Article: Tattoo Boo: HALLOWEEN INK

A very festive sleeve
A very festive sleeve

The machine hums and whines as it draws blood; a rivulet trickling from the wicked grin of a smiling Jack o lantern. He presses until she winces. He pauses to wipe. She stretches, adjusts. “Do you need a break?” he asks. “No, please, I can’t wait to see it!” she gushes, closing her eyes to accept the temporary discomfort for a permanent change.

Tattoo artist Chris “Blick” Blickenderfer, owner of American Tattoo in Verona, Pennsylvania, helps fans of the season transform their bodies into art. Using skin as canvas, he projects visions onto bodies.

Halloween is a major theme for ink.

Tattoos featuring skulls are a staple in the industry, including vibrant Mexican-inspired designs reminiscent of Dia de Los Muertos celebrations. As a fan of H.R. Giger, Blick has incorporated bio-techno aspects into his designs as well as allowing earthly remains to peek through organics and other foliage.

Haunting scenes enacted across a back or along an arm, nods to favorite horror movies, and genre books get creative juices flowing. It is hard to get him to choose a favorite. “I’m very critical of my work,” Blick admits. “Some of my favorites include a quintessential Halloween scene, a portrait of Reagan from The Exorcist, and a flamboyant Headless Horseman.

A demon on the calf
A demon on the calf

Instead of remaining in the cemetery, the dearly departed have left visible fingerprints on their loved ones. Many customers use their bodies to convey loving remembrances of their departed, their ink memorializing transformed lives. From initials and names to miniature footprints and portraits, people carry their grief in this personal way.


A haunted manor tattoo
A haunted manor tattoo





According to Pew Research (March, 2014), 23% of Americans in all legal age groups sport ink. For some, it is an expression of self. For others, it sets apart their beliefs. And for others, it is a celebration of their favorite things, including the Halloween season.

Who Could Say No to a Skeleton-in-a-Casket Cake?

Halloween Skeleton in Casket Cake
Halloween Skeleton in Casket Cake surrounded by creepy cake balls.
I opted to surround the cake with creepy cake balls.

Each Halloween I make yummy treats for family and friends. Cakes, cookies, cake pops… whatever tickles my fancy. When I ran across a casket pan by Wilton last year, I was in spooky heaven. Turns out it was the easiest cake I’d ever made. I use Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” cake recipe. This has been my go-to recipe for years, and the result is a moist, not-too-sweet, treat. But you could use any recipe or box mix, so long as it’s designed for baking in a standard pan. If you plan to buy this pan, I recommend spraying the pan with a cooking spray like Pam original, and dusting it with sifted, all-purpose flour. They also make cooking sprays with the flour included, but I’ve not tried those. You’ll want to bake the cake until it’s just slightly underdone. They heavy pan will hold enough heat to complete the process after it’s removed from the oven. This will also prevent sticking in case you missed some preparation spots in the pan. So far I’ve made three of these cakes. One was completely frosted, one (shown here) I piped accents with royal icing (see recipe below), and the third I over-floured the bottom and left naked. The result was faint accents of the skeleton – perfect for sprinkling chocolate crumbs on for “dirt”.

Zombie cake decorated - from the casket cake
Wilton-decorated example of a zombie cake from the same pan.

Wilton provides a “zombified” decorating example. It’s cool, but requires working with fondant, as well as more artistic skills than I possess. To display the cake, I left it on a cooling rack and placed cake balls all around. (See how I made the eyeball cake balls.) Of course, those with more patience and know-how could build a cemetery scene using edible grass and tombstones made from painted Styrofoam. For dirt, I’ve found that crushed graham crackers or chocolate graham crackers work well. Oreos are too black for daylight, but if you plan to display your cake in a dimmer setting, they’ll work, too! A few more tips:

  • Don’t use glaze icing, or icing that dries to a shimmering look.
  • If you’ve prepared the pan properly and it won’t release easily, use a rubber spatula to gently draw around the inside of the pan.
  • Want to make it ahead of time? Freeze the naked cake. It will keep well for a month or more and will not lose its shape. Allow it to defrost at room temperature or in the fridge. Don’t microwave it!
  • If you make a decorating mistake, cover it up with “dirt”. That’s the beauty of an unearthed cake – it doesn’t have to look perfect.
  • Do not scrub the pan. Use a faucet sprayer to gently blast out any crumbs from the crevices.
Wilton's Skeleton Cake Pan
Wilton’s Halloween Dimension 3D cake pan is made of heavy duty cast aluminum.

