Halloween Countdown Clock
What is Halloween about?  Suspense!  More so than even Xmas that's true, but like that holiday, I wanted a prop that would address the anticipation leading right up to the main event itself.  And here it is!

Here's the second year we used it plus we added Halloween Jack up on top for added effect.

Here's the Halloween clock hanging on the front of the house on Halloween day in 2008!

So let's go back to the "making of" process...

Yes, those are Xmas decorations.  Dani and I decided to get an early start on the props this year.  (Our wedding cut into Halloween last year, hence not much new stuff besides our costumes.)

The numbers were printed out, then "drawn" using trace paper to make the outline around the edge.  At this point we hadn't gotten them all the right size or in place yet.

She does the detail work; I do my best to color between the lines.

Most of the way there with the numbers.

Note how there's a mix of Roman numerals, conventional numbers, and even bizarre little bits like the scratches for 5 and a 666.

Next comes the outline while the pugs nap.

For the clock arms I sketched a bunch of ideas:

1st row:

  • Conventional and distorted pointers



    2nd row:

  • Elongated coffin
  • Attempt at a pointing skeletal arm/hand
  • Lightning bolt
  • Distorted pointer



    3rd row:

  • Distorted pointer
  • Snakes

  • More sketches:

    1st row: 

  • Tim Burton-inspired, slightly deformed pointers
  • Beginnings of a skeletal arm (which was too detailed for my tastes)
  • A skeletal finger

  • 2nd row:

  • An elongated coffin
  • Dagger
  • Another lightning bolt
  • Hypodermic syringe
  • Grave digger's shovel

  • 3rd row:

  • Hatchet
  • Butcher's meat cleaver
  • Knives
  • Yet another Burton-inspired bent-up pointer
  • Pendulum from The Pit and the Pendulum (You can see that it started out with a chain, then became a handle.)

  • 4th row:

  • Demon/devil's tail (see the note: "Red!" to the left)
  • Ideas for clock shapes: pumpkin border and spiderweb

  • For clock arms, I sketched my favorite designs from the above onto this piece of plywood and another couple scraps lying around...

    ...then cut them out with the jigsaw...

    ...and here are the first three of four I cut: The arrow, coffin, and pendulum.

    Basic coat of black paint.

    The hands can then be fastened in place or loosened, changed out, etc. via a bolt with a wingnut.

    No, the clock isn't motorized.  I have to remember to switch it to the next position each night (or morning if I forget).

    I light-painted Dani in this shot, but it's otherwise long-exposure to show the glow-in-the-dark paint she added around the letters for this portion at the top of the clock.  My one regret here: It should say "nights" instead of "days," although I guess you probably notice it during the day more often if you're driving past our house.

    We added similar glow-in-the-dark outlining for the clock face and arms.  (You can see the outline in the image above.)  This really isn't especially effective at night unless you place a blacklight near it to make it phosphoresce.

    I wanted to set the clock crooked to match the clock's hand and the shutters on the house, but Dani wasn't a fan.

    In the end she won out.  This arrangement actually situated itself such that the boards aren't actually attached to one another, yet they snap flush together just as though they were.

    Alternate view with the spider now on the roof.

    Here's how they're attached.  Just some rope around the top of the columns bound to the hooks I drilled into them.

    I added a couple strips of old wood from the original back porch I tore up a few weeks before this.  Having nasty wood on the sides created a border for better contrast of the white clock on the face of a white house, but I think it would look better if they were painted black (The original idea was to make it look like an old clock).  Something to address next year.  (Update: I did paint them black, as you can see in some other pictures on this page.)

    Note also that I switched the arm out for the blade from The Pit and the Pendulum during these days where it sweeps near the bottom of the clock.  I had the coffin arm on here as well for several days but didn't think to get a picture of it at the time.

    The day before Halloween!  I changed the clock arm over to a snake sometime around here.

    Update 2009: A couple things new.  First of all, I moved it to the left edge of the house instead of right in the center.  That's still not ideal, but I didn't have any better ideas.

    The clock is guarded over by Halloween Jack.  More about him and how we made him on this page.

    Another thing was that I added a better border.  I wasn't happy with the rustic wood, so I replaced it with new pieces and painted them black.  They didn't line up perfectly in this shot because of the awkward way the two pieces of the sign are hanging, so that's something I'll fix the next time we put it up.

    Finally, I set up a blacklight bank (two T8 bulbs) to activate the glow-in-the-dark paint, and that really made it pop even from the street.

    Here's a quick overview of the arms.

    I start off the countdown with the "coffin" arm since that looks best almost vertical.

    As we get neat the bottom, however, the "pendulum" sweeps out an arc.

    The "snake" looks best in the horizontal points in the circle.

    But everyone's favorite arm is the crooked one that looks best at any point around the countdown, which is what I usually put up on Halloween night, like here when I was taking all these black-lit pictures, actually.

    Copyright 2007-2009 the Ale[x]orcist.