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A Pirates of the Caribbean Halloween


For me, Halloween has always been an opportunity to express individual creativity, to mingle with the neighbors, and to gather together with friends and family, enjoying spooky treats, games, music, and films together. What fun it is to be with someone that shares the same passion for Halloween as me. We look upon plywood, two by fours, cardboard, and butcher paper as the raw materials necessary not for the creation of mere decorations, but for the creation of an experience. Having both been raised in southern California, our love of Disneyland has often found its way into our Halloween party themes.

While riding the Pirates of the Caribbean one October, we decided we would attempt our own dead pirates cove for Halloween. We contemplated using foam to carve the cave structure but couldn't seem to find a reasonable source for the size and quantity we needed. The thought then occurred to us to use mesh and crumpled grey butcher paper. Jason got to work right away on the framework of the structure using two by fours and plywood. We soon realized that attaching the paper to the mesh was difficult at best so we swapped the mesh for cardboard. We were in business!

I got to work crumpling sheets of paper and stapling them onto the cardboard, bunching it up as I went to create a cave-like appearance. In the mean time, Jason began work automating a pirate ship wheel that we had purchased online (his background in automation engineering comes in quite handy for these projects).

He designed and programmed a positioning servo motor to move the wheel to random positions. Then he hung the pirate skeleton captain from a hook at the top of the cave and attached its hands to the wheel to make it appear that he was steering it.

Once I had finished creating the cave-like appearance, I added touches of artificial moss into the nooks and crannies in order to cover the seams as well as to create a wet, dank, abandoned look. Then came the fun part...creating the cursed treasure! I crumpled a few pieces of white paper inside a dilapidated-looking treasure chest that we had quickly thrown together with a few pieces of wood and cardboard. I spray-painted the crumpled paper gold and then began hot gluing plastic pirate coins and jewels onto the paper and the chest itself. I continued gluing until the treasure chest looked full. I added a skull on the top of the chest and draped it in cobwebs. Then I meticulously glued more treasure pieces throughout the cave. I added a full-size skeleton to the scene, placed a crown on his head, and wrapped his hand around a gold wine glass overflowing with more treasure.

Next came the pirate ship itself. Jason built the front end and the captain's quarters out of wood fence slats. We painted both ship pieces black using a spray gun. We positioned the front half on the lawn along with the mast and set the captains quarters against the edge of the cave. He created 2 cannons out of 4 inch PVC pipe. He connected a pneumatic cylinder to each PVC pipe which was mounted on a slide. He used air valves to control the cylinder and timed a spurt of air, fog, and a red light to go off simultaneously. So, when a cannon fired, the entire assembly moved back and released a spurt of fog to make it appear as though the cannon fired. He added sheer cloth to the captain's quarters windows and positioned flickering red lights behind it to create the appearance of a smoldering fire.

He enhanced the entire scene with carefully positioned purple, blue, green, red, and yellow lights can lights. It was so captivating, especially at night, that it began stopping traffic! We had so much fun that we began creating the pirate cove scene each year. We attracted enough attention one year to even have a news reporter come out and photograph it for the local paper.

We weren't sure if his photographs would really make in into the paper, but it turned out that they actually chose one to be the cover and printed more a few pages back to go with the article. I only wish the pirate hat hadn't blown off our skeleton friend prior to the pictures, but it was a fun shot anyway and a fun surprise!


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