When the weather turns cold and days get short, what better way to enjoy a nice Halloween season evening than by gathering around a blazing bon-fire and sharing spine tingling camp fire stories. Add to the thrill and ambiance of the evening by turning the surrounding area into your favorite haunted scene to make the entire experience that much more frightening. The annual MCARLM Ghost Stories and Local Lore evening provides this experience to attendees. With a minimal budget, staff has to find ways to make this event spooky and fun through creative steps, outside of spending much needed funds.
So to create this amazing event, it certainly helps to start with a spectacularly perfect location. The Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum is lucky enough to be set in beautiful San Lorenzo County Park. This 200+ acre park includes acres of lawn to play on, 2 playgrounds, hiking trails, RV campground and a youth camp area that is located down in a bowl surrounded in trees and bushes that are ideal for creating a dark, haunted scene. So using this perfect canvas was definitely a great starting point.
Besides the bon-fire pit and wooded area, another great aspect of this location is the secluded alcoves that it has, providing opportunity for individual scenes. Right after coming down the steps, such an alcove was perfect for creating an old ‘abandoned’ toxic cemetery. We were lucky that one of our board members has the makings for a cemetery, complete with life size coffin that we were able to borrow. This look was created with some basic wooden planks, similar to the kind used for building fences. Weathered wood looks best, but any wood plank will work. Simply screw 3 wooden planks to 2 smaller cross planks to make a rickety looking headstone. We used rebar stakes to keep them upright and secure. To give the scene a sense of danger, we added a toxic spill using old barrels that we had in the park. The toxic ooze was added to the barrels using an amazing product called Great Stuff, a spray insulation foam. This super cool product truly is great stuff and is so easy to use and dries quickly.
Using an old barrel, trash can or other large container, spray the foam along the top and then carefully work your way down the side, making sure that the foam is adhering to the sides as you go. Let it dry and add to it as necessary to create the effect you are looking for, then create a trail along the bottom of the container to demonstrate a flow of sludge into the now ‘affected’ area. Once the foam dried, we used fluorescent green paint and topped it with glow in the dark paint to give it an eerie glow in black light and after dark. If using a plastic barrel, like the one we used in the background, add some large glow sticks or a light to give the scene an eerie glowing effect. Now your cemetery is ready to produce hoards of the un-dead!
I liked working with the Great Stuff so much, I set out to experiment to see what other gruesome creations I could make with it. This next decoration that we made turned out better than I had imagined it and happens to be my new personal favorite!
Using a pair of pants we got at the local thrift store, crumpled up paper to stuff the legs, two feet we found at the local dollar store, red spray paint and a can of Great Stuff (I know, this is starting to sound like an advertisement for this product, but this is really GREAT STUFF!), we made a gruesome bloody disembodied trunk to complement our saw murder scene. Fill the top of the stuffed pants with the foam and then run it over the waist band to look like the guts are spilling out. The foam expands so don’t worry when it starts off looking like you don’t have enough. Let the foam dry to a solid and paint with red spray paint. Use the remainder of the foam in the can to make extra guts to accent the scene.
Roaring bon-fire, spooky decorations, ooey gooey s’mores and now everything is ready for some scary stories. Tell some that you remember scaring you as a kid (Bloody Mary anyone?), or go on-line to find an endless supply of frightening tales of horror and despair. Remember, it’s all in the telling. Take your time, and lower your voice for effect, causing the listeners to lean in prepping them for the big scare! Happy Halloween!