!  I'm going to find a zombie mask and some zombie hands as well as an old, second hand shirt and possibly jacket, provided I can find a cheap one.

I will of course show you what he looks like when he's complete.


Monday, September 8, 2014

New Column Toppers!


Yesterday I told you guys what our plans for this year are. Now, I'd like to share with you something Lynn is working on, the new Column Toppers.

As I may have mentioned, it rained all October last year and the rain completely ruined the new pumpkin toppers we built. I say "we", but really it's all her.  Anyway, to replace those, we thought we'd do something like in the image above. Creepy, zombie like hands holding a lantern. We got the idea from a prop in the Fright Props 2014 catalog, where I get all my pneumatic supplies, but instead of buying it we decided to build our own.

So, how are we going to do that?

To start, Lynn is making the arms and hands.

Their construction is pretty easy. You get some 3/4" PVC pipe and a 45° elbow. Attache the elbow using PVC primer and glue. Then, shape some Bic pens to look like fingers and attach to the wrist using wire. Tie it all together using duct tape. Once the glue dries, add cotton for joints and cover with liquid latex. I make it sound easy, but they do require a large amount of artistic flare.

And for a closer look...

Next, I'll construct the base pedestal which will support the arm and the lantern. To be honest, I have no idea how I'm gonna do that.

Guess I'll make that another post!

More to come...


Sunday, September 7, 2014

It's That Time Again!

Hey everyone!

It's September and that means it's time to start thinking about the Hollow!

Okay, in truth, we've been thinking about it for a month now. That's what we do. We start planning in August, flush out the ideas and start in September.

So, what will we be doing?

It's funny, because when I list it out it seems a little, well, meh. Why? Because in the end, it will look as though we only added a couple new things. But, in truth, we are going to be very busy this year.

  1. Completely automate our existing pneumatic props (Coffin Guy, Vampire in a Box and Andersan the Tombstone Breaker). What do I mean by "completely automate"? Last year, I ran all the air lines to solenoids mounted on the bridge that were manually triggered by our support staff. The problem with this plan was that as the night went on, and our support staff became more and more intoxicated, the triggering of the props became less and less. What can I say? You can't get good, sober support staffers anymore. So, this year, I am buying PicoBoo prop controllers and each prop will be automated! Now all staffers can feel free to drink as much as they please, which they were pretty much doing already anyway so carry on staffers! Carry on!
  2. Build a new pneumatic prop! Were calling him a Ground Breaker. Not sure if that completely qualifies, but that's the name we're going with. He will be a corpse who has dug his way out of the ground and is pulling himself up, but with difficulty. I wish I was using an original design but after a lot of research I couldn't think of a better way to do it then this gentleman: It's just so violent in its movement and I love it! Of course, this new prop will be automated as well.
  3. New Column Toppers. Yes, we had a problem with our newly constructed pumpkin column toppers last year. The rain (it rained the entire month of October last year) completely destroyed them. So, Lynn is making new, water proof toppers. They will be a creepy, decaying arms holding a lantern. I have pictures I will show you later. They're going to be brilliant!
  4. We're going to build a new, old gate. This may take some explaining. Have you ever been to a really old cemetery? If you have, then you probably noticed a really old, run down road with a very cool looking gate that is chained up and out of order. When you ask about it, they tell you that used to be the entrance a hundred years ago, before the expansion of the cemetery back in the early 1900's. Well, back in the early 2000's, the Hollow was much smaller and only covered a few square feet of space. People walked up the main walk to get their candy and exited using the same path. So, we're going to honor our past by building a grand ole gate and placing it on the old cemetery path. We haven't started it yet, but I will of course have pictures later.
  5. All original tombstones. That's right, no more store bought tombstones. And, since Hollinger Hollow is a family cemetery, the tombstones are going to have family names. Of course, we won't use actual full names (or at least we will do our best to avoid that) because that may be a little too creepy, but they will have genuine surnames. There will also be a couple joke tombstones, with people from works of fiction. You know, just to be silly.
  6. Fix the tree! Yes, the tree we worked so hard on last year succumbed to it's own weight and is falling over on itself. Having never done a tree like that before, we used a skeleton of PVC pipe and chicken wire. In the end, the weight of all the foam was too much for the skeleton to support. Looking back on it, I would have done so many things different, but we spent so much time and money on the tree that scrapping it would be a terrible waste. So, I have no idea how, but I'm going to fix the tree.
And there you go. We have a lot of work ahead of us and in the end its only gonna look like we added a couple new things. Still, as long as the weather permits, we will get everything lit properly, something that was not done last year due to all the rain, and added to the fact Halloween is on a Friday this year, we should have a fantastic Hollow!

Stay tuned...

More to follow!