M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Monday, October 26, 2009  

This Old Haunted House

I've been putting off writing about the birthday party, probably because putting it on was such an undertaking that I fear the same will be true of an entry about it. But now I have to assume that since once the party was over I felt a lot better, that will apply to writing about it as well.

First of all, it should be said that this was a group effort in every way. Trash drafted friends, parents, relatives, and neighbors to help make this happen, from having them provide food to putting them to work facilitating the activities. And writing about what went on from my point of view is in no way meant to diminish their contributions. Without which the party might still have happened, but it would have been a party of bored, angry, hungry people.

So anyway, the first order of business was to build the haunted house in the garage. This was Trash and M. Edium's idea that they had way back in June, inspired by a similar effort from Trash's mom when Trash was little. Obviously that was memorable, as shown by the fact that Trash remembers it.

This took a lot of prep work. Trash's mom trolled the garage sales down in Iowa where she lives all summer, snatching up cheap bed linens to hang from the garage ceiling to form narrow, spooky corridors. Maybe that's not the best use of bedsheets, but since they came from garage sales, maybe it is.

About a month ago, we cleaned out the garage. We have a two-and-a-half car garage in theory, but in practice the only way to get even one car in there half the time is to tip it up onto one side and sort of slide it in diagonally. After our last camping trip in September, Trash took care of that. We even got rid of a bunch of scrap lumber by making fake gravestones and spooky signs out of it, killing two birds with one stone. By the time Trash was done, there was room in there for both our cars, without our even having to take the fire engine out.

It was my job to come up with the hay bales. Ever try to shop for hay bales in a major metropolitan area? It's not as easy as it sounds. I don't know how people bought hay before the Internet, but fortunately we now have a thing called the "Hay Exchange." That's how I found a guy who was willing to not only sell me hay at $1.50 a bale, but deliver it to our house for less than the cost of the amount I was buying. When he showed up on the appointed Saturday morning a couple of weeks in advance, he told me that when he got into the city, people were yelling to him at stoplights whether they could buy some from him. So I was gratified to know I wasn't the only one in Minneapolis who had trouble getting his hands on some hay.

With those three jobs taken care of, I thought that actually constructing the haunted house on the Friday before the party would be pretty effortless, especially with M. Edium off at Nana and Grandpa's until the next afternoon. I was wrong.

Trash had a vision. Victims would enter through the garage's pedestrian door on the left, and would find themselves in a narrow corridor that wound around the back and to the far side, before letting them out in a main center area, occupied by a witch played by our friend Bitter. The walls of this corridor would have a double row of hay bales as their foundation, with the sheets hanging down from the rafters outside them. To cover up the multicolored effect of the secondhand linens, Trash had the idea of hanging a layer of black garden fabric -- three bucks for 200 square feet, and it covered every color but red, which was even cooler than covering every color.

Now, keep in mind that the average age of the victims would be five, so we couldn't get it too spooky. That did help us save money on extra-gory effects, but the amount of Christmas lights we had to thread from the rafters made up for some of that. In addition to the witch at center stage, Trash had me hang sheets at the corners to create hiding alcoves for other cast members whose job it would be to jump out, and to operate the strings that would drop spooky items like a paper spider down from the ceiling.

So this ended up taking longer than I expected, although things picked up when EyeHeartPizza showed up to help. Another thing I didn't expect? It's really easy to lose stuff when you're working around hay bales. I don't even know how many times Trash and I misplaced both hammers, both rolls of duct tape, and both pairs of scissors. Luckily I had a bunch of nails in my sweatshirt pocket, or those would have vanished too. And I still don't know where my stapler is.

But it was all worth it, because by the time we were done, we had a haunted house any kid would be proud of. We even focus-grouped it with a five-year-old neighbor. And it had only taken us fourteen hours of prep time, during which we'd completely forgotten to eat anything.

Fortunately, we could look forward to taking the next day easy, since that was when the party was happening. Oh, wait.

posted by M. Giant 7:49 AM 2 comments


Only one thing to say about that haunted house: Pictures!!

By Blogger John, at October 26, 2009 at 11:37 AM  

Wow, finally someone who goes even more all out that we do for a party. 8-) I'm impressed with your hay bale finding skills!

By Anonymous badgermama, at October 26, 2009 at 6:55 PM  

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