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It all started with my Mom...

Can I blame her? Sure I can. I have 2 older sisters, a younger brother and sister. I know that before all us kids, art and painting was always a part of her life. She has a craft room and long book shelf still filled with art books and impressionist painters. I know she put that on hold as we demanded more of her time, and did not get back to painting until we were mostly out of the house… But growing up, she was always promoting art projects, making paints and crafts available. Because of her love of art, I was always drawn to these classes in elementary and Junior high school. One summer I clearly remember using her oil paints to paint an epic Viking Pirate ship sea battle at my grandfather's house. I wish I knew where that canvas ended up.

It continues with my Dad. I always had free rain in the basement or garage. I had to promise to clean up the tool bench, which I know I did not do very well. I had access to duct tape, wood, nails, and wire… Dad would come home from work some days and just shake his head as he beheld some of the contraptions I would build. He would say, sarcastically, "Did you use enough duct tape?" In all seriousness I would say, that "No, and if I could have found more this contraption would have been better".

Growing up, I lived in Bogotá Colombia, which I only vaguely remember, but I have an image of floating hot air balloons made from light paper bags and candles. There was a wild monkey chained in the park that only I could pet. We lived in Brussels Belgium, where my Mom took us on trips to Paris and the Louver. That is where my brother would watch for the security guards and I would blow wet breath on the humidity detectors… but that is a different story. Then we moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where I shared a room with my brother, and we would build traps and burglar alarms with wire, and batteries, buzzers and electric eyes. We always knew if someone had entered our domain unauthorized.

Also in Cleveland, I got to go to an awesome home haunt at Barry Thompson's house. He had a great house for this. Lots of long hallways. Rooms with 2 doors. A big trap door from one floor to another. You had to jump down onto a pile of mattresses in the dark. I think Brad or Doug were swinging on a rope as a hanged man… nice and creepy.

Then when we moved to Bartlesville Oklahoma, while I still went to haunted houses, and did Halloween parties, and dressed up for school, I didn't do a lot for Halloween. Time stretched out and I went to college, got married, moved to Sunnyvale, then San Jose, CA.

It was in San Jose CA, where I got bitten by the Halloween bug again. It was probably 1996. Some friends around the corner from us did a Haunted Garage. They spread the word around and told everyone in the neighborhood to come over… so for fun, Cindy and I went over. Not a whole lot of effort, I think they threw it together in a few days. They had hallways partitioned with cardboard and black plastic. Strobe lights, black lights, scary music. The main twist was, as you went in, a dummy was dropped from the rafters and fell on a big deep freezer, which then just lays there… you got startled by that… but then you went through a maze of plastic walls, and scary decorations. I think they had a pepper ghost effect, which was cool. Then as you came back around to the exit, you passed by the stuffed dummy that was still lying on the freezer. Only it jumped up and tried to grab you… They had an actor dressed in the same clothes switch places. It was a great scare, and we jumped big time… I may have even peed a little. Walking home I could only think, "I'm totally doing this"

We moved to Morgan Hill in 1997, I had a 2 car garage, and as they always say about the phycho killer next door, "He seemed like the nicest boy, but I know he was sick in the head". Every year the haunted garage and yard display gets bigger, better, and more elaborate. I have a notebooks filled with ideas, most of which come to me in mid-October while I'm setting for that year… and can't possibly do it, so it goes in the file labeled "Next Year". There are some cool ideas in those notes.

I consider Halloween my creative outlet, My kids and their friends were always taking art classes, and doing art projects, and I thought, "I'm missing out", so we started painting, and building every year. I still hang up the very first horror painting I did with my kids. One summer when my parents were out for a visit, I presented Mom a big blank canvas, a box of paints, and said, "You have 2 hours… Paint me a haunted America Gothic. Please…. Please". Now every year I try to get a new painting of some type, painted either by me, or one of my Boys or one of their friends. Some are really disturbing and a bit creepy.

One year, not long after I had started Haunting in Morgan Hill, I was at a Home Dept. I was buying some hardware and PVC pipe for a prop I was going to build, when I ran in to a guy, who overheard me asking a weird question, made a comment, and I realized he was a fellow haunt fanatic. He was also buying PVC… It was early July, very late to be starting for the next Halloween… We started talking and he let me know that there was a "support" group that meets every month. While I don't get to go as often as I would like, Cal Haunts Northern California, has been a great group. "Hi, my name is Jim, and I like to scare people…" they said "no, use your haunt name". "Oh, sorry, hi, my name is Squeaky Hinge, and I like to scare people…"

I try to justify all the effort, but like most starving artist, I really can't. But, I can't stop either. It's all for fun and charity. I collect food and donations for the Second Harvest Food Bank. I know I have been successful when I have 300+ Trick or Treaters come through the Haunt, and end up with more than 200 cans of food. It means they planned to come. Every year about Oct 10th, I start having the neighborhood kids riding into the court to check to see if I'm setting up. They always remember and can't wait… and neither can I.

The Squeaky Hinge Project, is an artistic, creative, technical experience that manifests itself in the form of a Halloween yard display and haunted house.

It is dark… and it is creepy, but I would consider it appropriate for all ages. I can "set" it to be more or less scary and nothing will actually grab you…

Stop by on Halloween, bring a can of food for the local Second Harvest food bank, and peek into my psychosis. Let me know if you want to get involved. Even follow the progress on https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheSqueakyHingeProject/

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