Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I feel pretty, oh so pretty...

I’ve never been a fan of beautiful, sexy Halloween costumes. Unfortunately, the majority of costumes marketed toward women are the skank, stripper-like fantasy costumes: the sexy witch, the sexy Snow White, the sexy cop...

I’m such a snob, but they lack creativity. And for a Halloween enthusiast like me, they just won’t do.

So several years ago I wanted to create something truly horrifying. My costumes in the past (I must brag here) had been pretty damn skippy: the Bride of Frankenstein (with my real hair), the Grim Reaper (complete with scythe), a can of Raid bug spray (no kidding). But this latest one had to top them all.

I have this thing for gargoyles. I have a few concrete ones in our yard, a couple miniature ones adorn my iMac at work and there are several scattered about the house as decor. So it was only natural to give myself a good gargoyle makeover.

Gargoyle version 1 consisted of a furry body suit complete with hood and pointy ears, furry feet and gloves, hand-made bat wings and a full facial latex appliance that, once covered in black make-up, was truly frightening and completely disguised me.

Did I mention the yellow cat-eye lenses?
Yeah those, too.

This went over so well my first year at the Culbertson Haunted House I knew it was a keeper. But it needed improvement.

Gargoyle 2.0 got some new rubber wings that were much more realistic and some nice customized fangs.
But that still wasn’t good enough for me.

Gargoyle 3.0 was the best. You know I’m obsessed with this costume when I spend $500 on an accessory. You know I’m even more crazy when I have to learn a new trick to use said accessory.

Extreme sport stilts.

I learned how to stay upright on these wonderful springy things in about 10 minutes. In another 10 I was walking on them. Within a couple of days I’m walking laps around the block.

The neighbors had plenty to talk about that week. Some crazy bitch on stilts bouncing down the sidewalk.

I got some fake fur and vinyl made me some leggings with hooves. I got an old black shirt and added some shreds. I found some great looking monster gloves and for the wings... well, it’s great having a dad who’s a tool and die maker. I sketched out the bare-bones of the bat wings and a few days later Dad had created a skeletal form out of aluminum rods.

After I hand-stitched on some vinyl, we had us some mighty fine, large wings. Shut on up!

Wanna see?

Yup. Eight feet of sexy gargoyle... or Girlgoyle... or Hollygoyle as I’ve come to be known.

So this year, after putting Gargoyle 3.0 into the closet for a rest, it will be resurrected as Gargoyle 3.1. New face, new eyes... aw yeah...

A gargoyle version of Best Scares Ever coming soon...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hurricane Ike takes out New Albany. Details at 11.

I witnessed the '74 tornado, and the '95 tornado, the '94 blizzard and the '95 flood. I never thought I'd witness a hurricane.

Especially living in the mid-west.

Ike lost no steam as he charged into the Ohio Valley Sunday.

We had a photo shoot scheduled at noon the Mansion for Haunted House promo pictures. Just as I pulled out of my driveway on my way over, my cell phone rings the familiar tune for Mansion people. It's "J2," one of the staff, on the other end.

"Are you still coming out today to take pictures?"

"Yeah, I just literally left my driveway."

"You DO know we've got all kinds of winds and tornadoes heading this way."

I'm looking at clear skies with bright sun and a slightly stronger-than-normal breeze. "Yeah... so? We're gonna be inside the Carriage House. We'll be fine."

"Well, just be careful coming over here."

The drive was uneventful. A little breezy, but not dangerous. The Focus weaved a little but even on the bridges I was okee dokee.

I get to the Mansion with no incidents, apart from one tree down on the opposite side of the interstate. There's a stronger gust on this side of the river but the sun is still shining. I go inside the Mansion and wait for our photographer (Nicograph) and our models to show up. One by one our people arrive unscathed.

But the wind is getting a little stronger outside.

After about 45 minutes all our models have their creepy make-up and costumes on and we're ready to start shooting. That's when one of the staff runs in to tell us we lost our tent.
We've had this tent since 1992. It has shielded Haunted House visitors, served as a dining area, housed Herb Sales and numerous other outdoor events for 16 years.
It was exciting, frightening and saddening to watch it wrap itself around those two oaks.
So now we have no tent.
And Haunted House opens in less than 2 weeks.
While we're all marveling at the tent fiasco, my eye catches the severe angle some of the trees are being blown to. Especially one tree about 10 feet from me that is slowly separating from the ground. After several bounces, it goes right over. Right onto two vehicles. One of which is Nicograph's car.The truly amazing thing is, it was completely undamaged. Not a scratch. The other car was unharmed, too. Looks like the wires and the iron fence kept it up. People are now frantically moving their cars to open areas as we continue to watch trees and powerlines crack and fall all around, not to mention roofs and shingles flying everywhere.

We shoo our photo subjects into the Carriage House and get locked in. We have to. If we don't lock the doors the wind will rip them right off the frames. I was dumb enough to try opening a door once, just to see how the world outside looked like at the moment. I almost got blown away. One of our actors had to grab me and the door and pull us back inside.

We spend a couple of hours inside taking pictures, listened to the wind beat the living hell out of the House, hoping there's no more serious damage being done to anything outside.

By the time we finish, the wind is slowly dying down. We emerge to what looks like a war zone. A few young trees in our backyard are snapped in half or completely uprooted. Several houses and churches on the street have trees laying on their roofs or actually in the building. Looking toward one of the major bridges back to Louisville we see a semi on its side, blocking the entire east bound side.

So much for going home that way.

We wait about another hour for the winds to die down enough that we feel safe driving and Nicograph and I head out. We both made it home ok. Nicograph came home to a centuries-old tree that crashed into her condo building and took out a couple of cars, too. Had her car been in its assigned parking spot, it would have been toast.

