Behind the Curtain – There’s no turning back!

Original post – 9/6/2012 

It’s here! Blackstone Manor officially opened last Friday to many enthusiastic customers! If you are planning on coming out to see it, there is still plenty of time. And as everyone is enjoying this years Halloween Room, I thought it would be fun to post some pictures from some previous years set ups. There’s no turning back? Why not?!

Mad Madelines Basement-Halloween 2009 

Mad Madelines crazy brother had moved into her basement once she went missing. He fancied himself a magician but was actually an evil scientist who worked long hours in the lab trying to reanimate frozen porcelain dolls (see? Crazy!). His greatest success was in bringing his best friend Mortimer to life. Mortimer was a ventriloquist’s dummy who liked to sit on the stairs and make fun of people. What about the clowns? Well, they’re just creepy.

Fun and Gaems Toy Factory – Halloween 2010

Remember Mortimer? Well he ran away from the basement and took up residence in a decrepit abandoned toy factory. He liked making toys but found he liked blowing things up even more (the cuckoo clock crow barely escaped). Last seen he was creating evil baby dolls and merrily cloning himself in a large toy making machine.

Blackstone Theatre – Halloween 2011

Entering from the actors entrance through the back alley, you walk through the dressing area, the costume department and finally onto the stage. The theatre is said to be haunted by a diva lead starlet, an extra playing a geisha, a dark sprite who summons spiders to attack and the theater manager.  Most recently they all made a rare appearance to scare away a thief in the night and it was all caught on video cameras set up by Ghost Hunters. You can view the footage here.

and last but not least, an arachnophobic blogger who likes to lurk around wearing hats and large candelabras…and also pretending that she’s Alfred Hitchcock by appearing in her own blog post.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down Halloween Memory Lane revisiting all those ghosts from years past. If you like these you will definitely need to check out this years set before it vanishes into thin air!

What were some of your favorite Halloween moments? Tell me in the comments!


Behind the Curtain- The Walls Are Alive With the Sound of…..

Original post – 8/30/2012


Just a quick update due to a request that we frequently get. It’s about the music that we play for the Halloween Room. (This has  nothing to do with the picture above, I just like it which I’ll get to later on in this post.) Earlier in the comments I had yet one more request for the music and I posted the answer, but to make it easy on ya’ I decided to put the list here. Just a word of warning. Listening to these sounds may cause adverse side effects such as a creeping sensation of doom, the feeling of someone walking over your grave or inadvertent spinning of the head! Still interested? OK, don’t say I didn’t warn you! Here it is:

‘The Prestige’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack-David Julyan:

  • The Prestige
  • Sacrifice
  • The Price of a Good Trick
  • The Real Transported Man
  • The Transported Man

Le Carnival de Animaux: Aquarium-Charles Dutoit, Christina Ortiz, London Sinfonietta & Pascal Roge from the album Saint-Saens: Carnival of the Animals

‘The Haunting in Connecticut’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack-Robert J Kraul

  • Main Title
  • Research
  • Room Service
  • Resolution

‘The Uninvited’- Original Score-Christopher Young

  • The Uninvited
  • Working Dreams

‘The Dark’- Original Motion Picture Soundtrack-Edmund Butt

  • Sarah’s Drowned
  • The Dark

‘The Twilight Zone (The Complete Scores of Bernard Herrmann)- Bernard Herrmann

  • Intro (From the Episode “The Lonely”

‘The Happening’-Original Motion Picture Soundtrack-James Newton Howard

  • Five Miles Back
  • Voices

‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’-Wojciech Kilar

  • Mina/Dracula

‘The Descent’-Original Motion Picture Soundtrack-David Julyan

  • Down the Pipe
Organ Music
  • Halloween Pipe Organ Suite 6 – Best of the Church Pipe Organ and the Hammond B-3…-The Church Organ All Stars
  • Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for Organ, BWV565 – Glorious Pipes and Organ Music Through the Ages
  • Halloween Pipe Organ – Halloween Sound Effects- Halloween
  • Halloween Pipe Organ – Scary Trick or Treat Music – Halloween Trick or Treat and Party Sounds
  • Organ Toccata in D Minor – Very Scary Music

All songs are available to download on either iTunes or

Since I’m already here, I thought I’d give another nod to the Sound of Music by including a gallery of a few of my favorite things!



