 Making Royal Icing One of the easiest icings to make, royal icing requires all utensils and bowl be free of any grease or oils. Here’s my tried-and-true method. You’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons warm water


  • In a large metal bowl, mix the meringue powder and confectioner’s sugar on low speed for 30 seconds.
  • Add 4 tablespoons of water and mix on low speed for several minutes until peaks start to form. If the mixture appears too dry, slowly add more water, a teaspoon at a time.
  • Continue mixing until peaks are stiff. When you can turn a spoon upside down and the icing does not fall, it’s done.

Store icing in a clean plastic container with a tight lid.

You can freeze any unused icing for a few months. Just let it thaw at room temperature, and if necessary add a teaspoon of water.

  Plan on making this creepy cake? I want to see pictures of the finished product. Post them below!

Scaring Kiddies the Right Way this Halloween

Zombie leaping out of a casket toward kids.

Zombie leaping out of a casket toward kids.Planning to host a spooky trick-or-treat event? Who could blame you? Every year my husband and I haul out the coffin and lots of props, and gear up to scare the heck out of the neighborhood. I’m talking lots of fog, strobe lights, bloody bodies, and a “corpse” you have to grab the candy from, praying he doesn’t jump out at you (and he will!).

And, every year, people watch the video montage and I always get some “shame on you” comments. I’m reminded of wee ones who’ll certainly suffer from nightmares, and autistic children who have no idea what they’re walking into. Yet, we’ve never received a single complaint from a parent. Not one.

We are privy to all the different conditions and fears of children and adults alike. That’s why we always give a choice. You can follow the crowd “over here” and pee your pants, or you can walk instead to the very nice lady sans costume and ask for some yummy treats. Two lines. Your choice.

I’m happy to report that about 95% of the trick-or-treaters take the scary line. In fact, the bulk of their parents and grandparents coax them into doing it, then want to take their own turn at the coffin. Yep, we’ve sent plenty of grandmothers sprinting away after Joe lets out a shriek and beats his fist on the lid of the casket. But we haven’t lost anyone—okay, that’s a lie. We did lose a teenage boy who ran down the block, and his friends came back an hour later still looking for him.

All in good fun.

Here’s some raw video of a recent Halloween night, whereas you can see that parents love to coax the kids to walk up to the casket, while a few others guide them to a different line. Rarely does anyone outright avoid the house.


Two lines. That’s really all it takes. Believe me, parents of children who can’t handle it know exactly how to handle the situation. They will either veer totally away from your house, or they’ll stand between their child and the scary stuff and go to the welcoming guy or gal handing out sweets by the fistful.

The rest of them, though? They’re fair game.


Haunted Attraction: Netherworld Haunted House

Netherworld Haunted House
Netherworld Haunted House
Netherworld Haunted House

Netherworld Haunted House

6624 Dawson Blvd, Norcross, Georgia 30093

Phone   (404) 608-2484


From their Facebook page:

Netherworld is a self-guided, dark attraction known for its over-the-top special effects, intense make-up, costuming and stunt actors as well as unique monsters, unusual themes and chilling detail. Every night the attraction is open, over 100 actors are transformed into monsters to scare and entertain the guests. Some perform stunts such as bungee jumps and sliding. Many visitors enjoy the actors disguised as nightmarish creatures that stalk the parking lot before the haunted house actually begins, starting the experience the moment guests get out of their cars.

Since it began 17 years ago, Netherworld has been voted by industry peers such as USA Today, Hauntworld Magazine, Fangoria and AOL as one of the top haunts in the nation.

NETHERWORLD Haunted House 2014 Dragoncon Parade!

