Haunted Mine Dragon Lair scene
In the small town I grew up in, there is a local legend that is passed down from generation to generation. The story revolves around a very wealthy man known only as “Old Man Grafton”.
Grafton didn’t trust anyone except his trusty pony, who was pulling gold from the mine, and his cat named Mr. Sparkles, who supposedly had the ability to sniff gold a mile away.
Every night Grafton and his little mining crew would come into town, spend a couple of hours at the local tavern, make a little riot, and then head off.
One day they suddenly stopped coming to town. After a few weeks, townspeople wondered what had become of Grafton and his crew. Several expeditions ventured into the dark forest in search of the mine, some never returned.
Later that year, on All Hallow’s Eve, a man frantically stormed into the tavern, shouting a story about how he found Grafton’s mine and how a gigantic fire-breathing dragon lived there. The fact that the man’s clothes were badly scorched seems to support his story. Unfortunately, the man died the next morning and the mine remained a mystery.
To this day, it is believed that there is still a lost gold mine in the dark forests of northern Michigan. If you listen carefully on Halloween night, you will hear the roar of the giant animal echoing across the land.
If you haven’t heard this legend, don’t feel bad about just making it up.
This year, The Home Depot asked me to incorporate a dragon, pony skeleton, and cat skeleton into a spooky scene for the 2020 Halloween Style Challenge, and I thought recreating the legend of the old man Grafton would be fun.
Develop the concept
When I found out which Halloween products The Home Depot was shipping, I developed a backstory and challenged myself to turn our garage into a haunted mine shaft / dragon’s den.
The mine shaft would depend on the technique of forced perspective, an optical illusion to make objects appear further away, closer, larger or smaller than they actually are.
In addition to the kite, the pony and the cat, I visited homedepot.com and ordered some skeletons and barrel planters of various sizes, as well as lanterns, a smoke machine, construction paper, paint, and vinyl plank floors. The Haunted Mine Dragon Lair theme would go well with the variety of different products.
Create the design
Armed with pencil and paper, I drew up concept sketches to give myself an idea of what it would take to create the illusion that our garage is the entrance to a lost gold mine.
To make sure the effect worked, I made a small prototype of how I would approach the project. The miniature version proved the effect would work and then it was time to build.
Shopping for products
Most of the products were delivered to our home or store very quickly, which made the whole process very easy.
Build the scenery
The forced perspective illusion of the mine shaft was achieved by creating five different backgrounds. Each successive background would be 50 percent smaller than the previous one.
Our garage door entrance is 7 feet high and 10 feet wide which meant the first backdrop had to be that big.
The backgrounds were made from construction paper, a heavy brown construction paper that was used to cover floors and the like when painting. The builder’s paper was taped together to make the required size. Then I carefully crumpled the paper to give it a very stone-like texture.
The texture was highlighted by spraying flat black spray paint at a 45 degree angle which added a nice shadow effect.
Next, the support beams of the mine shaft were made by simply gluing vinyl plank floors together to the paper background. Due to the size of the first two backgrounds, wooden boards were attached to the back. Add structural support.
The second background was created using the same method, only 50 percent smaller. Each backdrop was hung from the garage door rails with wire and clips.
Finally, a floor to the mine shaft was made from more paper from the client. Crumpled and painted using the same techniques.
Design of the display
Setting up the finished ad was pretty easy. After the backgrounds were hung and properly aligned, various props were added to enhance the optical illusion.
The first background showed skeletons about 5 feet tall and the second background used skeletons 3 feet tall. Barrels of different sizes were used in the same way.
The last three sets were much smaller. So I drew some skeletons and barrels suitable for the scales and attached them to the backdrops.
The barrels were made by gluing two barrel style planters together, a simple and economical means of making barrels.
The kite was the focus in front and the 5-foot skeletons, pony and cat took their positions.
The entrance was decorated with some cool Halloween-themed lanterns and black plastic chains. Antique tools and boxes rounded off the scene nicely and gave the room a rustic feel like in a mine shaft.
The legend goes on
In daylight the scene was very funny and compelling. The three-dimensional aspect of the mine shaft with forced perspective made your brain believe that the tunnel extended several hundred meters into the distance.
As soon as the sun goes down, the scene becomes magical. The kite was lit with a black light spotlight and the rest of the scene was lit with red LED spotlights and yellow insect lightbulbs.
The kite performance is sure to delight the trick or treating those who dare to visit, animated mouths, growling audio, glowing eyes and large clouds of smoke with The Home Depot’s 400 watt metal fog machine, Fog Liquid and Fog Hose Accessory Kit.
One of the cool things is that the mist that spurts out of the dragon’s mouth picks up the red and yellow light that makes it look like fire.
This was a fun and challenging project. It really shows that The Home Depot has everything you need to decorate your home for Halloween.
I wish you and your friends a fun and safe Halloween!