Whew! That was a lot and that was only a few of my favorite things. So what are a few of your favorite Halloween things? A portrait of a woman getting stabby with a dagger, right? ME TOO!! What else? Let me know, I’d love to hear about how you get ready for Halloween!

Behind the Curtain – Do You Feel Like You’re Being Watched?

Original post – 8/28/2012


Now that we’re getting further along with the set up, it’s getting creepy in here! There are literally hundreds of pairs of eyes watching us (and that’s not including those of you who peek at us through the curtain!) Things are starting to come together and some of the best effects are getting installed this week. We are now in frosting mode, all the little details and extras are being finalized.

A simple detail we add is wallpaper to the backs of the hutches and bookcases that we use to house the merchandise. It’s something you can also do easily at home for holidays or everyday. It’s amazing how the things you may not notice right away impact the overall ambiance of the space. And because we will probably use some of this furniture for Christmas, we use double sided tape to adhere the wallpaper to the back making it easy to remove.


A lot of what we do here is also great for parties. If you’re planning on hosting a Halloween party, this is a great touch.It goes along the lines of total emersion when setting up a theme, it’s one of the little details that ties everything together.

That, and using everyday objects that have been “spookified”! During set up a common phrase overheard is “Paint it black”. Most everything we use has been toned down in color or just painted pure black. Many “found objects” are used as accents layered on walls and hung from the ceiling.

You can achieve this in your own Halloween decor by shopping garage sales and thrift shops for cool old accessories that would look haunted with a quick glaze of black paint. Pair them with your novelty Halloween decor items and you will be amazed at the transformation!


Or you can decide to go completely crazy and do something like this:


Although I wouldn’t recommend this for the faint-of-heart!

Here’s an example of some old things attached to the ceiling:


And here’s another old thing we hung up there:


*shiver* Oooh, I feel those eyes again!


Oh, is it just you? You’re a little slimy but not too scary….wait……


Yikes! That’s the one! I’m outta’ here!

Behind the Curtain – A Skeleton Crew

Original post – 8/24/2012


Whew! After a day like today this is how we all feel, dead tired! The palettes of merchandise I showed earlier was about a third of the boxes of Halloween goodies we need to unpack and place in just the right spot! Not only that but many “haunting” projects are still going on. The way we get that spooky look to completely surround you is by taking normal day to day items and transforming them. Some of these things are easy to do at home to expand on your own Halloween decor. Today I’m going to show you a simple temporary change for a light fixture as an example of what I mean. It’s all in the details, people!


OK, so remember these chandeliers? They are beautiful but very serious and proper and right now they are a little too bright for our taste. We’ll fix that!


First we need a few supplies. Double stick tape, scissors and an old book (This one was water damaged so was a good candidate). I’ll show you what that white cylinder is:


Simply remove the light bulbs and lift off the “candle”. They don’t have to be removable to do this project but it’s really helpful!

Next measure and cut out a page of the book that fits the length of the candle leaving enough for the end to wrap around it completely.


Grab a piece of double stick tape and place on one edge of the cut page. Attach to the candle and wrap around to cover.


Use another piece of tape under the finishing edge to secure the end.


That’s it. Easy! Repeat for every light on the chandelier and then place the covered candles back on the fixture.


Replace the light bulbs with amber flicker flame bulbs and voila!


This adds a great vintage-y antique look to your existing light fixture and tames down the “bright” to help create your own spooky ambience. It’s a simple touch of detail that will enhance the rest of your Halloween decor.

I kind of like it for everyday!

So tell me, how do you like to decorate for Halloween? Do you have any fun ideas to share? Post them in the comments!

Behind the Curtain – (Abnormal) Paranormal Activities

Original post – 8/21/2012 

picture of ghostly shenanigans

Hmmm… seems somebody was busy after hours. Could this be the result of prankster spirits joining in on the fun? Maybe they’re trying to help us with set up? If so, they’d better step up their game. Only 2 more weeks left before opening! As we’re oh-so-subtly reminded:


So lets get the rest of that furniture in here already!

massive furniture on a forklift

Um…. guys? How’re you going to get that through the door? I’ll just leave that for them to figure out. Let’s take a look at some progress shall we? Here’s a larger project that at least 7 people have contributed to.

pictures of the multi step process of the hallway installation

Here’s the rundown of the project:

1.The newly constructed doors and trim were installed.

2.We painted them all black.