Halloween Article & Recipe: Candy Corn Harvest

Nothing says Halloween quite like Candy Corn
Nothing says Halloween quite like Candy Corn
Nothing says Halloween quite like Candy Corn

Halloween Season is the time of year to harvest candy corn. In fact, October 30th is National Candy Corn Day. Trick-or-Treaters and party-goers the United States over enjoy a nice handful of an iconic sweet.

In the 1880’s, George Renninger developed the confection while working for the Philadelphia, PA-based Wunderle Candy Company. It imitated dried kernels of corn, featuring a wide band of yellow at the bottom, orange center, and white tips of the slightly triangular candies. Sugar, corn syrup, carnauba wax, and water are cooked to form a slurry, then fondant, marshmallows, and coloring are added.

Before mechanization, the candy was crafted by hand, but most is now made by machines.With its iconic coloring, candy corn is used as garnish and in Halloween displays. It has become such an intrinsic part of the holiday that it features in costumes, including sweet candy corn witches. Manicures and Pedicures for fashionable hands and feet sometimes feature the candy corn color combos.

Oreo Cookies now offers a seasonal Candy Corn flavor
Oreo Cookies now offers a seasonal Candy Corn flavor

Because of the popularity of the candy, special variations of candy corn are manufactured for the celebration of  holidays other than Halloween. Brown-bottomed harvest corn and plump marshmallow pumpkins lend variety to the autumn offerings. Also advertised are “Reindeer corn” featuring Christmas colors, pastel “bunny corn” for Easter, and “Cupid Corn” for Valentine’s in pink, white, and red. The National Confectioner’s Association estimates over 25 million pounds of the candy is sold annually, though traditional candy corn remains the most popular.

Recipes featuring the flavors of candy corn abound. Fudges and mousse are layered to imitate the bountiful harvest, drinks featuring the marshmallow-like flavors, and cakes come to mind. One party favorite is the Candy Corn Jello Shot, which can be made in kid-friendly or adults-only form:


Family friendly version of the Candy Corn Jello Shot:


Box lemon Jello

Box orange Jello

2 packets unflavored gelatin

2 Cups boiling water

Whipped topping

Clear shot glasses


In a small bowl, combine packet of unflavored gelatin, box of lemon Jello, and 1 Cup of boiling water. Stir until dissolved. Add to clear shot glass until 1/3 full. Chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Then, in a small bowl, combine packet of unflavored gelatin, box of orange Jello, and 1 Cup of boiling water. Stir until dissolved. Spoon orange mixture into shot glasses over set, yellow gelatin. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Top with whipped topping for serving.

For the ADULTS ONLY version:

Add 1 Cup boiling water to 1 box of lemon Jello. Stir to dissolve. Add 3⁄4 Cup vodka and 1⁄4 Cup cold water, stir to combine.

Fill shot glass 1/3 of the way. Chill for 20 – 45 minutes. Repeat with orange Jello, spooning orange atop yellow to another 1/3. Refrigerate for an hour. To make cream, combine 1⁄2 cup water and 1⁄2 coconut cream in a sauce pan. Sprinkle with package of unflavored gelatin. Allow to rest for 2 minutes. Stir over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from flame. Stir in 1⁄2 cup whipped cream vodka until combined. Spoon atop the shot glasses. Chill for 3 hours or over night. Serve.

Samhain: Facts, Beliefs & Folklore

Vintage Irish Halloween art

Halloween:  hallow=holy  een= evening

The Celtic Festival of Samhain celebrated in Scotland circa October 2008
The Celtic Festival of Samhain celebrated in Scotland circa October 2008

All Hallow’s Eve or All Saint’s Eve (whatever you call it):  it is the old Celtic harvest festival of Samhain, pronounced sow (as in cow)-en.  Celebrated in Ireland and ancient Britain this was the mark of the New Year, the time that summer was ending and the onset of winter beginning.

A magical time when the veil between the worlds of the living and dead was at it’s thinnest.   It was believed that the dead revisited their homes and the fairies came out to roam.  Some say Samhain was the God of Death but there is no evidence to back this theory.  The Celts didn’t believe in demons, instead it was fairies that were the makers of mischief.

