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Members of our Horror Addicts.net Facebook Community may recall my October post asking how to glam up a plain white three dollar Halloween bonnet from Goodwill – and I went back to the store to pick up a second hat after our old fashioned fashionistas suggested so many great ideas! Fortunately, this festive season is the perfect time of year for a red and black design dark for Dickensian mood or delicious for a Victorian Christmas.
Viewers of the on-location author interviews featured at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference may also recognize the red pintuck taffeta fabric used here – once my backdrop material now re-purposed in a variety of home projects. This was the last piece of what is a very forgiving material that could be folded over and glued along the edge of the hat and tucked under in the back without worrying about taut perfection. While there are great Youtubers paying attention to period detail and historically accuracy who would cringe at glue, this project is more about aesthetics than proper Victorian recreation. Initially, I didn’t expect to sew, but the flimsy, clearance, black lace from my stash needed to be gathered around the bonnet brim. Stitching it in place on to Dollar Store black ribbon became a time-consuming step that took twice as long as it should have. Once done, however, the bonnet came together quickly until I caught a raccoon with his nose pressed up against the glass door looking inside watching me. That was creepy!
Of course, this project reminds me of how they say to re-enact within your means. To dress in fine fabrics and glam trims like Queen Victoria would be very expensive! By sewing this lace carefully, however, it became a proud, handcrafted detail that a lot of regular ye olde folk probably did on their clothing. Cheaper materials may be cumbersome but using what you have is affordable. So one has to decide whether more time for detail or budgeting for materials is best for your crafting means. Outside of the initial inspiring bonnet itself, the black lace, black ribbon, artificial flowers, feathers, and fabric were items from my craft closet. Once you have such stock, it’s easier to customize mainstream designs or make anew. A wide black ribbon for the bonnet tie meant I could press the lace gathers faster along a hot glue line at the crown plus the width makes for a big, dapper bow under the chin. Was it too much ribbon and lace? Victorians were known to have some pretty outlandish things on their hats – like nests or taxidermy, so decorating the bonnet is the fun part! Red Dollar Store mums and a marked down giant black feather plume make for some holiday style. Since the green leaves showed beneath the flowers; black, brown, and cream feathers from an assortment added to the natural scheme – accenting a Mrs. Cratchit tone were the feathers were acquired via from the bird modest alongside festive accessories accumulated over time. While yellow and orange feathers from the assortment were tempting as a festive pop, I think they’ll do better contrasting a future more Halloween-ish purple bonnet.
Hot glue again came to the rescue attaching the accents to the sides of the bonnet, a few hours work done except there was just enough fabric left to make a jaunty little cape to match! The construction here would seem straightforward with sewing all the sides with black lace trim and a ribbon tie at the neck. Unfortunately, I only made more work for myself in again gathering lace. I don’t think ladies had anything to do back them but gather all their fluffs, lace, and ruffles! Not only did I neglect taking pictures of this bonus, but guess who made a really dumb mistake on the front corners and had to undo two days worth of work and start over again? Me. But at least I was also able to make a matching muff out of the mistake fabric. When inspiration strikes, sometimes you just have to roll with it, and after all that, I wanted to include a few holly jolly bells somewhere on the ensemble. Rather than permanently attach it, stray leaves and bells in a festive, grape style dangle became a separate little pin. The bell cluster was simply tied onto the leaf stem and then both a pin back and barrette clip were hot glued on the back to wear as a brooch or in my hair as you do. It’s a little delicate but for some free jingle, why the heck not?
This ensemble was both easy yet complicated – one project that turned into four. To buy the materials would probably be a reasonable thirty dollars perhaps, but sewing know-how can be priceless. In addition to the fun and festive wear, the point of the project became perhaps to not be discouraged. None of the sewing here has to be perfect, for a hidden ugly or seam basics on something small and inexpensive is great for those new to sewing or intimated by a needle and thread. Don’t let any money, mistakes, or material hurdles take the wind out of your crafting sails!
