In the past I have shamed myself: putting out a few meager pumpkin specimens with (almost) smiley faces, while my neighbours put in a huge effort. These ranged from amazing carving, to dry ice cauldrons, to houses where an entire show is put on. In one house the garden path is covered with bubble wrap so it pops as you walk over it, trees are draped with so many cobwebs that you enter at your peril to be greeted by eerie music and ghoulish fiends who hand over individual parcels of goodies. In another house an entire supermarket supply of pumpkins decorates the front garden and the front room is set up almost like a Miss Havisham stage set.
When the kids arrive the owner guides them down a side passage where she has music playing, flashing lights and tins cans hanging which she then bangs with a stick as she runs through the “Tunnel” with the children screaming behind her.
Last year however, I discovered a new pumpkin carving technique (watch out for next weeks blog!) and upped my game a little. One of my daughters happens to have a birthday at Hallowe’en so over the years we have had a number of parties. These have always been fairly simple affairs. This year she has asked to have a party on the night and as she is a good bit older and seriously into the spooky side of things there are no excuses: its preparation time!
Determined not to spend much money and to re-use and recycle as much of the box of old stuff that we seem to have accumulated over the years as possible, I set about a plan to make our house (and garden) decidedly spooky. To truly set the scene I decided to work with the outside of the house before moving indoors. First the windows!
Silhouettes are an inexpensive but effective way of creating impact. We could have taken some spectacular templates from the Martha Stewart website but opted instead for some pretty simple silhouettes that we made up ourselves.
Using a couple of cardboard boxes (I knew there was a reason we move house so often, it’s one thing we are never short of) we first decided what size the silhouette would need for the size of the window. This simply involved one person holding the cardboard up in front of the window and deciding what size the pieces of cardboard should be.
We decided on three different types of silhouettes. The first was of my daughter being attacked by a floating being (grim reaper style).Then we drew a very rough outline of a shape onto the cardboard, first in pencil, then in black marker. We then did the same for the other shapes.
We cut the pieces out using a combination of scissors and a sharp craft knife (using a cutting board to ensure no damage to surfaces)
We then painted the cut out shapes black.
We also added some hanging and flying bats
…and a mangy moggy who got a fright!
We stuck the shapes onto the window using tape and placed some sheer curtains behind to give an ethereal effect.
To finish it off I placed some green light blubs behind each window to give an extra spooky dimension but it looks pretty good with just a regular light bulb as well. Add some ominous clouds and the first part of the spooky setting is done!
Scary person in window
As well as using silhouettes in the windows I also decided to make a scary person in the front living room window.
To do this I used a mannequin that I use to hang jewelry and scarves on but actually I think a cardboard box could work as well.
I put the mannequin on to a small table to give it life size proportions. Then I wrapped an old curtain around it before placing a t-shirt with holes over the whole lot. (the recycled t-shirt was previously used as a witches dress when my daughter was very small and I could still get away with that sort of thing!)
I then placed a bucket over the top to form the head and pulled the curtain down to look like a skirt and hide the table. Before putting a “Scream” mask that was in our Halloween box of decorations, over it.
From the outside it looked like this.
The orange bucket (eyes) glow quite well from outside.
I short while after I had finished making her, I walked into the room and nearly jumped out of my skin. Daft, I know but for some reason the shadow of the life size person when you are in the room is actually more scary that the view from the garden, especially when you see the reflection of the face in the glass!
I think it is true to say that there is very little about Halloween that is in good taste. If you think you might be offended by a “murder” or a “Grave” or two on the night, then I recommend staying at home, or at least avoiding my neck of the woods. Next up was the creation of a crime scene. In order to do this most of the work was done inside before setting up the scene outside.
I used a black picnic mat using the reverse waterproof side. However this could be done on cardboard or even a blanket as there is no lasting damage. My daughter lay down and I drew an outline of her in chalk.
I then used masking tape to create the outline properly.
Blood splodges, hand and footprints were created with some red paint on black paper. These can be simply placed onto the black surface or if cardboard is used you could just paint the “blood” onto it directly.
Next I used card to write some numbers to identify locations of items such as weapons.
Finally out came our trusty party canopy to create the crime scene look that is often shown on the news.
Some Halloween tape bought in a Euro shop and a selection of tea-lights(candles) in jam jars helped to finish off the scene. I always knew that plastic axe would come in handy!
Lastly we had to deal with the “body” so it was time to create a “grave” in the front garden.
First we made a Rest in Peace (RIP) sign on a piece of timber.Then we simply raked up a pile of leaves into the shape of a grave and surrounded it with tea lights as before. (ie no actual digging up of the garden is required!) In our box of decorations acquired over the years we had a plastic arm so we placed the hand under the leaves just peaking out. (we also used to have a leg which we seem to have mislaid but this used to look great handing out of the back of the car!)
I hope you can take a little bit of inspiration from them and get in the mood for a spooky night ahead!
Ps next week I will look at what to do with pumpkins for decoration as well as a couple of recipes for using up the pulp.