The Art of Darkness

Easy “Bloody” Party Favor

September 25th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Blood JamA couple of Halloweens ago One Charming Party threw a splendid Blood Bar party, serving Gin & Tourniquets out of “blood vessels” and decorating with surgical gauze. One particularly great touch was the choice of party favors: Homemade strawberry jam labeled as Clotted Blood.

This is such a great all-purpose Halloween party favor that I’m retroactively annoyed at all of the past parties where I could have used this idea.

Strawberry jam is easy to make–hit Google for more recipes than you can shake a stick at–but if you’re pressed for time or want to make up a large number of jars, buy good-quality jam in bulk and re-package it in smaller containers. There are plenty of interesting canning jars: Bail-top, tulip, round, square, and many others.

One Charming Party has the labels for free download (and also includes them if you buy a print package of all the party signage), but I have to admit that they’re a bit on the plain side. Fancier labels could be created in your favorite graphics program, using clipart and spooky fonts of your choice. You could also age the labels to make them a little spookier and vampire-ish; The Happy Heathen has an easy tutorial for that (if your printer’s ink won’t run when it gets wet, it’s way easier to faux-age the paper after printing).

The plain white paper covering on the lids could also be spooked up a bit: Use rough brown paper, cover the lids with scraps of Halloween fabric, or hot-glue a big novelty spider to the top.

You could also gift thinner “blood” in the form of strawberry syrup, or branch out with other monstrous jam flavors: Peach “Jack-o’-Lantern Guts” or mint “Radioactive Waste,” for example.

These would be a great, inexpensive favor for a Halloween wedding, too.

Posted in Paint It Black, Terror in the Aisle | 1 Comment »

A Plethora of Pumpkin Preparations

September 24th, 2014 by Cobwebs

PumpkinsAutumn is here (“here” being the northern hemisphere), which means an onslaught of Pumpkin Spice everything. Things that have no business being pumpkin-spice are tarted up; if there was a pumpkin spice dog food I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. (Edit: See also this. Jesus wept.)

The noble pumpkin is better than sweet one-note dishes. It’s a nutritious vegetable and is wonderful in all kinds of savory dishes. Here’s a roundup. (Note: Some of the recipes labeled as “vegetarian” call for chicken stock; just substitute vegetable broth. But you knew that.)

Pumpkin is a great addition to chilis and stews; you can add it as a puree to thicken the liquid and add creaminess, or cut it into cubes for texture and flavor.

With meat:
Pork and Pumpkin Chili
Turkey Pumpkin Chili
Pumpkin & Beef Autumn Stew
Pork and Pumpkin Stew

Pumpkin Chili (The Kitchn)
Pumpkin Chili (Julia’s Album)
Moroccan Pumpkin Stew

Soups are a very popular non-sweet way to use pumpkin.

With meat:
Cheesy Pumpkin Soup with Bacon and Crispy Shallots
Pumpkin and Pancetta Soup
Pumpkin Soup with Sausage
Pumpkin and Lobster Bisque

Pumpkin Soup with Ginger Cream
Pumpkin and Yellow Split Pea Soup
Curry Pumpkin Soup
Roasted Pumpkin Soup
Kabocha Pumpkin Hot Pot
Pumpkin and Chestnut Soup

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Resources | 1 Comment »

We All Need This Sign

September 23rd, 2014 by Cobwebs

No Costume No CandyA couple of Halloweens ago I was helping a friend hand out candy on her front porch, and we started kicking around the idea of having a series of buckets marked with different letter grades. Trick-or-treaters would be allowed to choose from the bucket we thought their costume rated; the “F” bucket would be reserved for teenagers with no costumes and would contain toothbrushes.

However, I believe I like this idea even better. This gorgeous sign was designed by a haunter named Jeffrey Sherrard, and would be a splendid outdoor decoration.