For More Kbatz Krafts, Check out Our Halloween Mayhem:
More Scares to be had in Tales from the Darkside Season 3
by Kristin Battestella
The 1986-87 Third Season of Tales from the Darkside features twenty-two more episodes of horror and oddities beginning with “The Circus” premiere written by series producer George Romero. In a series that usually puts the bizarre first, this episode truly feels like a horror tale as Showman William Hickey (Tales from the Crypt) promises mummy and vampire spectacles to a journalist trying to debunk the smoke and mirror ghouls. The bloody feedings and hungry dogs, however, make for some disturbing showmanship – a creepy little parable done with very little, using one setting and power of suggestion scares for a fitting twist. Covered furniture and a murderous history don’t deter a couple from their spooky new home in “Florence Bravo.” This is supposed to be a fresh start, but the wife – who was put in an institution by her husband after a nervous breakdown – isn’t taking her pills as the rocking chair moves by itself and ghostly visions escalate. The haunted house set up is familiar, but she loves their spooky old home and her adulterous husband will pay the price for the house’s evil ideologies with bloody floorboards, gunshots, and killer ghosts. A suspicious dollhouse in “The Geezenstacks” comes complete with the eponymous doll family, and their morbid playtime whispers come true as the cracks begin to show with implied domestic violence and dire real-world consequences. The bemusing bizarre here is less annoying than other kid-centric episodes thanks to creepy toys and that quintessential Tales from the Darkside quirky likewise seen in “Black Widows.” Our homebody knitting mother insists enough company comes to her, like salesmen and ministers knocking on the door. However, visitors who squash and kill a spider in her house will pay the pincer price – even the fiance who’s not good enough for her daughter. He’s too thin and the web-like laundry hangings add to the obvious, but there’s a sardonic wit to the family secret. Unfortunately, the eerie mood escalates for an unscrupulous yuppie art dealer in “Heretic” when the inscriptions on a valuable Inquisition painting would have him learn the error of his ways. The torture and warped religion lead to terrible twists on life imitating art with pain and fiery consequences.
Warnings to behave and not do anything you wouldn’t do on network television accent the homemaker quaint in “A Serpent’s Tooth.” Mom insists she nags because she loves, however her teen daughter and college drop out son’s choices will be over her dead body. She receives the eponymous charm with a warning to be careful what she wishes for – because she may get it. The television, radio, and telephone disappear when she threatens how inconvenient life would be without them, and when she tells an obnoxious kid next door that his face will get stuck that way it does. Talk about a salty lesson! By contrast, a greedy advertising executive sees a New Orleans bakery and its intoxicating cookies as a golden opportunity in “Baker’s Dozen.” The secret ingredients of a thirteenth specialty make for twisted connections between men, dough, and gingerbread in this tasty voodoo turnabout also written by Romero. Of course, the kids in “Seasons of Belief” are at the age where they don’t believe in Santa Claus – but their older, festive parents warn them of a more terrible figure called The Grither. While disbelieving in Saint Nick only makes your presents under the tree disappear, The Grither is the most awful thing in the world, and they’ve called him by saying his name out loud. Tales from the Darkside provides a certain warped amusement here with a holiday episode featuring a deliberate act to scare kids, twisted carols and all. A mannequin trades places with a burglar for “Miss May Dusa,” and creepy shadows accent the seedy subway and what goes on after hours sunglasses at night. Our cursed lady doesn’t remember who she was before, but a jazzy street musician tries to guess, making for an interesting twofer with sadness, despair, and bitter realizations layering a more serious drama on the horror of loneliness. Little Chad Allen (Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman) says if you leave him a note, the milkman will give you presents in “The Milkman Cometh,” and a family in debt that has lost a baby is rewarded with another pregnancy. Was it a response from the ‘While You Were Sleeping Dairy’ or a coincidence? Increasing conflict, financial struggles, and drinking lead to eerie silhouettes and blue lighting making what was once a normal neighborhood visitor totally creepy with bizarre revelations and eponymous winks.
