Tag Archives: clowns

Long, Long, LONG Overdue.

Please feel free to visit my new blog!  The Spicy Apron

I can’t believe it has taken me longer to write this final post than it took Catherine to build a whole vortex tunnel from scratch! But here it is…. my final words about My Sister’s Halloween. It is with pride, admiration, relief, and a wee bit of sadness that I write this. It’s hard to believe that Catherine’s Halloween era has come to an end. But there’s something to be said for ending on such a high note…

What a HUGE success! More than 400 people showed up to be scared, horrified, awed, and impressed by Catherine’s talent, creativity, and countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears (and, yes, there were all of those – plus a massive head wound to top it all off!). In the end, it took a whole team of supporters to pull it off:

First and foremost… my sister’s devoted and dedicated husband. Not only did he put up with the chaos, mess, and disruption of turning his house into a haunted town and inn for nearly a year, he provided much manly-man strength and support across the board. And did it with a great attitude and smile on his face (most of the time…).

Our collective parents – this event never could have been pulled off without the love and support and contribution of all of our parents. It says a lot about Catherine to witness every one of the four parents involved rally and pitch in with anything and everything. The vortex tunnel never could have been made without our dad, who mistakenly thought his new-found retirement meant he would have the luxury of lots of leisure time…. wrong! The pirate ship would have looked like a cardboard backdrop without our incredibly talented mom, who can turn a piece of cloth and a few plastic gold pieces into a scene straight out of the Pirates of the Caribbean. The clown tent never would have functioned properly the night of the event without the dedication and determination of Catherine’s wonderful father-in-law, and no one would have had the most spectacular desserts without the nicest woman ever… Catherine’s mother-in-law. These are only a small fraction of examples of the efforts put forth by all.

My fantastic husband – the event would have felt like a silent movie without my husband’s constant attention to ensure each scene had creepy, frightening, and haunting music playing at just the right intensity and location. The event took on a life of its own with all of the sounds and music of Halloween.

The local high school drama club – a special thanks to the incredibly talented and entertaining group who came as zombies, pirates, voodoo witches, creepy clowns, and all kinds of characters, who never broke character and provided incredible realism to the Macabre Inn and Haunted Meadows.

And to all the other helpers and supporters – this truly was a team effort and it would never have been the home run success it was without everyone’s contributions.

The best way to end this blog is with this link. It is a video that was shown to the guests as they entered the event – a spectacular compilation of the transformation of my sister’s house into My Sister’s Halloween. Please enjoy the video and the photos of the actual event.

http://haunted-meadows.tumblr.com/

Finally… to my incredible sister – you provide inspiration, excitement, and laughter to all those around you… especially to me! I am lucky to have you in my life.  You touch so many people in so many ways.  Thank you for everything you do and for being the person you are.

Catherine and Heather Halloween

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Cirque du Fatale – A Tragedy and Lessons Learned

I started writing this post a couple of months ago. Catherine had long ago picked out a fantastic name for her defunct, dying, and bizarre circus that was the “local entertainment” at the Macabre Inn. The perfect name for the circus – Cirque du Fatale. The big top tent is filled with crazy clowns on unicycles, creepy children acrobat performers, the infamous elephant’s behind, and even an old popcorn machine that has been infested by rats.

But as I sat down to write this post about the Cirque du Fatale, I learned of the very tragic accident that occurred during a real, live performance of the Cirque du Soleil show “Ka” in Las Vegas on June 29th. The tightrope on which long-time performer, 31 year old Sarah Guillot-Guyard, was performing snapped and she fell to her death. In deference to that tragedy, I postponed writing the post. The more I thought about it, though, the more I learned from it. The ultimate lesson being life is short, so do what you love. Sarah died doing what she has known and loved since she was four years old. She followed her passion with enthusiasm, and was one of the best in the world. Pictures of her show a never-ending and captivating smile on her face. I write this post having once again been reminded to follow your passion. Life is too short to let it pass by without chasing dreams.

