Sunday, November 1, 2015

Mashup Halloween 2015

I ain't 'fraid of no post-impressionism.
This year, Keith was hosting another of his now-famous Halloween Monster Mashup parties, and since Deanna and Loren were off in Kansas, I'd be flying solo. Costume-wise, people at this party really bring it. I knew I had to put together something good.

I started with some Pinterest-ing, looking up easy costumes to build off of, and saw that someone had done makeup to look like one of Vincent Van Gogh's self-portraits. I had considered making a costume from that a few years back, as I tend to like interesting makeup challenges.

But what to pair it with? A van? Nope, too big, and breaks the two rules of Matt's Halloween costumes*. Something with the word "go" to play off the last name? Goat? Goldfish? Gourd? Then Deanna had it—Ghostbuster.

I've wanted to be a Ghostbuster for as long as I can remember. I'm sure lot of jokes from the movie went right over my head as a child, but the special effects, the hardware, and the cornball spiritualism were right up my alley. My friend Brendan was lucky enough to have the officially licensed toys, but I remember using a backpack and flashlight for the "proton pack" and "neutrona wand."

I had a few pieces and parts at hand, but needed a lot of the bigger and more recognizable items to complete the outfit. Some people go absolutely nuts with movie-accurate replicas; casting resin, machining and welding metal, getting era-appropriate electrical parts—some even go so far as to add big speakers and electronics for the screen-accurate sound effects. If you're interested in that route, start at and then get the electronics from The GBfans plans are super detailed, and the Mighty Controller lights and sounds are just over-the-top with features and cool factor.

I had neither the budget nor know-how for that type of work, so for me, a few trips to Walmart and Home Depot provided most of the pieces I needed (aside from the elbow grease, of course).

My parts list was as follows:

Vincent Van Gogh, in the style of his painted self-portraits

  • makeup (leftover from previous Halloweens, and borrowed from my sister)
  • straw hat
  • bandage over ear
  • paint brushes (to attach to belt)

  • tan jumpsuit (or tan work shirt and pants)
  • WWII-era belt
  • long rubber gloves
  • elbow pads
  • combat boots
  • embroidered name badge
    • black fabric square
    • red embroidery floss
  • Ghostbuster logo embroidered patch
  • Proton pack
    • insulation foam (for sculpting) x3
    • PVC plumbing parts
    • shoulder straps
    • ribbon cable
    • wires, various gauge and color
    • corrugated plastic tubing
    • decals
    • old computer parts
    • blue LED strip
    • mini incandescent bulbs
    • batteries, battery housing
    • small electrical housing box
    • tupperware container lid
    • translucent plastic folders (red and blue)
    • black spray paint (matte)
    • various hardware pieces; nuts, bolts, screws
    • other greebles 
  • Neutrona wand
    • impact toilet plunger
    • old paint roller
    • toggle switches
    • old camera flashbulb holder (optional)
    • heat sink/wire binding post
    • wires
    • parts from a solar yard light
    • other greebles

Some of the random parts I started with

I was unable to find a cost-effective jumpsuit, so I ended up going with separate shirt and pants, but it looked nearly the same. I also couldn't find any elbow pads that looked quite right. They apparently wore knee pads for the film, but 1984 knee pads and 2015 knee pads are apparently of two completely different species, because all I found was huge armored mecha-robot knee pads. Regardless, with the tan outfit, some neoprene gloves, an army surplus belt and shoulder straps, and my trusty old combat boots, the Ghostbuster part was beginning to take shape.

Ghostbuster and/or janitor test fitting
The wand started with the toilet plunger handle, duct taped to an old camera flashbulb holder. In retrospect, it probably would have been better to forget this piece and just build something from scratch, but it did add a cool silvery element. I taped up a piece of molded paperboard packaging, and started here.

The next day, I didn't like the look of this and ended up scrapping the paperboard box, starting over with insulation foam. Some pieces and parts added, I did a rough test fitting.
Clear plastic housing from solar yard light, silver cylindrical pieces from a curtain tieback. 