Jeff Conway’s (Grease) typing his latest in “My Ghostwriter – The Vampire,” and he’s happy writing hack vampire tropes for the money – until Dracula shows up on his balcony. He’s there to prove his powers, proposing sanctuary in exchange for his nine hundred years of bloody details. The toothy secrets lead to literary success, and the traditional vampire motifs with eighties spins are great fun. However Dracula wants his share of the spoils, and there’s an underlying ominous thanks to dining in on the maid neck bites and handy silverware. Robert Bloch’s (Psycho) “Everybody Needs a Little Love” starring Jerry Orbach (Law & Order) has noir mood with cigarettes, Truman posters, and vintage pubs. Our barfly friend brings home a mannequin, drinking, dancing, and taking a week off from work to cook dinner and sit ‘Estelle’ at the table. Who needs a nagging broad when you can have a classy dame who just sits there and smiles! He insists she’s no prude, adding to the old fashioned creepy and lively twists with a hint of something more sinister as her look or positioning seems slightly different from glance to glance. An old crone and her young-looking friend reunite for a bitter 1692 anniversary in “Auld Acquaintances” amid talk of burning houses, lightning strikes, poisoned cats, and puritan flashbacks. Evil chants, talismans, chokings, and threats set off the zany performances alongside Salem imagery and some intense 1987 shocking language on whores and devils. The bargains in blood and pacts to live forever are well done in this confined two-hander. More spell books, enchantments, and boils in “The Swap” don’t impress the young wife of a man who can’t compare to his mama – the greatest conjurer Louisiana ever saw. So long as she ‘plays house’ each night, his wife will get all their millions, and she goes upstairs with her revolting husband rather than be poor. Of course, she’s secretly with the hunky handyman, and Tales from the Darkside gets a little saucy with talk of ‘gentlemanly pleasures,’ handcuffs, and bottles forced into a man’s mouth. The twisted little threesome escalates with poison, wills, and stipulations on who the wealthy widow must marry next. By contrast, it’s all idyllic mid-century sophistication in “The Enormous Radio” with martinis, classical music, and period touches raising the unique horrors. Do our eavesdroppers interfere when they adjust the dial and hear their neighbors or is it none of their business? Unfortunately, the addictive gossip gives way to heated arguing, and the sad, depressing strain of hearing the whole building’s troubles ultimately overwhelm our once perfect couple.
Early in Year Three, however, back-to-back kid tales sag Tales from the Darkside thanks to an annoying little girl disliking her engaged sister’s kisses with her jerky fiance in “I Can’t Help Saying Goodbye.” The titular premonitions lead to explosions, funerals, and a whiff of religion versus innocence but the crappy attitudes can’t make a thin script more eerie. “The Bitterest Pill” offers another petulant kid and nasty dad, and the family remains pissy even after they win the lottery. The in your face speed talking over the eponymous drug that provides total recall takes the investments over the top and the fittingly harsh turnabout drags on too long. Southern charm schmoozing over the politician at dinner in “Deliver Us From Goodness” also repeats the be careful what you wish for come ups that were done better several episodes prior, and the religious hypocrisy gets lost in the out of control humor and off the mark obnoxiousness. “My Own Place” may have $285 rent control, however, there’s a semi-mystical roommate that won’t leave – despite the yuppie renter’s curry jokes, Calcutta insults, and racist slurs. Such demeaning isn’t scary, and our jerky new tenant realizes he’s getting what he deserves too late. A stereotypical gold-digging femme fatale widow cut off from the company stock in “Red Leader” adds to the slow, generic corporate talk of cooked books and shady real estate as hellish minions from below debate over the same old evil businessmen tropes. Yawn. Likewise, a greedy young apprentice tries on a pair of magically crafted shoes in “The Social Climber.” He can really go places in this fancy pair, but his shoemaker boss warns him there will be a price. Unfortunately, the magical elements can’t disguise the transparent end, and today some viewers may be completely baffled by what a cobbler even is. A drunk having a heart attack to open “Let the Games Begin” leads to mirrors on the ceiling, hellish shadows, and heavenly echoes arguing over who gets to claim his soul. Both try to entice him by appearing as his angelic best friend and his vixen sister-in-law. However the askew angles, sardonic tricks, and heart beating suspense are too uneven, attempting too much between humor and cynicism in a plain story that gets irritating fast. What is scary are those yuppie styles – plaid sweaters tied over the shoulders, tube socks, and dated feather hair on top of crimped ponytails, neon fashions, and Like a Virgin fishnets. The Tales from the Darkside title card was changed for this season, the menu design on the Season Three DVDs is slightly different, and there are no subtitles. Cramped eighties trailer homes, small sets, and single locations with red lighting and dark dressings may be cheap, however, the claustrophobia is also very effective amid atmospheric thunder and that indelible, chilling Tales from the Darkside theme. Sound effects accent the monster makeup, blood, gothic archways, and older Victorian styles. Retro kitchens, typewriters, and big boob tubes harken a mid-century housewife mood – pink wallpaper, dusty rose doilies, and old bag vacuums contrast the giant eighties portable brick phones and pathetically dated computers. These ladies have to take off a clip earring to use the rotary phone and count the teaspoons to make that old fashioned coffee! While such a long season has its ups and downs thanks to dated or hammy half hours that are weird rather than scary, Tales from the Darkside Season Three once again provides creepy, chilling, and atmospheric parables for a nostalgic horror marathon.