I unfortunately don’t have any additional information about the materials or construction of this particular sign; Shellhawk’s Nest, where I found the image, points to The Garage of Evil, but that site requires a cumbersome registration process for access. Poop.

A reasonably similar, albeit simpler, version might be DIY’d using a hardware-store sign bracket, an oval (wood or foam, depending upon your skills), and the small wooden letters sometimes found at craft stores. Spray everything with metallic faux-finish paint and festoon with fake spider webs.

I quite like the Haunted Mansion-esque feel of this sign, but googling something like “diy halloween sign” will turn up plenty of other options: Birds and Soap, lil blue boo, Home Heart Craft, and print with my pic all have tutorials, and there are lots of others too.

Hang your sign, give full-size candy bars to kids who show up in homemade costumes (no matter how crappy, because they tried), and threaten to hex anyone who dares to darken your doorstep in street clothes.

Update: StoneMaven and Fiend4Halloween were both kind enough to share the details from the original post:

The texture on the oval insert & lettering is created by using sanded Dry-lok. I simply mix a small amount of clean, dry, construction sand into the Dry-lok and ‘pounce’ the paint on using an old brush to create a textured surface. I will do two or three light coats that way, allowing an hour or so of dry time in between. Then I lightly sand the top of the letters to return them to a slightly more flattened surface. That is followed by coats of flat black, brown, and bronze spray paints as base colors, a couple light coats of spray poly, and whatever decorative top coats are needed to finish the look. In this case it was just a light finger-dabbing of metallic bronze paint on the letters & scroll decorations. Also, there are 3 small neodymium magnets embedded into the back surface of the wood oval using a strong 2-part epoxy. This allows me to swap out the sign content very(!) quickly.

So, no real details about materials for the sign itself, but some good information about achieving the rusty-iron look. And the use of magnets to switch out signage is brilliant.

Thanks, guys!

Posted in Paint It Black | 4 Comments »

The Mill at Calder’s End

September 22nd, 2014 by Cobwebs

Creature effects artist and puppeteer Kevin McTurk has worked on lots of effects-heavy films, such as Jurassic Park, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Interview with the Vampire. He recently had a successful Kickstarter for “Victorian Ghost Story Puppet Film” The Mill at Calder’s End, and it looks pretty awesome. Here’s the new trailer:

Mike Mignola, creator of “Hellboy,” is one of the concept artists on this, and there’s quite a lot of other high-powered talent involved. There’s a neat “making of” video here, and more photos and information here and here.

Looks marvelously spooky.

Posted in Whatever | No Comments »

The Link Dump Zone

September 19th, 2014 by Cobwebs

creaturesfromel – Marvelously surreal sculptures of animals. I think this little winged rat might be my favorite. The artist sells some of her work on Etsy.

Squash Softies – Use scrap fabric to make cute little pumpkins. Or Halloween tribbles. (via Old Fashion Halloween)

31 Creepy Items Every Horror Fan Should Own – I have to admit that the snow globe is splendid. (Hat tip to WitchArachne)

Sag es mit deinem Projekt – Cute “goth” ad for German home improvement chain Hornbach.

Deathwish – I want an organization like this to exist in real life.

Skull Boiled Egg Mold – I’ve always thought that molding boiled eggs fell into the same category as fluting mushrooms and ironing bedsheets: Stuff that nobody reasonable has the time for. But these are kind of awesome.

21 Punny Skeleton Comics That Will Tickle Your Funny Bone – The effect is cumulative. (Hat tip to pdq)

Shirrstone Shelter – Spooky Moon has a feature on some lovely, surreal dolls.

The Year According to Tumblr – It’s the year according to me, too. (Hat tip to xJane)

Blood Fondue Bar – If you’ve got access to a chocolate fountain, this is an interesting party idea.

Posted in Link Dump | 6 Comments »

It’s Secret Pumpkin Time Again!

