Home Decor for Your Hell House: Six Evil Home Additions

Imagine you’re an interior designer or contractor and you get contacted by a fellow who wants an iron maiden installed in his basement. Perhaps accessed through a secret door with a few traps. It makes you wonder, where do some of the horror movie villains get their homes made? Here are the top six bizarre home building projects that would drive any contractor nutty.

#6 Secret Passage from Young Frankenstein

Put the candle back.

I have a secret, I’ve always wanted to build a secret passage. It would be so cool to be able to access your den or writing room via a chamber that no one else can see. Yes. It’s everyone’s dream, right? Of course, you’ve have to access it with a candle, just like in Young Frankenstein. I only hope I never get stuck like Gene Wilder.

#5 A Swinging Pendulum from The Pit and the Pendulum

Imagine a clock pendulum swinging, only now, it’s set to slice you in half. I don’t even know where you’d have room to put this in any house, much less make it work. Only Edgar Allen Poe could dream this up and only Roger Corman could execute it.

#4 A Smoky Pit to the Netherworld from Lair of the White Worm

An unwilling victim

As kids, we all tried to dig a hole to China, but in horror flicks, holes in the earth tend to lead other places. In Lair of the White Worm, a nasty slimy serpent slithers up to chomp on young maidens. With that in mind, think how long it would take to drill this out?

#3 A Personal Torture Chamber from Princess Bride

Not only is this my favorite movie, it also has it’s own torture equipment. Who knew? The machine is there to instill pain on its victims with suction. So basically its one giant Hoover. As an added bonus, it’s made entirely out of wood. That would take a fleet of carpenters to build.

#2 Your Own Mechanical Band from The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Sure, all your songs fit onto an iPod, but nothing replaces having live performers. Barring that, you could go the robotic/mechanical route. Nothing says creepy as faceless horn players. I’d like to see Apple market that.

#1 A Vat of Acid in the Floor from House on Haunted Hill

I put this as number one simply because…why? Why would you ever need a vat of acid in the floor other than to dissolve someone. I know there was some sort of explanation for it in the film, but let’s face it, death by acid is just awesome.

Tim Kane

Living the Pumpkin Carving Life

It’s October and I’m watching Halloween Wars. No, I don’t style myself on par with the expert pumpkin carvers, but I’ve created some pulpy ghouls over the years. One of the best tools I’ve seen (and one I need to buy) is the bent wire stylus used by clay sculptors. Currently, I use a strawberry corer to make detail work on the face of pumpkins. But I’m going too far. Most folk want to cut your classic pumpkin without all the hassle. I have a few tips.

Now, the pumpkin I worked with ended up being a monster. Seriously, this thing was at least an inch and a half thick. I could hardly cut it. That being said, ditch those orange plastic pumpkin carving tools they sell at the store. Totally useless. Here’s what you need:

  • A bread knife
  • A steak knife
  • An ice cream scoop
  • A bowl to hold all the pulp and seeds

Pumpkin Tools

The ice cream scoop is great because the spoon has sides that are vertical (unlike a flat spoon) which makes digging into a pumpkin through a small hole easy. If you have one with a release lever (like the one pictured) then you never get your fingers gunky (although you loose out on all the fun that way).

I typically use the bread knife to cut off the top because I’m going for power, not finesse. Once I get to the face, I switch to the steak knife. Serrated edges are the key. You want to saw through the pumpkin. Nothing is worse than punching in with a standard knife and have the blade trapped by the pumpkin. Literally, you can’t move that thing.

Cutting out the eye hole.

Don’t be afraid to over cut the holes. Generally, they don’t show. Toss everything in a bowl as you go to ease clean up. For the finished “classic” pumpkin, I use one of those battery-operated candles. These are great because you still get the flicker, but without any heat.

There are all these opinions on how to preserve a pumpkin. Mostly, I leave them out. They’re going to rot. Accept it. If I do want to keep one, I stash it in the fridge. This will only work for one pumpkin, and only then if you can make the room.

Carve away.

Tim Kane

Visceral

I’ve been editing, And then editing, And finally editing some more. Lately, I’ve actually started to nod off at the keyboard with only flashes of memory. I have to stop at these points, least I insert GGGGGGGGGGG into my manuscript.

One interesting moment in all of this is a visceral event. I was editing a section where a character’s breath smells like rotten milk. Then, out of nowhere, there’s a fly circling my head. (There’s never been a fly in this room before.) It kept landing on me or the computer. I thought, wow, if the writing can attract flies, then I must be really using those sensory details.

Smile.

Tim Kane

Artists Need to Specialize

When I was younger, I delved into all sorts of artistic endeavors: painting, music, poetry. Yet I couldn’t get any traction and create authentic art unless I picked one and committed. The more you spread your time over different projects or media types, the less you can focus on one. For me, it’s writing.

I’m often tempted to jump art forms. Pick up the paintbrush or compose a song. However, I’m well versed enough to understand these distractions for what they are. It’s a subtle form of writer’s block. My brain, forced with creating, would rather sidetrack to another creative venue. It’s the same temptation that makes me want to switch novels rather than complete the one I’m on.

You have to stay firm and commit for the long haul. Finish what you started. If you want to switch to another art form, do it when you’re between projects.

Tim Kane

Keep Your Distance

Nothing is worse for an artist than taking critiques personally. I know that for myself, when folks tell me I need to change some of my manuscript, I get these little squirmy worms in my chest that wiggle around. I don’t want to change anything. But then I sit back and think. Give it some time to sink in. That’s when I know that the changes will only make the writing stronger.

Think about those artists who were given total control. Few can deliver. For example, the reason why the first three Star Wars movies (IV, V, and VI) were so great was that Lucas had to answer to the producers. The greatest Han Solo line of all time (I know) was an ad lib. Lucas would have cut it, but the producers saw gold and kept it in. Yet when Lucas made the prequels (I, II, and III) they lacked the spontaneity of the older films. They were too controlled. Sure, they followed his vision, but had no spark.

Then there are the Beatles. I’ve a big fan and always find it obvious which songs were written mostly by Lennon and which were by McCartney. Yet the credits always say Lennon and McCartney. Even though one of them must have taken the lead, the other probably played the Devils advocate—critiquing and adding.Even by there last recorded album (Abbey Road) when they were pretty much working independently, the songs still have that collaborative effort. When they split, both John and Paul had their own hits, but none rose to the level of earlier Beatles songs. They had no alter-ego critiquing.

The message: Let people read and critique your work. Only make sure that these people are professionals. You can gain nothing by reading sour reviews. Don’t go there.

Tim Kane