My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Aliens or Infants: Supremely Effective & Creepy Props

On a crisp fall bike ride through a nearby neighborhood just before Halloween, I stopped in my tracks, staring the most unique decorations I had ever seen.  Floating eerily in front of a house were life-sized, translucent, faceless human figures with full tattered skirts. I was mesmerized.

I biked home as fast as I could and did a little research: tape sculptures. I had no idea there was such a thing.  I found the Storker Project online and was instantly inspired to make tape babies.

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The results were as creepy as I’d hoped. My husband was a little nervous about hanging disturbing, full-sized, featureless infants over our rosebushes, especially after I added a slowly pulsating green and orange strobe light. Amazing!

So when it was time for this year’s spring book fair, what could be better than recreating the Roswell crash with life-sized tape aliens? Answer: nothing!

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The process is time-consuming, but remarkably easy. Try it, you’ll be astounded by the results.

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You need:

  • Good-quality clear packing tape – I used Duck Tape
  • Kitchen plastic wrap
  • Craft knife
  • For babies:
    • Use a doll. Try Walmart or your local thrift store. Or if you have children, appropriate a doll. With their permission.
  • For aliens:
    • Pick a person.  Ideally someone who doesn’t have long hair.  Hair and Duck Tape are a bad combination.
    • A Styrofoam head. Check a beauty supply shop. I found them at Sally Beauty Supply for $5.00.
    • Bubble wrap to pad out the head and make it more alien-looking
    • Lights for inside its body. I used LED String lights 33ft, 100 lights bright green

How to make them:

The process is the same for aliens and babies.

First, wrap your subject in plastic wrap.  Of course, if you are wrapping a person, stop at their neck.  Good heavens.  Do not wrap their head.  They will die.  You will be wrapping the Styrofoam head separately and will attach it to the body later.  I’ll show those head pictures after the body shots.  When you are wrapping with plastic wrap, make sure not to leave any holes, or the tape will stick to the subject.

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One of our brave first-grade volunteers, wrapped in plastic.

 

Next, wrap the packing tape all around the subject, covering the plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and cover completely. The more layers, the more solid it will be.

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My friend, Mr. Reming tapes while I take the picture.

 

When the person or object is completely covered with a solid layer of tape, make a cut carefully down its back. If your subject is a person, use small scissors and start at the neck. Push your finger ahead of the scissors so you aren’t cutting any clothing or pinching any skin! Cut down to the lower back. Cut along the backs of the arms and legs. Gently extract the person. Same for tape babies: start at the crown of the head with a craft knife or scissors and cut down the back and backs of arms and legs. Extract the doll.

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Like a snake skin. 

 

Now, gently pull out any excess plastic wrap from inside your sculpture. You may need scissors to cut out some bits.

Finish your sculptures by closing them back up with more tape. Align the seams as closely as possible and tape them shut.  This step is probably the most time-consuming part.

If you are making a baby, you are done at this point!

If you are making a person, you have completed the body. Now, make the head.

I folded up some pieces of bubble wrap and taped them to the temples and top of the head to give the bulbous alien head look.  I also added some to the chin to make it slightly elongated.

When your head is shaped the way you want it, follow the same process: wrap in plastic wrap.  Cover it in packing tape.  Cut and release the head.  Pull out extra plastic wrap.  Tape up the seam.

Tape your head to the body. You may have to free-form a little bit of upper shoulders with tape. No problem.

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You did it!

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If you want to go full-out alien, reopen the seam in the upper back, giving enough space to put your hand in. Get your LED fairy lights and insert them into the body. Feed the lights down into the arms and legs as far as you can reach. Also place some inside the head: You may need to secure the head lights with a little piece of tape. Leave enough space for the cord to come out of the back, and re-tape the back.

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You can modify these sculptures any way you like.  Consider adding flashing eyeballs: Try making a tape sculpture of a plastic Easter egg or small curved object.  Cut it in half and add flashing LED balloon lights (wrapped in a light layer of plastic wrap to disguise the metallic part).  Tape to the faces.

Tape sculptures make highly dramatic and eerie props.  They have an unsettling quality because they are humanoid, yet lack defined facial features.  You will receive many compliments (accompanied by many strange looks).  And, everyone will want to know how to make these.  Now you do!  Have fun!
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Review: The House Where Evil Lurks

The House Where Evil Lurks: A Paranormal Investigator’s Most Frightening Encounter.  Brandon Callahan.  2014.

In the House Where Evil Lurks, Brandon Callahan and his team investigate the case of a hearing-impaired man who has been attacked in his own home by an unseen force. Callahan beings his narrative by rooting the reader in his uniquely personal vision of what paranormal investigation should be.

Life experiences in the Air Force, struggles with organized religion, and disturbing recurring nightmares all helped drive Callahan to follow a calling as a paranormal investigator. But not just any investigator: Callahan deeply believes in the goal of helping others who are troubled by evil and fear in their homes, unlike other groups that use distressed families to further their own recognition or fame.  Additionally, he is passionate about the broader picture of paranormal investigation.

With his vision firmly in place, Callahan starts his investigative journey. We are introduced to Callahan’s tight-knit team: his brother and his sister-in-law, his good friend who is also a sensitive, and several other trusted teammates.