September 18th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Secret Pumpkin Logo

The Secret Pumpkin gift exchange was conceived as a way to soothe those spooky souls pining for October by sending them a little Halloween in April. It’s similar to a Secret Santa exchange but the gifts are supposed to be spooky in nature; you can read my previous description and details here.

And now it’s time to open up registration for next April’s exchange! If you’d like to participate, go to the Secret Pumpkin site:

1) If you did not participate last year, click the “Join” link and fill out the form.

2) If you DID participate last year, log in, click the “Update Profile” link and change the “Activate My Membership” option to Yes.

(Just in case it isn’t clear–folks have been confused in the past–I’m the person who manages the site, so you aren’t blindly submitting your mailing address to some anonymous stranger.)

I’d previously suggested that participants should join one of the two Halloween listservs which originally spawned the exchange, but they’ve withered away so much that they may actually be defunct; instead I send occasional reminders directly to the participants.

Non-U.S. residents are welcome to participate, with the caveat that international shipping can be beastly. I try to match participants in the same country with each other so if you’re outside of the U.S. and want to play along, encourage your friends to sign up as well.

The deadline for signups is October 15. All that I ask is please, PLEASE don’t sign up for the exchange unless you’re serious about following through. We occasionally have participants flake out, and their Pumpkins are always sorely disappointed.

C’mon and join! It’s lots of fun, and getting something unexpectedly Halloweeny in April is a treat.

Posted in Whatever | 3 Comments »

About That Black Hamburger

September 17th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Black BurgerIf you follow any goth news feeds or Facebook pages or are friends with goths or have even thought the word “goth” recently you are probably aware of the buzz surrounding the recent Japan Burger King’s debut of a black cheeseburger – The “Kuro Burger” (“Black Burger”) has “buns made from bamboo charcoal, an onion and garlic sauce made with squid ink, beef patties made with black pepper, and black cheese, which is also apparently made with bamboo charcoal.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Japan, you so crazy.

This isn’t the first time Burger King Japan has done the black burger thing: The new version is pretty much identical to a limited-time burger they did in 2012, except this one adds black cheese. Charcoal is a hugely popular dietary supplement in Japan and several other Asian countries; it’s sold widely as a health food additive, and bread made with it isn’t particularly unusual. (Burger King isn’t the only chain which has used black buns as a hook; McDonald’s China offers black and white burgers using the same kind of charcoal-y bread).

Anyway, my point–and I do have one–is that the visual is quite striking and if you’re feeling a bit ambitious this is totally do-able at home.

The bread part is pretty straightforward: You can find charcoal powder at Asian groceries or online (just make sure it’s marked as a “dietary supplement” or some similar food-grade use). Googling “charcoal bread” brings up several interesting “this sounded neat so I tried it” accounts like this, this, and this (and also this discussion of other things you can do with charcoal powder, like goth macarons). Make your favorite burger-bun recipe–I’m partial to Smitten Kitchen’s light brioche buns–and add a tablespoon or so of charcoal powder. You may need to experiment a bit to get the color you want.

The black “ketchup,” which sounds more like “whatever savory sauce you like, only black,” is pretty much…whatever savory sauce you like, only black. The onion-and-garlic sauce on the original sounds tasty, but you can use plain ol’ ketchup if you want. If you’re feeling fancy, you can tint it with real squid ink; you could also just use a little black gel food coloring for the same effect.

The cheese is the trickiest, since you’d want the meltiness of processed cheese slices. Fortunately, the DIY Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen includes a recipe for homemade “American” cheese. Brown Eyed Baker–amongst many others–has the recipe along with a review (it sounds easy and yummy). You should be able to add the charcoal powder along with the dry milk powder in the recipe.

If you don’t feel up to experimenting with charcoal powder, the buns and cheese could also be colored with black gel food coloring.

Obviously, you can experiment beyond the burger with black bread, cheese, and sauces. Any combination of them would be great at a Halloween party, or just to make lunchtime a little more interesting.