3. What it looked like when we were done.

4.The edges and trim were highlighted with white. Wallpaper was added to the walls

5. We treated the wallpaper to appear aged and worn.

Here’s a close up of the aging that was applied to ‘The Shining’-esque wallpaper:

creepy wallpaper

Ewww! Creepy! If walls could talk, these would scream! Speaking of creepy here’s our version of the Family Tree:

a display of horrific portraits

Here are a few more glimpses of the goings-on around here.



And of course it wouldn’t be a Rogers Halloween without a little bling!


So that’s our progress so far. Oh, I wanted to mention that I’m planning on putting up a few DIY’s of some of the projects we did. If you see something you’re interested in learning how we made, tell me in the comments and I might give a tutorial on the technique. Providing, of course, there’s no full moon at the time… Bwaahahahahaaaa!

Behind the Curtain – And so it begins…

Original post – 8/18/2012

Last year I wrote a series of blog posts for Rogers Gardens. It was called BEHIND THE CURTAIN because of all the customers who always peeked into the closed area while we set up. I wanted to keep them here in case they were removed for some reason, you never know. I am the original author and all the photographs were taken by me.

So… do you ever get bored and decide to switch up the living room by moving the sofa into the middle of the room, putting a bookcase behind it, adding a light and maybe a bean bag chair back there creating a brand new library?

Just me, huh? Well I guess I’m lucky I work here especially during holiday sets where I can get all of the room-changing shenanigans out of my system! At least for the time being.

Images of how the room looked before change out

Halloween takes up a huge space smack dab in the middle of the Garden Rooms. This is space that is perfectly happy housing all kinds of silk arrangements, containers and greenery throughout the rest of the year. Then we come along and blow it up! All of that merchandise is moved to other areas, the walls are repainted (black, naturally) and the furniture is completely rearranged with lots more added. Then everything is hosed down (not really… well, actually yes, some items do get hosed down), cleaned up and ready to go. As with any project, the demolition part is always the quickest.

The cleared room prepped to start Halloween set up

I tried to take the “Now” pictures from the same spot as the “Before” pictures so you can get an idea of how different it already looks. The windows have been covered with black paper and the painting of walls to black has begun.

wall textures

Once the walls are painted we then go back and apply different textured finishes to the walls. Some areas are draped with various fabrics, some are completely covered with cardboard.

The next step will be to build and install the largest, most transforming set pieces. There’s tons to do before we bring in even one piece of Halloween merchandise. You’ll see some of those additions in my next blog post. Stay tuned….


Oh, just one more thing. This is the view I had as I left for the day. All of the Halloween merchandise has come from the warehouse and now is sitting on pallates in the receiving area silently mocking motivating us!

Behind the Curtain – A behind the scenes look at one of our most popular seasonal sets. Halloween! Post 1


Original post – 8/15/2012

Last year I wrote a series of blog posts for Rogers Gardens. It was called BEHIND THE CURTAIN because of all the customers who always peeked into the closed area while we set up. I wanted to keep them here in case they were removed for some reason, you never know. I am the original author and all the photographs were taken by me. 

I know it may not feel like it, but summer is slowly winding down. The tide has definitely turned now that vacation mode is coming to an end.  Time to think about getting the kids (or you) ready for the new school semester and making plans for the last half of the year and all that comes with it. Autumn and winter celebrations are still a safe distance away but thoughts may occasionally drift toward festivities and special gatherings on the agenda for later this year. This is kind of like the calm before the storm for many people.

Many, that is, except for the members of the Visual Merchandising Team at Rogers Gardens. Here the storm has been blowing for a few months and is now picking up speed! For us the thoughts of Halloween and, dare I say, Christmas are never far away. Throughout the year the Creative Director and Buying team are busy planning the next season as the current season is still going full force. Due to this we’re exposed to bunnies and baskets before Valentines Day and Jack o’ Lanterns before Independence Day. It’s normal for us but for those of you sensitive to the subject of the H-O-L-I-D-A-Y’s I’ll try to break you in slowly.

What I’m trying to say is…OK ready?… we are about to start Halloween setup! (How’s that for slowly!) I know, I know. BUT if you are familiar with our past set ups you can understand why we start so early. It’s HUGE! And this year is no exception. And although the set up starts now, we have been working behind the scenes on it for about the past month and a half. Here are a few examples of some the projects in progress:


During the past three years that I’ve worked here I have fielded many questions as well as accepted many nice comments from customers about out holiday displays. Many people have asked how we do it, how long it takes and where the ideas come from. If you were wondering the same things, then this is the blog for you! In the next several weeks of set up I will be giving you exclusive behind the scenes access! You will see how drastically the area changes in a very short amount of time and how much work goes into designing, building and placing the props to create that chilling, haunted atmosphere. The transformation is quite amazing and detailed which is why this is truly my favorite time of year.