In order to stave off any mischief from occurring during the evening of Samhain, home owners would set out a “treat” of milk or food in hope of deterring any “tricks” being played upon their household.  A small meal would also be left for a deceased relative who came visiting.  In the 19th century the Catholic Church made Nov. 1st All Saints Day, thus the pagan festival of Samhain merged with the Catholic holiday and became All Hallow’s Eve (the night before the holy day).  Eventually people began to dress up to deceive the spirits and therefore go out during All Hallow’s Eve to walk freely among the spirits and perhaps collect the “treats” left for the dead?!


Vintage Irish Halloween art
The legend of Stingy Jack gave birth to the Jack-O-Lantern

Irish folklore tells the story of Stingy Jack who tricked the Devil not once but twice.  After being tricked into captivity by Jack a second time the Devil agreed not to take Jack’s soul when he died.  However upon his demise Heaven didn’t want him either, so Jack asked the Devil to take him but since a promise was made the Devil sent him on his way into the night with a burning piece of coal to light his way.  Jack carved out a turnip to hold his coal and has been wandering ever since.  Folks began to call this lost soul “Jack of the lantern” and later shortened it to “Jack O’Lantern.”  Later the Scots and Irish began carving scary faces into turnips and potatoes and set them in front of their homes on All Hallow’s Eve to keep away the evil spirits.  When the Irish began immigrating to the U.S. during the potato famine they brought along their traditions.  Pumpkins which are a native fruit to the U.S. became an excellent replacement for turnips.
Another thing associated with Halloween is dunking for apples.  That was actually part of divination rituals performed at the end of the year to see what the future would bring.  “Ducking for Apples” foretold marriage.  The first person to bite one would be the first to marry in the new year.  Another divination ritual was peeling an apple, the longer the peel before breaking off the longer your life.

So remember with Halloween soon approaching, leave a little something out for the visiting relatives!

Haunted Attraction: The Whaley House

Whaley House
If you are in the San Diego area, enjoy Halloween at the Whaley House!

The Whaley House is considered to be one of the most actively haunted mansions in the world.

Location: 2476 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110

Visit their website for Halloween tour information.

From their site:

Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO), which operates the historic Whaley House Museum in Old Town, has some “spirited” fun in store for visitors this Halloween season, including extended hours, period lighting and music, Past & Presence Ghost Tours, and after-hours Ghost Hunts. 

The Whaley House was built by San Diego pioneer Thomas Whaley to house his growing family and his general mercantile store, and is believed to be the oldest two story brick building in Southern California. When completed in 1857, The San Diego Union called it the most elegant home in San Diego. The building served at various times as the county seat and courthouse, San Diego’s first commercial theater, a granary, store, kindergarten and Sunday school, party venue and ballroom, polling place, and meeting place for both the City Council and County Board of Supervisors. Former California state senator James Mills has said that the Whaley House “has sheltered more history than any other building in the city.” 

In addition to being one of the most historic buildings in San Diego, the Whaley House has earned its reputation as America’s Most Haunted. “The Whaley House is one of the most actively haunted mansions in the world today,” said famed ghost hunter Hans Holzer, who wrote more than 120 books on the subject. Reports of its hauntings has brought visitors from around the globe and in recent years has lead to numerous televised ghost investigations by shows such as Most Haunted and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In 2005 Life Magazine declared it “the most haunted house in America.” Spirits believed to inhabit the historic home include Thomas Whaley and his wife Anna, their daughter Violet, their great-granddaughter Marion, their fox terrier Dolly Varden, and of course “Yankee Jim” Robinson. 

Robinson, a desperado convicted of attempted grand larceny, was hanged on the grounds where the Whaley House now stands in September of 1852, a few years before the building was constructed. Legend has it that his spirit never left the spot where the gallows stood and now roams the halls of the Whaley House. 

Visit the Whaley House this Halloween Season for some hauntingly good fun!


On November 10, 2007, filmmaker/author Terry M. West, a self-described amatuer paranormal investigator, went to the Whaley House, a supposed haunted house in San Diego, and took what could be one of the most definitive and startling ghost photos ever. WATCH AND JUDGE FOR YOURSELF!!!