Have you ever hung a table picture frame and been so annoyed by the little stand in the back interfering against the wall that you’ve ripped it off? No? That’s just me?
I looked at these little picture backs with my cheap and spooky mind and thought, “Gee, they look like coffins!” But what could I do with them to show off their unusual shape? Some kind of cemetery diorama like the ones we used to make in school would be decorative but not necessarily useful. Would it be more efficient if this little cemetery was displayed openly on a serving tray? Kooky yet functional! Rather than cheap plastic or a Halloween themed platter that would be flimsy or too cutesy, I found a great old fashioned tray at Goodwill for $2. This chipped and worn cream with gold scroll work was going to become brown for that earthen look – the paint known as ‘nutmeg’ strikes again!
Obviously I could not repaint the entire intricate scroll design but went over some of the vine motifs on the corners in lime green paint for a creepy brier look. Of course, this lucked upon step was time consuming and took a few coats of both the green paint as well as the surrounding brown. I am not an artist, but I am a perfectionist, and some of the brush strokes are apparent if you take a closer look. After three or four coats, I could convince myself real creepy vines and cemetery dirt would have imperfections, however there are probably better stencils, brushes, and skills if you are intentionally going for an elaborate Halloween design. Although this paint doesn’t specifically say it glows in the dark, the lime is bright enough to do so – another fun bonus!
Despite already being dark, I painted the frame stands turned coffins black, hiding lingering sticker marks on the back while the brush strokes became fitting faux wood grain. I wanted a simple ‘R.I.P.’ in white to emphasis them as coffins, but the white paint picked up the marker tracings, leaving the phrase, well, peach. Maybe one could excuse it as a touch of Halloween orange, but I didn’t like it. When I started to go over the letter again with the brush I used for the black paint, I ended up with another ‘happy accident’ just like Bob Ross says. The darker dry brush picked up some of the surface texture – aging my peachy R.I.P. Like vintage erosion. Whew!
At last, my little coffin family was ready to go on the tray, staying upright with some basic glue and tape. After touching up the bottoms of the coffins with more black and covering the rest of the tape lines with my trusty nutmeg, I glued some green moss around the bases. This covered my imperfections and base support with a final spooky mound, and if you look closely, I used green glitter glue sticks in case any of the glue shows. Naturally, one should not put food directly on this kind of painted tray nor use it for a lot of grabby trick or treater hands. True artists would probably also use some sort of glossy sealant to protect their designs, but for me, a shiny top coat didn’t go with the graveyard mood.
Of course, one doesn’t have to make a three dimensional cemetery tray. Kids can spend a fun October weekend painting much simpler platters and gluing on an array of bugs, spiders, fake fingers, toy eyeballs, or anything that fits your Halloween theme. This idea works perfectly as a fun centerpiece whatever your inspiration and style, obnoxious picture backs or not.
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I told myself, “Kbatz, no more cardboard tombstones!” and had actually been recycling several of the boxes that came my way. However, when one long, slender, perfectly coffin sized box happened upon my doorstep, I could not ignore it!
Granted, this was only the oblong base for a Cardboard Coffin that suddenly landed in my lap, and I needed to make the graduated, angular top to complete the silhouette. Cutting another box open to adjust around the top of my long box took some trial and error – centering as best possible, taping the flaps down to close the front, then reinforcing all the seams with more masking tape. After the front was loosely in place, I laid down my delicate shape and traced the top onto another piece of cardboard to be used as the backing piece. One could leave portions of the coffin open, but that can seem like parts were missing and this needed the structural support as well.
Although, one flap on my top box was indeed missing. I thought about cutting another piece of cardboard to wedge it closed, but the Bob Ross happy accidents continued once I decided to leave it open for some creepy hands to pop out. I have some Dollar Store skeleton hands intended for making coffins out of old pallets in yet another get to it someday project, but when looking for the skeleton hands I found monster fingers I had picked up at Goodwill for $1. Because these are singles rather than a jointed boney hand, I could spread them further apart to cover the opening as well as let them really stick away from the coffin for total scary effect!