Toggle switches placed into a flat piece of iPhone packaging plastic, pink insulation foam visible underneath. Handle from an old paint roller forms the black grip on the top right. 
This test looked much better, and actually had a little weight to it, which gave a nice, realistic feeling to this sci-fi weapon/device.

Moving forward with the proton pack, I used Stefan's plans from GBfans as a rough guide and started cutting the foam. A handheld jigsaw made quick work of it.

The "motherboard"

Spacer and cyclotron pieces added.
With a few more blocks cut out, I did another rough test fitting. This illustrates the low-budget, just-the-gist-of-it nature of my build.

Parts include: old curtainrod, shop vac accessory hangers, cheap flashlight housing, old computer fans, top of a solar yard light, top of a spraycan, PVC fixtures, tupperware lid, gutter downspout strap.
After a quick test, I learned that spraypaint dissolves most types of foam. Who knew! Apparently the propellant chemicals act as a solvent, which just eats the foam. With the pieces roughly in place, I needed a way to solve this problem, as well as add durability to the whole build. I did a little reading online, then got a can of Bondo and went to work.

Bondo in progress. Hole with tinfoil to be used for cyclotron lights.
I had only watched Bondo being used, so it was a bit of a learning curve to get the correct mixture of putty to hardener cream. Lesson learned; too much hardener makes it turn into an unworkable rubbery mess, too little and it takes hours to cure. A test piece worked really well, and I was able to sand the roughness down to a decent surface without too much effort, and it held the matte paint perfectly. I decided to do the foam on the wand this way as well.

At this point, my basement smelled like a chemical stockpile had caught fire, so I opened more windows and took a break with an equally daunting task—embroidery.

The Ghostbuster uniforms in the film have a name badge with their last name, and I thought this would also be an easy way to get beyond any "umm, a zombie ghostbuster... on vacation?" type reactions. I suppose I could have used puffy paint or something, but knew the badge would look better embroidered, even if it was shoddily done by a first-timer.

This is definitely a real embroidery hoop, and not a frame of cardboard with staples.
Might have been better if I looked at more than just the opening two pictures of the "Embroidery 101" article, but it works. 

Bright and legible, works for me!
Stitched this store-bought patch to the arm. Also super amateurish, but I only sewed the sleeve closed once, and it ended up staying on the whole night, so mission accomplished!
Uniform complete, it was back down to the basement to start sanding. Thanks to my handy oscillating tool, all the sanding was a cinch, even in tight spots.

Wand with sanded Bondo surfaces. The tape is to mask off areas from spraypaint.
At some point in here, I took everything outside for painting. Most everything got coated in matte black, save some silvery metal parts and the circles where the red cyclotron lights would be shining through. While this was all drying, I worked on the electronics.

I put together a momentary toggle switch and an extra bright white LED from one of the solar lights, so the end of the wand would light up when you hold the switch.

Various parts for the lights on the wand and pack. The bright blue LEDs (on the far right) really made the pack light up nicely. 
For the pack, I wanted to make sure I could turn the lights on and off, so I had to wire and solder some switches. The blue lights got a rocker switch, and big red cyclotron lights got a push-button. I blew up a couple red LEDs in testing (they also smelled lovely), so I fell back on some mini incandescents, which I had leftover from some past project. They weren't quite as bright, but still got the gist across.

Whoops, definitely wired this wrong the first time.
Love that heat-shrink tubing!
With the paint dry, and lights assembled, it was getting down to the wire (no pun intended)—only a few more hours until the party. Much fast and furious hot-gluing followed, which precluded picture-taking. After much assembly, and some minor melting incidents (and only two minor hot-glue burns), all the parts were drying in place, and I added stickers. I found these online as well, and printed them out on label paper for easy application.