Looks like those New Albany trees are much more considerate.

So now there's over 200,000 people in the area with no power. Hundreds of traffic lights are still out. Driving around town is still an adventure, between dodging downed trees and people who don't know the failed-stoplight/four-way-stop rule.

The most amazing thing is... during this whole fiasco, the Mansion kept power the whole time. So did my home neighborhood. I kept calling the Spouse to check in. He said he heard trees crashing all around the neighborhood but our little cul de sac was unharmed.

Unfortunately, neither did our respective workplaces. While other people are staying hoe because of the city-wide power outage, we're stuck at work. (Note: while I was writing this at work, the power went out - yay for Blogger's autosave. We waited about two hours before the higher-ups sent us home. We have to call in tomorrow to see if we're running on juice before coming in.)

But on the good news front, the Mansion still stands without a scratch. And the centuries-old magnolia and oaks in their backyard survived. The rest of New Albany looks like a hurricane hit it.

But we don't get hurricanes. Not this far inland. No way. That's just crazy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Best Scares, part 1

It's that time of year again.

Those of you relatively new to the Hell Bus may not be familiar with my 'other' job. Since 1994 I'm been scaring the living shit out of people every autumn. For six years I did my spooking at the Haunted Hotel and I've been spooking (and managing) Literally, a Haunted House since 2000. Although I 'retired' from my Chairperson position after last season, I'm still heavily involved with this year's planning. I've been mentoring my assistant (now official Chair) and helping out with design, construction, organization, media relations... the list goes on. The staff insisted I stay on as 'co-chair.' Even tho I'm not officially running the place, it's still kinda 'my baby.' I may step away from being in charge, but I'll never give this up. It's just way too damn fun.

I have seen everything in this business we call scare. I've seen grown men cry. I've seen adults panic and quit. I've seen breakdowns, pass outs and people lose control of their stomachs, bladders and rectums.

Don't believe me? For the past two years we've kept a tally.

But there are some moments that stick out as being, well, special; the events that keep us veterans talking years after they happened. This is one of them:

During my third year at the Haunted Hotel I was working on the 2nd floor of the two-story house. Those 5 to 10 of us working the second floor would gather at the top of the stairs in between groups. We would talk, play cards, tell jokes, anything to pass the time and keep ourselves awake while we waited for the next group of people to come around the corner and head up the steps. Upon spotting the next group, we would all scatter at the speed of sound to our assigned spot and wait for the group to come thru our area. Group would come thru, booga booga booga, and we'd all run back to the top of the stairs again.

This particular night I was working in the first room on the second floor. Two guys were working the second room right next to me, so we could see each other if we leaned out of our spot.

Anyway, a group was on its way so we positioned ourselves and waited. Now for some reason, this particular group seemed to be taking an usually long time to get to my room. I waited and waited, poised and ready. Finally, after several minutes and no group, I was just about to peek around the corner to see what was up. Like I said, people have a real tendency to panic and quit, then leave thru the nearest fire exit. But I pulled back quickly as the shadowy shape of people came around the corner. I stood 'prop-still' as I observed the following:

The group consisted of 3 females. Girl Number 1 was black. I knew this because, even in the dim lighting, I could see the back of her hands since they were both covering her eyes.

Girl Number 1 is the leader, and she's hiding her face.

Girl Number 2 is a blonde white girl. Even tho she has the bravery not to cover her face, I know she's not handling this very well either because she's crying. And I don't mean a gentle weeping either. I mean a full out sobbing and wailing. She might be frantically looking around, but her arms are tightly wrapped around Girl Number 1's waist.

I have no idea what Girl Number 3 looked like because not only are her arms tightly wrapped around Girl Number 2's waist but her face is firmly buried in Girl Number 2's back.

The twisted daisy chain slowly shuffles their way into my area and I lunge with a snarl. All three of them, still tenanciously attached, slam against the opposite wall and nearly slide down, but manage to stay up on all 6 legs.

I could have really done some psychological damage at this point, considering how vulnerable these three gals were, but I'm so amused at their antics I can only stand back and watch them desperately and slowly slither along the wall into the next room.

This is where the real fun begins. I'm just gonna stand here and watch this.

Upon making it into the next room (please note, Girl Number 1 still has both hands covering her face), the three girls are so surprised by the two guys who jumped out like crazed psycho killers that they go crashing down to the floor. They are now lying on the floor, still holding on to one another's waist. Girl Number 1 still hasn't seen anything. Neither has Girl Number 3. But they are all sobbing and screaming and wiggling like a dying fish.

At this point, I'm having a hard time keeping my pants dry because I'm laughing so hard.

The psycho guys are dancing around, acting all crazy and evil, while the girls continue to writhe on the floor in a sobbing blob. After about 30 seconds of this the guys calm down. In fact, they actually break character and come to a complete halt to watch dumbfounded at this mess on the floor.

I've stopped laughing now. This is getting serious.

I hop out of my spot and walk over to the whole group. The guys and I continue to look down at the three conjoined sobbers as they continue to squirm helplessly on the floor. I bend down and say, "Ok, it's over. You saw it. Now go."

They don't move.

"Come on, it's ok. We're not gonna hurt ya. We're done. You can go now."

They won't move.

"Come on! There's more people coming behind you! You HAVE to GO!!"

Blondie is still crying and looking around at me and the other two guys like she doesn't know English. Girl Number 1 and 3 still have never seen anything. And they won't get up.

By now all three of us actors are shouting at them to get up and go. After several long moments they finally get it and somehow manage to stagger upright and bolt down the hall into total darkness, Girl Number 1 still leading with her hands over her face.

The three of us could only look at one another in total disbelief, which was quickly followed by some high fives.

"Damn, we are GOOD!"