Before I could break the monster out, however, I had to paint my cardboard coffin. Using the same technique as my DIY Tombstones, I graduated and varied different brown and black acrylic paints in marbled streaks with darker old sections and lighter, seemingly worn corners. After a few coats of blending for full coverage, my cardboard was really starting to look like a coffin! Should I paint on a big R.I.P.? Add claw streaks from my monster nails? I chose to leave the coffin plain otherwise, but a real artist could add monster eyes or pre-made ripped open monster decals. They do make ’em!
Now it was time to hot glue in my green monster fingers, spacing them out with Dollar Store moss to fill in any remaining gaps. It didn’t take long at all and the creepy long fingers set off the entire piece. Who has time to notice it’s really just a holey, tape together piece of cardboard? Since this wasn’t a coffin for the dead with a skeleton hand and more a buried monster break out, I picked up some Dollar Store chains to go around the box, adding visual balance while hiding some trouble spots. You can buy foldable fabric and cardboard cutout coffins in the Halloween store, but for their borrowed time breakable, store bought faux seems over priced at $25 or more. Then again, seriously sophisticated Halloween folks can get elaborate here with sound effects, motion sensors, or lighting – spending for a prop that will certainly scare as well as last if you have the right materials and know how. Naturally any cutting is best left to mom and dad and kids would need help in holding everything together as it is assembled, but this can be a family friendly project customizing what scary zombie arms or fun tails and toes to expose.
Because I had to open the top box and tape the angles back together, this coffin was slightly flimsy and top heavy. Maybe the cardboard should actually look more like damaged wood with jagged edges, and there are probably more sturdy materials to make your own DIY Coffin. I also dislike the noticeable seams upon closer inspection and even for a coffin getting bent out of shape by the monster inside, the proportions are still a little askew. For an on the whim project, however, this came together quickly in a few days with only paint drying delays. Using found materials and basic supplies that cost under $12, I now have a fun, spontaneous Halloween showstopper.
(It’s amazing what you can do in a day without internet service, and apologies to the workmen outside my house that afternoon who may have looked in my front window to see an upright coffin in the center of the room, you know, just chillin’.)
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Like The Rolling Stones said, sometimes when you want a little morose, all you need is a hefty coat of black paint. A $4 grab bag of bowl filler from our trusty Mr. Goodwill helped me prove this theory as traditional balls and gourds became rustic orbs and goth glam. Shiny brass or holiday gold candlesticks and sconces likewise become sophisticated, useful pieces year-round, and Dollar Store frames turned into expensive-looking conversation pieces.
As discussed in my Re-purposed Black Topiaries project, painting floral items black is more involved, but worth the spooky look. When I picked up another holiday vase filled with pine and poinsettia greenery for $3, out came the flowers and everything else was spray painted black – tacky gold base, leaves, stems, and all. Touch-ups were needed for some of the smaller needles, but now I have a black floral base that can change with the season. After some cream and blush color flowers on the empty picks for the summer, it’s all black flowers for Halloween, red for the holidays, purple for winter, and white for spring. Customizing fake flora displays at the craft store can get pricey, but for $5 including spray paint, I have not just one one of kind centerpiece, but five.
Perhaps everything all black all the time would be too much for some, but one or two black accent pieces can be classic or rustic to suit your décor without being expensive. After last year’s Spooky Bottles and Tea Stained Labels, black paint came to rescue when I wanted to add more creepy jars to my shelf. Saving a few unique bottles from the recycling, painting them black, and wrapping rustic twine around the tops adds a touch of mystery to any apothecary. Have anything broken and useless lingering in your garage? I took apart the base of a damaged silver lamp, removed the wiring and painted the pieces black for a few more goth candle holders.
When my mom gave me this little lantern house – bought for pennies at the thrift store – I was tempted to keep the tin look. However, it felt a bit too country amid the rest of my décor. So I painted it all black for a fun light not just for Halloween, but something that can be used year-round. For those fearful of bigger crafts and projects or those hesitant to go bold and expensive with dark, sophisticated colors, painting smaller items black is a can’t go wrong, affordable touch for any room or season.
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