My sister’s dream this year was to make the most spectacular Halloween production yet. She has followed that with undying passion, and she’s almost done! In the 38 remaining days before the showcase, there’s more to do than I can even comprehend. But one thing is certain…. it’s all coming together. Catherine’s circus is going to be one of the many highlights. The attention to detail she gave the Cirque du Fatale sign alone is amazing. She knew “Big Top” stripes were essential:Big Top Stripes

Strips Finished

And decided the letters must be three dimensional so she hand cut them out of foam, then meticulously painted each one:

Fatale Letters

Of course, she had to flank the name with an elephant’s head (with one eyeball hanging on by a nerve and a vein) and a lunatic clown. Perfect! Cirque Du Fatale

The sign is but one example of the wonders to come at the Macabre Inn. Those fortunate enough to see it in person will be amazed, shocked, and hopefully inspired to follow their own passion. It’s what life is all about.

Fear. A four letter word. And not just at Halloween…

Last night I was chatting with my sister and she said, “I hate being scared, but I love scaring others.” She was, of course, talking about Halloween. It made me laugh – Catherine reminiscing about how much she hated being scared as a child at Halloween time, but how now she revels in the idea of scaring other people through her gifted – if not a bit troubling –  Halloween, fear-eliciting, creative talents.

Then it dawned on me… her statement rings true for things far beyond Halloween. Fear is an interesting thing. Fear of failure. Fear of success (I’ve gotta be honest – I’m not entirely sure about the whole “fear of success” idea… what does that really even mean?). Fear of the unknown. All kinds of phobia fears – heights, the dark, spiders, clowns…

I personally fear that I will not accomplish enough in my life before I die. (Years of being told how much unfulfilled potential I have might have contributed to my fear… 😉 ). I know that my fear might seem ridiculous to some, while others will understand why I carry it with me. But that’s the whole thing about fear – it’s often irrational, and has no basis in fact. It just is.

And that is why I understand Catherine’s need to work non-stop making every inch of the Macabre Inn perfect. She lives, breathes, sleeps, and dreams Halloween. She is driven by that four letter word – fear. Fear that Halloween will sneak up on her and rob her of the precious time she needs to make everything perfect. Fear that she’ll open the doors for the official Halloween event and only a handful of people will trickle in. Fear that if people do show up, the sound system designed to cloak everyone in haunting, creepy, blood-curdling sounds won’t work. Or that the 12 foot clown on stilts will suddenly collapse, or the vortex tunnel will spring from its hinges and end up barrelling into the cactus-filled wash, taking a few visitors with it (okay, that one’s actually my fear, not hers…).

To those of us watching her, all of her fears seem unfounded. Her creation is nothing short of spectacular. Tons of people will come, and all will be amazed at her talent, creativity, and her far-reaching imagination. But she works endlessly to ensure her fears will not materialize. And that’s what separates Catherine from the rest. Many are paralyzed by fear, while others are driven by it.

The great Arthur Ashe summed it up perfectly when he said:

Fear isn’t an excuse to come to a standstill. It’s the impetus to step up and strike.

And 83 days from now Catherine can release her fears and enjoy seeing the fear she elicits in each and every unsuspecting guest of the Macabre Inn. 

The Elephant in the Room

It’s crunch time at the Macabre Inn. Well, not exactly. It’s more like decision-making time. For the last few weeks, as she has been working virtually non-stop on creepy clowns, pool zombies, and circus creations, Catherine has uttered more than once (way more than once), “I’m trying to decide if I should back out of Halloween. I’ll give myself another week to make up my mind.” What??  Back out? You’ve gotta be kidding me! She’s been planning and creating since October 2012 – she’s been designing, constructing, imagining, and bringing to life all kinds of gory, scary, and even disturbing at times, scenes with everything from werewolves eating victims to hypnotized swamp walkers, to the most amazing “check in” desk for the Macabre Inn – complete with the old hag in a broken down rocking chair.