Some silver sharpie at the edges of the bigger parts gave it the look of world-weary painted metal pieces. On the opposite side, I attached the army surplus shoulder straps with a few bolts and washers all the way through the foam. Even with the hardened bondo, these bit into the foam a little bit, so if I were to attempt it again, I'd probably start with some plywood (or even luan) backing, or find someone willing to cut me a big piece of aluminum.

The completed proton pack.
I was really pleased with how it turned out! Totally fulfilled my childhood dream of carrying the pack and wand. Not screen-accurate like the replica nutjobs, but really looked costume-worthy. Maybe sweded, if you will.

And the lights from the power cell and cyclotron really lit up the room nicely.

Pack lit up, wand light engaged.
So now came the quick and fun part. Van Gogh makeup, paint-daub-impressionist style. This was a little nerve-wracking only because I kept expecting trick-or-treaters, but only had to run to the door a few times (to much horror of small children).
Some green undertones

Lots of orange for the hair. More dark undertones shaping around the eyes, nose, and under the beard.

More darks around the edges of my features, and a ton of white brush strokes. Some more deep tones and highlights in the beard. 

Little strokes of bright orange and dark blue in the midst of brighter tones really bring out a painterly effect. Lowlights and highlights on the good ear.

The bad ear, to be under the bandage. Fake blood for effect.

With bandage and more blood. A solemn expression helps too.
And there you have it—Vincent Van Ghostbuster. Or Goghstbuster, if you prefer.

Paintbrushes and flashlight on the belt. I also added a strap, carabiner, and keyring for easy stowing of the wand to the belt. Gotta be able to hold a drink, you know! 

Back view, all lit up.
A haunted expression.
Obligatory cat tax:
Bezzie, with a come-hither stare.

*Two rules of Matt's Halloween costumes:
1. Must be able to use hands. Found out the hard way with this sharp and pointy costume in 2004.
2. Must be able to sit down. Found out the hard way with this large and boxy costume in 2006.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Our trip to Arkansas and Missouri was certainly eventful. 

We learned that flying anywhere through Chicago with a huge snowstorm imminent is far from easy.  

So after many delays, cancellations, and gate changes, we ended up in Tulsa, driving to Fayetteville in a rental car. Deanna is super pleased to have had the opportunity again to visit her absolute favorite state, Oklahoma. Oklahoma was happy to reciprocate with a big-ass speeding ticket.

After rendezvousing with the Varbleparents near the Wal-Mart capitol of the world, we made it to Eureka Springs. The feeling is a bit like Niagara Falls, but with a small town built into an Ozark mountainside instead of near waterfalls. A little touristy, but has a bunch of fun shops. And bars with rude locals, which was odd, because everyone outside the bars was super nice.

Oh yeah, and this thing was in our hotel lobby. It's supposedly a time capsule. At the time, I was hoping it was a magical device to help bring me my lost luggage. 

Preparing to take photos in Basin Park, next to the hotel. It might not show here, but it was pretty cold out. My photos of Jaime and Jarrett's wedding—highlights of which include much baby Jack cuteness, and a mustachioed man with his two favorite beverages—are here on Facebook.

A fancy house near the park.

I didn't realize until uploading the photos that there were so many buildings with old ads painted on the side. Neat. I like it.

Cheryl can't resist a photo op with the resident statues.

Here she is taking a photo of me, taking a photo of her from way up above on the hillside.

So many natives to befriend, so little time.

A view of the Basin Park hotel from the hillside. It's supposedly a haunted hotel, but the only thing that spooked us was the sink right next to the bed, and the near-unusable toilet in a tiny closet.

A unique door handle on a shop in town.

Cheryl was pleased to pose here too, although she may not appear so.

But to be fair, this guy is kind of terrifying.

After leaving Eureka Springs and spending some time in Joplin, we left for the Fayetteville airport again. It was just as well, we woke up the second morning with no power in the hotel. 

We were very worried that everything would be snowed out, it seemed the storm had caught up with us.

But we made it to Chicago, where I met a brachiosaurus.

And many drinks were had before returning home.