I love Halloween. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is great, Thanksgiving is fun, and Easter is nice. But I absolutely love Halloween. No other holiday comes together for me like Halloween, even the seasons are in on it. The days get shorter and the night comes earlier. The leaves change and fall. I don’t have to bundle up from the snow to partake in the fun, nor do I have to sweat all day at a picnic in the July sun. The weather is perfect and cool. There is no stress. You don’t have to worry about tensions around the Thanksgiving dinner table between two random family members, feel bad if you don’t have someone on Valentine’s Day, or stress about getting all the right gifts at Christmas. You just decorate your house, buy some candy, dress up, and pretend. I love movies, and watching Halloween movies is part of our ritual. Haunted houses and scary movies make you confront your fears, and you feel all them more alive after the experience. It is one of the few holidays that is as much fun for adults as it is for kids. All the parties have fun themed treats, costumes, couples, and kids playing games and running around playing make believe. Nothing is too fancy, prim, or proper. The decorations can be tacky and over the top. There is something in the air, an eeriness that creeps into all aspects of life for the entire month of October, and mysteriously evaporates on the morning of November 1st. Everything builds to this magical night where you get run around with your children at dusk, go to a party, have some innocent scares, and get candy. I am not a dark or scary person, but I love a good-natured scare and touch of the Victorian macabre is just a wonderful thing.
For every reason listed above, I also love Disney’s Haunted Mansion. Disney’s Haunted Mansion first opened in 1969 at Disneyland, and exists in various forms at five different Disney Locations around the world. Very few attractions appear at that many parks. It is the perfect balance of fun and scary. This month we recently lost one of my favorite Imagineers, X Atencio, whose contributions to the Haunted Mansion still amaze and entertain me after all these years. How many attractions that opened over fifty years ago are still open? How many of those few still have the wait times of the Haunted Mansion. It baffles me how he and his fellow Imagineers could craft such a perfect attraction that is genuinely slightly frightening for kids, but scares them with that Disney wink and smile; making them want to turn right around and ride it again. It has some of the most thorough, consistent, and beloved theming of an attraction. Virtually every aspect of the ride- from the clocks, candle holders, and paintings on the wall to even its wall paper are immortalized in merchandise of every type.
Over the next few weeks I will be dedicating the blog to the Halloween decorations we have made over the years as we transform our home into our own Haunted Mansion for a Halloween party for friends, neighbors, and especially… our kids.
A very simple thing to do is to swap your pictures from some of the various portraits you seen in those dark and twisting halls of the Haunted Mansion. I simply searched for the various images “Haunted Mansion portraits”, “Haunted Mansion changing paintings”, or “Haunted Mansion Stretching portraits”. The more you investigate the Haunted Mansion you will realize that each portrait has a name like the Mariner or the Ghost Host. A very helpful site was Daveland. I always set my searches in Google to only return the largest files with the best resolution. I have Photoshop, but to keep this user friendly I took the images and put them in Microsoft Word. Here you can adjust the images, add filters, and even textures like canvas. For example, the cross stitched “Tomb Sweet Tomb” was created by adding the pixel filter in word, saving it as an image and then adding the canvas texture for the bumps. My original plan was to use a set of transparent UV activated paints to paint the skeletons in the paintings that the kids could reveal with UV flashlights I bought. But, let us just say that the “transparent” paint dries milky white and would not work. So, I bought some cheap frames at Walmart for $1 to $4 dollars, printed the pictures and voila!
I love the wallpaper of the haunted mansion. A very nice touch to add the feel of the wallpaper are these throw pillows I got at Redbubble for $20. They look great on the couch with the wallpaper themed blanket we got at the parks. It is the best way to bring in the wallpaper short of actually wallpapering your house.
Around the room we added fun little simple Gothic elements, like this candelabra I got for 50% of $12 at Hobby Lobby. It started gloss black but I painted it metallic and gave it a variety of washes and brush techniques to give it the grime and patina. To finish it off I added the purple candles and melted them.
We have scattered things like books, candles, birds, and skulls around the first floor. I love this print of the changing portrait of Medusa by Leann Hill. I would love if she did the entire series.
One of my daughter’s favorites is the wall of potions we added last year. It is not from the Haunted Mansion but it fits right in. We bought tons of jars that were a few dollars each on a week when they were 50% at Hobby Lobby. Each jar was its own little adventure of brainstorming what should go in it, coming up with how we can make it, and the actual real fun of creating it. The entire thing was a daily project throughout the month of October and really set the mood. Among others, our potions include:
- Vampire Blood
- Dust of a Mummy
- Powdered Skeleton Bone
- Crypt Fungus
- Hair of Werewolf
- Monster Claws
- Holy Water
- Zombie Blood
- Wolfs Bane
- Aspen Tree Bark
- Deadly Nightshade
- Eyes of Corpse
- Grave worms
- Witch Hazel
- Wings of Bat
- Eye of Newt
- Mandrake Root
- and more
In the coming weeks, I will be showcasing the more impressive and iconic builds we have created from the Haunted Mansion.
Until next time…
The Imagine Ears features the DIY projects, adventures, and thoughts of a father and daughter who use a shared love of all things Disney to create memories together through encouraging her interests in architecture, design, Imagineering, while exploring history and science.