Monday, October 22, 2012

Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite

This year's Halloween project has been all about "found items." My previous post was about how I hacked apart a gaming chair I'd found on the street to make a built-in sound system for the garage. In addition to that, Amber had found some furniture in the neighborhood which looked like it had potential for our daughter's room. It wasn't long until I got the idea that I could incorporate them into my Halloween project. Frankly, they were old and spooky enough already that I didn't think I'd have to do much work. Although now I think I owe my wife a number of household chores.

The two items she found were an old mirror and an upright dresser, which are probably 20-30 years old each. The dresser I'm building some pnuematics into to make the drawers come alive. More on that in the next post. The mirror will just need a little surface treatment to fit into the overall decor. The one piece that was missing from the whole set was a bed. Or, more precisely, this:

Just looking at this picture gives me the heeby-jeebies. For such a low-tech effect, I think this turned out amazingly well, and what you see above is only a trial run. The ingredients are simple: a mattress, a frame, some lights and a prop or two.

In keeping with our "found items" theme, Amber picked the mattress up on the roadside in our neighborhood (this place is turning out to be a wellspring of useful junk). Step one, complete. However, since it wasn't a glowing mattress, I had to help it along with some lights. In the above photo, the mattress is back-lit. In order to facilitate this, I cut off the cloth and padding on the underside to let any light I place beneath it shine through more easily.

I actually had a leftover mattress frame to sit this on, but that turned out to be not quite what I wanted. The lights placed beneath the mattress would just spill out from under it and ruin the effect. So I built a custom box-frame for it using some wood I had leftover from other projects. 

Note the translucent material draped across the center. This is some fluorescent ceiling light cover material I'd bought for another project and never used. One of the design challenges for this bed is to have a way to support the mattress, but not have anything opaque that would cast a shadow from a light underneath. These pieces accomplish just that. They'll hold up the mattress and a few props, but that's about it. If a kid decides to jump on this Halloween night, I'm in trouble.

Now we've got a mattress and a frame, but no lights. I experimented with snaking some rope lights through the mattress springs, but that didn't give me the unholy glow effect I was going for, and it was a pain to boot. So I just grabbed a couple of red compact fluorescents that I'd got a several Halloweens ago and placed them on the floor beneath the mattress. That did the job nicely. 

So far it's a great looking prop, but it's missing something; the inhuman element, you might say. Fortunately, I have yet more old Halloween props at my disposal. 

The skull and other parts were from a past time when I was less concerned about the cheesiness of my decorations. I think they go to good effect here, though, when combined with some old clothes and draped over with another bed sheet. The pièce de résistance, though, is something that can't be experienced on this page. We have a sound machine that we've been using first for Atom and now for Trillian to provide some nice white noise in their room at night. One of the settings is "heartbeat." That gets placed underneath the mattress with the lights. In a perfect world I'd sync the lighting with the sound of the heartbeat, but I don't have the budget or time to pull that off this year.

When I had finished this setup, I left it on for a little while and did some other things in the house. When I walked back into the darkened garage with just this thing on, I have to say I was a little creeped out. This may actually be too much for the little ones in the neighborhood. Believe it or not I do give that some weight, so I'll have to think about how it might get toned down by the larger design of the whole haunted room. When I get tapped to do an entire house in Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, then I'll pull out all the stops.

Until then... sweet dreams... 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Scott - Grandma F and I just read through the latest Horror Hotel update. Looking good. And even without the special effects, the description is awesome - time to start writing for publication. Good luck with the project completion, hope we can see it in action next week. - Dad