Here's the castle assembled to test for size. It didn't completely fill the garage, but it was good to have some space round the edges anyway. My idea was that kids would go in the front door, wander around a bit spooking themselves, until the found the back door and exited, where I would be sitting (in last year's Grim Reaper costume) with a bowl of candy. Then they would exit the side door to the garage and head back to the street. It didn't quite work that way on the night (I think I got one child to follow correct procedure).
During construction I came up with the idea of filling the castle with dry leaves. Free stage dressing, better than the bare concrete floor, and they added smell, sound and texture to the experience. We gathered up fallen leaves (which had helpfully already been swept into piles) in a tarpaulin, and it took a lot to cover the floor.
Stage dressing included this ex-trick-or-treater, complete with candy bowl with last year's candy still in it. The bones got somewhat lost in the leaves, and many kids on seeing the candy bowl helped themselves from it. That's OK, Halloween candy lasts forever anyway.
I also had this "ground rising" ghoul, colored lightball (not switched on here), and a few mini-pumpkins to add atmosphere, plus a couple of bats hanging on wires.
I also got a fog machine this year, and attempted to chill the fog to have it hug the ground, with mixed results. The problem with fake fog is that it has to be heated to start with, but then chilled if it is to stay low to the ground as intended. The chilling was attempted with a cooler box full of ice, with the fog blowing through it in a metal tube (with holes spiked in it).
Initial fog tests were encouraging, but the fog soon started rising and drifting. Well, it all added to the atmosphere, and it was definitely worth the $25 or so it cost. I'll be playing around with it to see if I can improve it for next year.
For spooky lighting, in addition to the colored spinning ball at ground level, I had a mirrorball hung from the ceiling, with a green-filtered light shining on it. Ball, light and four different filters (green, red, blue, yellow) all came as a kit. I chose green for ghastly ghostliness.
We had three artificial pumpkins in the front window, survivors from last year, but I wanted to carve my own too. This big pumpkin was remarkably empty inside, so there wasn't too much scraping to do.
Set and ready to go. The hanging ghost caused me a lot of trouble, as it was designed to rise up and down on a fishing line, making creepy howlings, when a sensor was tripped. The first time it rose it stuck at the top, and I had to disassemble it and fix the cogwheel which had broken. The sounds were far too loud, so I stuck tape over the speaker holes which muted it to acceptable levels. In my mind the ghost is the spirit of last year's trick-or-treater, but I don't know of anyone caught that subtlety. I can be vaguely seen in this picture in my grim reaper get up. I got a new mask this year, a Ghostface from the Scream movies, but it was very hot under the extra hood so I soon went back to the old one that only covered the front of my head. It worked well enough. The solid plastic chestplate of bones had a habit of bashing me on the chin, and next year I'll get something more flexible to replace it.
One stage dressing I had intended for inside the castle was a big hairy spider, but in a flash of genius (that's mine used for this year) I decided to strap it to one of our RC trucks with elastic bands. Beth drove this round the circle of our road throughout the evening, to great effect. The truck has headlights, which worked well to draw attention before people realised it was actually a spider.
The full ensemble, RC spider, jack'o'lantern, castle, Ghost, Mirrorball, old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. The lights to either side of the garage door are only 4 watts each, and the lantern has just one tealight inside, so you can see that the camera has adjusted for poor lighting and made this scene much brighter than it appeared to the human eye.