If I know only one thing about my sister, it’s this – there’s NO WAY she would back out of this. Halloween makes her feel good. The creation process brings her to life. She can accomplish things that virtually no other person can. If she pulled the plug now, she would never forgive herself. Ever. I don’t really know what triggered all the talk of scrapping the whole project, but I did know that there would be something – one thing – that would bring her normally unyielding energy and focus back to Halloween. And that one thing happened to be…. an elephant’s butt. Seriously.

As well as I know her, I still have no idea what made her think to put a life-sized elephant’s butt in her clown tent. And to top it off she made sure to hook it up to a compressor so she could make it pass gas as the visitors are passing by (no, I’m not kidding!). As strange as it may seem, I’ve gotta admit – it is no doubt one of her best creations.

She started with some concrete blocks, the base of a wrought iron table, and tied it all to the compressor nozzle.Elephant stand

Then she hand-formed chicken wire to give it a life-like shape.Elephant wire

Finally, she applied the absolutely most perfect and realistic looking fabric. Then pinned on the tail.Elephant FinalIt is truly an amazing creation. Yes, as we walk by, the air compressor fires and the elephant’s tail flies up in what is quite an impressive gas-passing event. Everyone laughs. Everyone is amused.

And that is what made Catherine stop talking about calling the whole thing off. Although, I must say, not one of us who truly knows Catherine ever thought for even a minute that she would back out of the Macabre Inn. Not a chance. It was as obvious to all of us as the elephant in the room….

Dumpster Diving

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure….

The etymology of this saying is a bit difficult to pin down. Some say the first iteration is the 17th century proverb “one man’s meat is another man’s poison.” Others claim Urquhart’s intro to the 1860s Popular Tales of the West Highlands, where he said “One man’s rubbish may be another’s treasure” is where it all began. The true origin is irrelevant, though. For in today’s world, we simply call it “dumpster diving.” Well… that’s what Catherine calls it. And it makes her incredibly happy.

In Arizona, we have “large trash pick up” once a month. This is when homeowners go through their houses and yards and throw out all of their junk. Driving through the neighborhoods during large trash week is an eye-opening experience. You can see who got new patio furniture since the old stuff is piled high by the mailbox, whose baby finally outgrew that crib, who got sick of tinkering with that 30 year old lawnmower, and you can even tell who’s getting a divorce from the haphazardly thrown out pile of old wedding and honeymoon photos (that one’s kind of sad). And, yes, you’ll even see the neighbors’ “dirty laundry.” Really. Not a pleasant sight…

So when Catherine is planning her Halloween spectacular, she counts down the days until each and every large trash pick up day. She climbs into her car as the sun breaks the horizon (so she can beat the other dumpster divers to the “good stuff”), and she combs the neighborhood (well actually, that’s neighborhoods. Plural.) She sets off to find her treasures. We all wait to find out what she snagged to furnish the Macabre Inn. (And, yes, we’re all a bit nervous – you never know what she’ll drag home!) My sister outdid herself this year. What’s an old Inn without a bunch of tattered, dirty suitcases?Luggage Pile

And of course, the “guests” will need a place to sit…Old Bench

And sleep.Mattress

And here’s my personal favorite – apparently the werewolves, witches, zombies, clowns, and Macabre Inn guests all have something in common. They all need one of these (I can just picture Catherine hoisting this up into the back of her car…)toilet

(And to think, we were all chuckling at the neighbors’ “dirty laundry.” Imagine how hard they must have been laughing when they watched Catherine drive up at the crack of dawn and sneak off with their old, used, broken toilet. I’m thinking they got the last laugh on that one!). Which brings us back to the original point…. Trash or Treasure? It’s all in the eye of the beholder (nothing like mixing a couple of idioms…).

All Kinds of Kinds

We went to the Miranda Lambert concert last week. It was fantastic from the opening act all the way through Miranda’s finale. Lots of energy, lots of talent, and a whole bunch of entertainment. Of the dozens of songs we heard that night, one in particular struck me as poignant. I know, I know… most people don’t think “poignant” when they think of Miranda Lambert, but trust me on this one.