Haunted Attraction: Hollowgraves Haunted Manor

Hollowgraves Haunted Manor

Hollowgraves Haunted ManorHollowgraves Haunted Manor

Located in Keansburg Amusement Park in Keansburg, New Jersey 07734

Visit them here.

From their site: The Haunted Manor is a family friendly dark ride attraction located in New Jersey. The house first opened in 1995 as a Halloween attraction at the Gingerbread Castle in Hamburg, NJ. After additional Halloween runs in Wayne and Andover, the house made the change to a shore attraction with its debut at Keansburg Amusement Park in 2002. After that one season, it moved to the Seaside Heights in 2003. After four seasons, the house returned to its Halloween roots with seasons in Vernon and Budd Lake from 2007 through 2010. In 2012, the Haunted Manor returned to Seaside Heights. A long term stay was made impossible though when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the boardwalk, destroying just about everything on it. Somehow, the Haunted Manor was one of very few attractions to make it through the storm completely intact and, in 2013, it relocated back to Keansburg Amusement Park in Keansburg, NJ where we plan to keep it for the foreseeable future!

As mentioned above, the Haunted Manor is family friendly. While there are definitely some bloody scenes inside, we pride ourselves on creepiness over excessive gore. It is much more in the vein of a classic haunted house attraction with a mixture of live actors and one of a kind animatronic characters that you will find nowhere else!


Here is a video of the Hollowgraves Haunted Manor from 2012!

Thinking Inside the Box

Joe Monks lying in a casket - Halloween 2013

You’ve heard the phrase, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing.” It’s the truth. Sure, perhaps for a film or for a stage production, you can get away with a cheap imitation, but when it comes to getting up-close-and-personal in the scares department? Get real. No paper mache casket is going to cut it.

Me in a casket - Halloween 2013
Yep. That’s a real casket…

Couple years back, I was going to do a short film, and needed a coffin. In the past, when I’d run a haunted house attraction for the Valley Stream Parks Dept. (I think they’re still recovering), I built one with a fake bottom, hid the base so it didn’t look so deep, and we scared the heck out of kids and parents (and my bosses) by turning an empty casket into one with a resident in ghoulish makeup in the split-second it took to shut the lid and open it again. Great, easy-to-pull-off stunt-if you build it yourself.

But there was no denying, that box wasn’t going to pass for the real deal no matter how many manhours I put into making it look good. So, for my short film, I stopped banging my head against the wall trying to figure out a work around, and caught myself wondering: what if I could get my hands on a real one?

This led to a lot of internet hunting and contacting casket companies, many of which wouldn’t sell direct. The few that would, sold higher end models, and being an indie filmmaker (read: low-budget), I wasn’t going to spring for $1,300 for their bottom-of-the-line stiff stuffer.

That left calling funeral homes to see if I could rent one. (Laws vary by state, but in most you can’t rent one except to use at a viewing for the truly-deceased. Post-viewing, the funeral parlor must remove the interior lining and destroy it. I guess they’re worried about the dead catching something from one another.) Anyway, with rental of a deposit box for the necrotic out of the picture, I struck up a conversation with a funeral director who told me she’d be happy to show off some of her older inventory, and see if one of those from the showroom might work. Kind of like buying a car left over from the previous model year.

End result? I got a brand new steel casket with lining for $500. I didn’t do much shopping around due to the proposed shoot schedule, but afterward, I did find that yes, other funeral parlors had “clearance” coffins. No surprise, they would’ve been happy to cut me a break, considering, well, there just isn’t much of a market for caskets past their sell-by date.

Being the Halloween lover I am, I’ve used my spiffy steel single-sleeper at my Sis’ place the past 4 years. I’ve also multipurposed it for another shoot; for a promo clip used for the anniversary celebration; and at the local bar we haunt (ha-ha) for their Halloween festivities.

As well, I’ve been approached by fellow filmmakers about renting it for their own projects. Let’s face it-not many people have a real, honest-to-goodness casket in their garage for use at a moment’s notice. The $500 I spent on this baby? Worth every penny. And, I was in Miami when I bought it. If you’re in Duluth? Manassas? Cumberland, and start looking now? My guess is you’ll be able to beat the price.

But you won’t be able to beat the results. Trust me on that.