Halloween Yard Decorations | DIY Fun and Cheap!
Make Creepy Halloween Decorations For Your Yard
Creating a front yard setting that is both awesome and creepy to amuse, scare and delight the trick-or-treat crowd is easy, but it does take some time. At one time, we used to have "the best house on the block" for Halloween. We never put out the decorations prior to Halloween--that way, it was always a surprise for the doorbell-ringers, most of whom were local kids.
We'd begin right after school let out, and be finished by a little before dinner, just in time for the first round of the youngest groups. This worked out well, as it is usually not quite dark by then, and is less scary for the toddlers likely to show up with parents then.
But after dark, oh, my! Watch out! We had some really creepy stuff, and very rarely, even gave a start to some of the adults.
I am very sorry, but I do not have any photos from back then. I don't know what happened to them, and the camera I had then was not very good in low-light situations, and using flash spoiled the effect, so the quality was poor anyway.
But, follow along--I know you all have working imaginations--my intent is to start you thinking. Consider this article as a springboard for ideas of your own.
Make It Yourself--It's Easy
We did not have the budget for much in the way of purchased mass-produced decorations, so we used our imaginations, and came up with all sorts of things from stuff we had in the house or laying around the backyard.
Here are some basic things you probably already have or can easily scrounge up:
- garden gloves
- leftover or broken fence boards or shelves
- small sticks or branches
- black plastic sheet or trash bags or black landscaping fabric
- black sewing thread
- plain old dirt
- cardboard boxes
- poster paint or spray paint and permanent markers
- old shoes
- wire coat hangers or bamboo plant stakes
- masking or duct tape
- small nails
- plastic skeletons or pieces from a broken one
All of theses things, plus many others that you can probably think of, now that I've started the list, can be used alone or in combination to create a "spookified" yard display.
The Creations You Can Make
Probably the most common scare-scene for Halloween is a fake graveyard. This is also probably the easiest. You can do the entire front lawn area, if you choose, or just a portion. If you live in a large city with no front yard, or postage-stamp-sized lawns such as San Francisco, more creativity is needed, but still not an impossible feat.
For our setup, we made 'tombstones' cut from cardboard boxes, and labeled with goofy--but-scary-sounding names, "Here lies The 100-year horror; Born, 1875, Buried, Oct. 31, 1955,1956, 1957, 1958,... etc... (make up dates that will sound as if the thing is about to emerge again the given year of your display.)
How to Make the Open "Grave"
Naturally, you want a "Count Dracula" grave..and this should be nearest the walkway...here's how to make this creepy effect.
Take the old board, and (depending on the condition of your yard, you can either dig a shallow hole the length of the board, (our yard was toast, thanks to gophers and water rationing...), but if you want to preserve your lawn, use the dark plastic or fabric under the board to give the illusion of an open hole.
Next, prop the board up on one side, from both ends, (see drawing) so its lengthwise dimension is "open" to the ground using short sticks painted black. Use nails to fasten the board to the ends of the sticks. Sprinkle dirt over the top of the board.
There are several lighting tricks you can use for maximum creepy value. The first is the simplest: replace your normal porch light with either a blue bulb or a blacklight bulb, both available at party supply stores.
For the decorations in the yard, it helps to have a couple of clamp-on floodlight reflectors fitted with floodlights. You don't want the light too bright, though, so either use blue bulbs, or fit a couple of layers of blue plastic wrap or stage filter (if you have access to such props) over the open side of the floodlight. If you have the larger reflectors, the color medium won't be close enough to the light bulbs to melt, but will diffuse the brightness quite well.
Be sure and disguise the reflectors with shrubbery or behind landscape rocks, or whatever is available. If your yard is situated right up against your neighbor's yard, you might ask permission to clamp one or two of your lights onto their fence or a tree limb to aim at your yard. Our neighbors at the time had a boat on a trailer parked between us, and we were allowed to place one of the lights on the trailer, aimed at our yard.
Sometimes, neighbors get together to create a whole "spook block" of creepy decorations.
This one is pretty easy. Depending on the weather and temperature, you can either open a window in your home and aim a speaker out the window, while you have a CD of "haunted house sound effects" playing on endless repeat.
Or, you can run the speaker wire out the window or door and hide the speaker near the door, so you can keep the inside and outside temperatures in their proper places. Be sure to crank the volume high enough to attract the attention of the trick-or-treaters just entering your block. Oh, and if you are wanting to watch TV or something inside. do yourself a favor, and disconnect the wires from the speaker left in its normal spot. :-D
This is a really fun thing to do, and there are a couple of ways to perform this bit of living décor.
The first requires a person willing and able to sit very, very still for extended periods, and be able to control themselves from laughing. Have them dressed all in black, including a black-face 'death' mask..the kind with a black mesh front. They will be able to see through, and know if people are approaching, but their own features remain hidden.
The object here is merely to induce speculation among the visitors as to whether this is a "dummy" placed on the bench or chair, or a real person. Do not move, do not make any action or say anything to either confirm or deny their speculations. Let them leave still wondering.
HOWever....and this is where the fun begins...if someone approaches the "dummy," and reaches out to poke or touch a shoe or arm to check...then the person very slowly leans forward and says "BOO!" but barely above a whisper! I had all kinds of fun playing this role. The best was when I caused an adult to nearly fall over himself from being so startled.
The other piece of living décor is better suited to teenagers who may still want to play, but be too old for trick-or-treat, and not like sitting still, either. Dress them all in black with some kind of flowing black fabric for a cape, and a 'scream' mask. Have them stand near the door, and as people come up the walkway, SCREAM and run away around the corner of the house!
The visitors will get quite the start, and it is funny to see the reactions that the 'creepy monster' is apparently 'scared' of their costumes...after all...spacemen and princesses would be quite scary and out-of-place in Transylvania now, wouldn't they?
A Creepy Sensation-Based Effect
Spider webs are the ultimate creep-out for many folks. But instead of using those white things they sell, that have to be stretched out to create the 'effect,' and end up looking clunky, chunky, and oh-so-obviously fake, use a nearly invisible thread.
Take black sewing thread, and measure from the top of your entry way--say, the front porch, or stairway entry--down to about head-height of kids about age 10 or so. Take lengths of thread that are double that measure plus about 5 inches. Lay out the threads flat on a counter or table...you will probably need an assistant, (especially if you have "help" such as toddlers or cats), to keep the threads evenly spaced. Use enough to cover the width of the entry, but not solidly: you want them spaced about avery 3 inches or so.
Cut a length of duct tape the width of the entry, and lay it across the center point of all the threads. Now, take it out and stick the tape up to the underside of the entryway. The threads will drape down, be almost invisible under your altered spooky lighting, and sure to send screeches into the night as visitors think they've walked into a spider web.
That's All There Is To It!
The above are some basic ideas to get you started on a fun, budget-friendly Halloween the whole family can help with, and all have fun together.
Have fun, and play safely!
Have a very happy HOWL-O-WEEN!
© 2011 Liz Elias
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