Posted in Paint It Black | 3 Comments »

DIY Dragon Eggs

September 16th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Dragon EggsFrom an evolutionary standpoint, I’ve always been puzzled by the idea of scaled eggs: Not only would the egg-layer have to have a teflon cloaca to extrude them without damage, the scales would be a hospitable environment for microorganisms.

On the other hand, scaled eggs look badass and since the thing that’s supposed to be hatching out of them is pretty evolutionarily improbable anyway I should probably find something else to worry about.

Anyway. Scaled eggs. Imgur member “pellantana” has put together a great tutorial for making good-looking dragon eggs by covering a styrofoam egg form with thumbtacks. The basic idea could hardly be easier, although I might suggest a couple of minor changes:

1) The styrofoam peeks through a bit at the end of the egg where the final thumbtacks are placed. It might be a good idea to either paint the egg black (which can be tough–styrofoam is hard to paint and some types of paint will eat it away) or slip a piece of black nylon stocking over the egg before starting in on the thumbtacks; the tacks will hold the stocking in place. I suppose you could also cover the end of the egg with thin tissue paper; brush it with a little watered-down white glue to form it to the shape of the egg and help hold it steady.

2) All of the thumbtacks–625 of ‘em–were hand-painted. That’s…a lot of thumbtacks to hand-paint. Since the tutorial recommends sticking them in the top of a pizza box to hold them steady anyway, it seems reasonable to go one further step and spray-paint them (this is mentioned briefly as an option at the very bottom, but the artist eschews it in favor of the hand-painted look). There are lots of neat metallic and faux-finish spray paints available, including “glitter spray” and marbleized varieties. There’s even a webbing spray; hitting the finished egg lightly with that might be interesting.

The finished egg could be displayed nestled in cotton wool in a wooden box so it resembles a specimen collected on expedition. It would also look nice placed on a pedestal candleholder.

It’d be fun to make one of these and hide it before an Easter egg hunt.

Bonus links: There’s a neat alternate method for making dragon eggs using hot glue. Also check out this lovely jeweled paperweight.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 3 Comments »

A History of Horror

September 15th, 2014 by Cobwebs

This BBC documentary was hosted by Mark Gatiss.

(via Beans)

Posted in Whatever | 2 Comments »

The Wicker Link Dump

September 12th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Nerf “Zombie Strike” Machete – Nerf has expanded into the zombie-hunting market. This might be a nice costume prop. (There are quite a number of other items in the Zombie Strike line, including swords, bombs, and crossbows.)

Mythic Articulations – Etsy shop specializing in 3D-printed skeletons of mythical creatures. (Hat tip to xJane)

Ghost Underground – Artist Livio Scapella’s series of marble sculptures look like veiled ghosts.

Sugar Skull Rum – (That link goes to a press release about the product; the official site is here, but it’s currently just a shell.) I have no idea what the rum tastes like, but the bottles are pretty. (via Cat)

Some cute kid-friendly fabric designs from Spoonflower: Chibi Great Old Ones, Monsters, There Once Was a Shark That Swallowed a Cephalopod, and Unusual Specimens.

Fiori Couture – Designer of really interesting corsets and accessories. Their Facebook page seems to have a lot more photos of their designs than the main site; I especially love the steel mermaid corset. (via WitchArachne)

The Gaslight Grill – Steampunk-esque London restaurant which specializes in “vintage” afternoon tea.

Good Omens on BBC Radio – Gaiman and Pratchett’s novel is being adapted for radio and will be broadcast this December.

Cheese “Cemetery” – This party cheese plate (complete with Brie casket!) is perfect for a Halloween party. (Hat tip to Pixel Pixie)

Author Claims to Have Identified Jack the Ripper – Yeah; let me point you to the important bit of this article (emphasis mine): “Jack the Ripper, one of the most notorious serial killers in history, has been identified through DNA traces found on this shawl, according to a book to be published Tuesday.” Uh-huh.

Posted in Link Dump | 4 Comments »

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