While I love the message of the entire song, it was the opening stanza that caught my ear; it’s all about people in a circus. And I immediately thought about the Macabre Inn and the old, dysfunctional, broken down circus that my sister is pouring her heart and soul into. How can I not think of Catherine when I hear:

Ilsa was an acrobat who went and fell in love with that
Horatio the human cannonball.
A weddin’ ‘neath the big top tent with barkers clowns and elephants
Sideshow family oddities and all.

Ever since the beginning to keep the world spinning
It takes all kinds of kinds.

The Macabre Inn’s circus has acrobats, clowns, elephants, sideshows, a big top tent, and so many other cool and interesting displays. (I’m ignoring the “human cannonball” line for fear that when I get home tomorrow, she’ll have somehow constructed a life sized cannon and experiment with shooting large stuffed animals out of it – although that would be preferable to experimenting with her dog or youngest son…)

Which leads me to the meaning of the song. The chorus – It takes all kinds of kinds.  I’ve rarely heard one line that captures so much. It sounds so simple, but the truth in it runs deep. If it weren’t for people’s differences, what would this this world be like? I’ve told you that I was never really into Halloween. I kind of don’t get it….. And yet my sister lives and breathes this passion. I know there are times that all of us around Catherine on a daily basis look at her like she’s nuts for putting in the kind of time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears we all see. But in the end, her Halloween passion brings awe-inspiring joy and amazement to hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

What if everyone were like I am…? That would be tragic; there would be no Halloween festivities, no place for people to gather to gawk at an incredible display of talent, drive, and determination. And what if everyone were like Catherine? That would be scary! The world would be full of zombie and werewolf creations. (And no one in her family would have dinner on the table… 😉  )

I think about the various people I come across in any given day. – some of them drive me crazy. Some of them make me laugh. Some make me shake my head in disbelief. Some of them make me sad. There are those who inspire me. And those who make me think I’m SO glad I’m not like that! But the real truth is that all of them add to my life in one way or another – for better or worse – they give my life depth, balance, and perspective. It is always good to step back and reflect on what others add to your life. Because it takes all kinds of kinds.

Welcome to the Hotel Macabre – Opening Halloween 2013

So exciting! The ideas have been batted around, and the options have been weighed. The theme has been determined. Halloween 2013 is officially Hotel Macabre! And the name describes it perfectly!

It’s fascinating to watch the creative process. As I sit here and write this post, I’m replaying in my head all the events over the last few months in an attempt to pinpoint exactly what led Catherine to decide she would turn her home into a gruesome, ancient, haunted hotel for this year’s Halloween. I’m coming up blank… I have absolutely no idea how or when that idea popped into her head. Here’s a replay:

  • I found the creepy old lady witch in my husband’s car one night
  • The Buddha baby appeared out of nowhere and ended up in the Christmas manger scene
  • The scary clown theme developed
  • Werewolves were created out of plywood and chicken wire
  • An amazing 4 foot moon was constructed to provide the right atmosphere for the werewolves
  • Zombie people have begun to take shape

A hotel? There’s absolutely nothing in these events that would lead my brain to scream hotel! And, yet, it’s the perfect plan! The day after Catherine texed me with the theme, I stopped by her house and saw an 8 foot, absolutely beautiful, dark mahogany-looking, ancient “door” that she created out of styrofoam. That must be it. It’s the door! Her plan is to create a series of hallways lined with these doors that look like they came out of a haunted hotel from the 17th century. Through each door, the Halloween 2013 tourists will be treated to a scene full of “previous guests” who have gone bad, mad, or are just plain psychopaths. The possibilities are endless, and it all began with a door…

That’s what I’m talking about! Creativity, guts, and a willingness to follow your instinct. Catherine has all of that, and more, which is why the Hotel Macabre will be a spectacular showcase. How many doors? How many zombies? How many guests? Time will tell, but lyrics to an old song come to mind…

“You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave…”

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