When Brandon and his team investigate the Missouri home, they discover that it is a hotbed of paranormal activity.  Using EVPs, flashlight communication, and a ghost box the team receives astounding results: contact with multiple entities in the house including one or more that are openly hostile.  Perhaps foolishly, Callahan performs a Ganzfeld sensory-deprivation experiment, thereby opening himself to the spirits.  This turns out to be a choice that has dangerous ramifications when something follows him and his team members home.

In The House Where Evil Lurks, Callahan bares his soul: sharing his own inner conflicts with organized religion and its lack of willingness to help those in need.  His writing is blunt and immediate.  Despite the narrative being rough around the edges and feeling a bit like a cross between memoir-meets-screenplay, it is a fascinating and disturbing read. One appreciates the author’s forthright approach and commitment to his philosophy.


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Review: Nightmare House

Nightmare House.  Douglas Clegg.  2004.

Welcome to a very satisfying ghost story.

It is October of 1926 when twenty-nine-year old Ethan Gravesend takes possession of his new inheritance: a monstrosity of mansion called Harrow located in a quiet village off the Hudson Valley.

Harrow is a legacy from Ethan’s wealthy – and some say, mad – grandfather who collected arcane and ancient objects from around the globe.

Ethan is excited to be back at Harrow.  He has only the fondest memories…so he thinks…of summer and spring visits there as a child.  He meets the old housekeeper, Mrs. Wentworth, and pretty Maggie Barrow who comes in to clean.

The house and its legion of unseen inhabitants soon lets Ethan know it is very much aware of – and anticipating – his presence.  When he and Maggie and her young son Alf make a horrible discovery in a walled-in tower room, Ethan is catapulted into a true nightmare.  There are secrets in the walls.  Secrets in Ethan’s parentage.  And madness potentially within Ethan himself as memories not so fond begin to surface.

Nightmare House has all the delicious elements of a classic ghost story: surprising secrets, an insular, brooding atmosphere, dark imaginative imagery, and classical allusions beautifully woven into the tale.  Clegg’s storytelling is spot-on.  Tantalizing snippets of a gruesome backstory involving an unnatural child and dark spiritualism experiments are revealed by the not-so-innocent Constable Pocket.  Ethan, or Esteban, is narrating from an advanced age, insisting his mind is sharp, but how reliable is he really?  A powerful storm, a possessive presence, a spooky crypt, and two questionable deaths bring a vivid denouement to this nicely-crafted tale.

As a bonus, the edition I read included an extra novella, Purity, which tells the story of another slightly damaged young man.  A sociopath?  With a Lovecraftian god? Also a fascinating read.


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Review: Little Heaven

Little Heaven.  Nick Cutter.  2017.

Three guns for hire.  Loners haunted by rough pasts.

Minerva:  No man can kill her, although she wishes one would.

Ebenezer:  The Gardener.  A cultured man of color who screams himself awake every night.

Micah:  One-eyed.  Solid and steadfast.  An enigmatic ex-soldier.

In 1965, they fail to kill each other and end up forming a strange and deadly team. They sign on to help Ellen infiltrate a religious compound and check on her nephew’s welfare.  What they find in Little Heaven is anything but.

Led by a charismatic, disturbed preacher, Little Heaven is slowly descending into hell.  In the remote New Mexico desert, in the shadow of a toxic black monolith, the compound’s land is dying.  Reverend Flesher’s followers are weirdly drained. Their kids are developing a penchant for cruelty.  In the surrounding woods, revolting abominations creep closer and closer.

The unspeakable events that take place in Little Heaven in ’65 set into motion a showdown with an obscene evil fifteen years later.  Flashing forward to 1980: Micah’s daughter is stolen away by the same nightmarish monstrosity that ended up taking the children from Little Heaven.  Payback.

Cutter tells a great story.  Bold, black-and-white illustrations help create an almost a Tarantino-esque, new-old-west vibe to the tale: with modern outlaws driving Oldsmobiles through small, tired desert towns.  But these outlaws are fighting each other, themselves, and a malignant supernatural force. The two story threads years apart pace each other tightly and come to horrific peaks at almost the same time.

Be warned, however: The eeew factor of Little Heaven is high.  Cutter pulls no punches.  The number of things you can’t mentally unsee – and I was heartily wishing I could unsee some of them – is huge.  Every bodily fluid, body part (human and animal), gross insect, and disgusting combination of these that you can think of, Cutter has thought of already and shares in profound and revolting detail.  This is a “wet” book: graphic, grisly and gory.   Cutter bombards all the virtual five senses, not even excepting taste, with over-the-top, cringe-worthy descriptions.

Scrape away the gore, however, and you find the bones of a solid story.  Cutter’s writing is immediate and compelling.  The main characters are unique with nicely fleshed-out backstories.  You come to care about them, these bad-guys-turned-kinda-good.  They have heart.  Tarnished, but true.

On an even deeper level, Little Heaven explores the nature of evil.  Is there a finite amount of evil in the world?  Does evil draw evil to itself?  Is its nature changeable?  Is there such a thing as karmic payback?  Little Heaven raises all of these questions while wading hip-deep through the raw wages of sin and retribution.

A gripping story: not for the squeamish.