So grab your favorite zombie or vampire and strap in. It’s going to be a thrilling ride!

My mission should I choose to accept it…

Today I was discussing this years Halloween set up and what projects lie ahead. I have already painted some bones onto some bodies, and taught everyone a technique to make scary tree branches so they could join in the fun. This years Halloween theme is a little more traditional scary-house than it’s been the past couple of years. Here are a few pics of my projects from years past:


Cards flying through the air.

ImageMummified heads.

ImageFrozen babies.

ImageA skeleton crow.

ImageA chandelier gone berserk.


ImageA Robot Skeleton Girl with glowing nucleus.

ImageTrompe l’oeil theater curtains.


ImageImageVarious trompe l’oeil “stage props”.

ImageOne big a** backdrop.

This year it seems I will have a lot more projects that require distressing and detailing rather than starting from scratch which will be fun! But I still get to build a few things that will keep me busy (skeleton chandelier sounds interesting…)

Here’s a sneak peek of some current projects:


So much fun, I can’t wait ’til we really gear up! We have a couple of weeks yet to work on projects before the big install. Time goes so fast…

Colorplay! (see what I did there?)

I Made This! (DIY alert)


How to create a unique and personal typographical piece of art.

Recently I noticed that I had successfully transitioned my living space into one neutral and boring place. I needed color NOW! I’d recently developed an obsession with the book ‘Living in a Nutshell’ (by Janet Lee) which is full of fun and colorful/fashion themed ideas and I was dying to change things up. I bought myself a canvas, decided on a color and designed a template based on the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster only using Coldplay lyrics. Then the fun began!

I took pictures throughout the progress (except for the first half, typical me) to show my friends how to do this but thought it would make a great tutorial as well.

Just to prepare you, for the most part my projects are not quick and may require many steps. BUT they are designed to make something that doesn’t look handmade. This was a necessity when I made window displays and signage by hand and now I can’t get over it. I figured out this particular way of creating a stencil when I had no visual budget left but had to come up lettered window decals. All the projects I create combine techniques I taught myself with materials I have researched on how to use in many different applications. You may look at these steps and think of shortcuts or other ways to do it, which is awesome! This is just the way I knew I would get the best results with the materials I had on hand at the time.

Materials I Used:

Adhesive Backed Vinyl – I used some from a 18″ wide roll of DC Fix I purchased from Dymalon but regular contact paper will work as well.

3′ x 3′ preprimed canvas, deep frame

Acrylic Paint – white, tangerine

Foam Paint Roller

Blue Painters Tape

Ruler, T-Square

Rubber Cement

Xacto Knife

Butterfly silhouette and text printed actual size onto plain printer paper, thinner paper is best (ie. no need to go for quality here)

Clear varnish – I use Varathane Crystal Coat Polyurethane on everything including jewelry.

Time – yes this takes a bit of time but it’s totally worth it!

1A. If using a copy of my template:

Print out design. Use a copy machine or scanner to enlarge the design enough times to where the largest letter measures 3″ tall. Your design will be on several pages so piece them together using a ruler to line up sections and then tape to hold together.

B. If creating your own phrase or design using Microsoft Word:

I found a font close to the one used for the Keep Calm and Carry On poster online and downloaded it but you can use whichever font you like. Type out phrases where the font size is 3″ tall at the highest, estimated size would be 265 pt. The words when printed to correct size will each be on their own page and not on one line so you will need to recreate the design. Take your letter segments and line them up as each word. Use a ruler to line up the bottom edges of the letters of each word so its all on the same straight line. Eyeball the spacing to match the rest of the letters. Tape it together. Repeat for each broken word.

2. Unroll a 3′ long piece of self-adhesive vinyl. It needs to be large enough for the entire message and butterfly to fit because this is going to be the template. Lay out the design on the self-adhesive vinyl. Center each word making the space in between each word consistent. Using a T-square from the edge of the vinyl helps line up the words so they’ll be perfectly straight. Secure the words to the vinyl by taping along the top edge of each piece. Double check, triple check and then check again to make sure you’re happy with the placement. Spending some time on this detail will yield the biggest payoff.

3. Gently lift each piece (so as not to un-adhere the tape) and coat the back with a layer of rubber cement. Do not use any other type of glue as this has to be removable. Letting the tape work as the guide just let the piece fall back into place and then smooth down and away from the top edge.

4. Using your Xacto knife and a metal ruler carefully cut each letter out of the paper and vinyl combo. I find this is much faster and creates cleaner straight lines than using scissors. Write a notation on the back of any letters that are duplicate showing which word it came from and which place (for example “will” has a right side “L” and a left side “L”).

5. Now you’re ready to paint! Even though the canvas is pre-primed I still like to paint a coat of primer, but that’s me. Once dry follow with two thin coats of bright white acrylic or latex paint. Use a foam paint roller for even coverage and to leave no brush marks. Let that dry completely.

6. Take your now hole-y template and position it centered on the canvas. Measure from top and bottom, side to side for equidistant placement. Triple check this as well! Use pieces of blue painters tape on each edge to firmly  hold the template in place.

7. Find a hardcover book thick enough so that when laid under the canvas it touches the underside of the canvas without raising it. You will use this as a rigid background to burnish your vinyl pieces against when applying the adhesive vinyl to the canvas.

8. You will now stick all letters and the butterfly onto the canvas using the holes in the template to guide the placement. Remove the backing of a letter and then position it into the hole it matches being careful to fit it     inside the opening and to not overlap the template at all. Press down and firmly run your fingers over it using the book underneath as a support. Repeat this for each letter and the butterfly.

9. Carefully remove the template by curling it back making sure not to disturb the letter pieces. Set aside.

10. Next you’ll remove the paper from the letters. This is so all that is left on the canvas is the thin layer of adhesive vinyl which makes for a clean stencil. Using the edge of your Xacto knife carefully flip a corner of the paper up off a letter leaving the vinyl layer intact. Use this as a starter and peel off the paper. Repeat for each letter and the butterfly. Burnish each letter down against the book underneath to ensure all edges are secure especially around any inside curves. Imagine you are going to paint stripes on a wall and don’t want the paint to seep under the tape line. This is how you should burnish these vinyl letters, so no paint will seep under the edge.

11. Cut out 4 straight lengths of the vinyl adhesive measuring 1 1/2″ x 30″. Lay these out to create a 30″ square centered 3″ in from the edge of the canvas. This will be the white border around the overall design. Tape down with the blue painters tape, remove the backing and adhere to the canvas. Remove the painters tape. Burnish as you did with the letters.

12. Grab your white acrylic paint and a paint brush. Apply a light coat of paint around all edges of the vinyl letters. Be sure to brush in all different directions, you are trying to make sure if any paint is going to seep under the letters, it will be this white paint. Let dry.

13. Brush on two coats of the Tangerine acrylic paint to cover the whole canvas including edges allowing to dry between coats. Let dry completely.

14. The unveiling! Start by using your Xacto knife to gently peel up an edge a vinyl letter. Slowly pull the vinyl off to reveal the white paint underneath. Continue to do this to all vinyl pieces until all are removed. If any tangerine paint has seeped through, simply touch up with a small brush and the white acrylic paint. When you are satisfied with the result and have allowed ample time to dry, apply a coat of clear varnish with a foam brush over the entire canvas.

15. Stand back and admire your new work of art!

I see skeletons, I hear sleighbells.

It’s that time of year again, when all end of the year seasons and holidays collide. Here I am setting up Halloween and Fall merchandise displays while working on Christmas projects during what is generally recognized as Summer. It’s fun but sometimes confusing and disorienting. My frame of reference for when I should ask people what they are going to be for Halloween is waaaayyyy too early! I worry (panic!) that there’s not enough time to do my Christmas shopping, forgetting it’s still only August.

This feeling is only exacerbated by the fact that right now I am building a snowman. It was fitting that I was fixing the Fall accessories display right before starting the Halloween installation when I was asked to do this. I was handed a folder with all the details and specifications I needed to follow. My mission, should I choose to accept it, would be to create a tree topper for one of Roger’s Gardens World Famous Christmas Trees.

 Here’s what it looks like so far:


My snowman tree topper was a great success. He was auctioned off to benefit the Pageant of the Masters but sat proudly at the top of the front tree in Rogers Gardens Gallery until the end of the season. I had a great time putting him together and he came out exactly as I envisioned which is always a happy ending.

He also inspired me to create a stained glass charm ornament based on his design.