All posts by Melvira

5-Minute “Bleeding” Candle Tutorial

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Looking to add some gore to your decor, but you don’t have a lot of time (and don’t want to invest a wad of cash)?

Here’s your EASIEST way to creep up any Halloween table!

And the best part? We used items found at our local dollar store and saved a bundle on a truly creepy, authentic-looking prop. Read on to find out how to transform ordinary candles into lighting with a creep factor in just 5 minutes (really!).

Step One: Gather Your Supplies

You will need:bleedingcandles5

  • one or more white candles; either burning wick or flameless/battery-operated
  • a red candle with a tapered end
  • decor items to surround your bleeding candles, if desired
  • a surface that’s easy to clean up; put down newspaper or a disposable sheet

Step Two: Safety FIRST

Although this tutorial is super-simple, please remember that you’re utilizing flame. Keep flammable items away from the area you’re working on. Do not allow children to do this craft on their own.

If you’re using plastic battery-operated (flameless) candles, remember that plastic can be very toxic if melted. DO NOT touch the flame of the melting candle to the plastic of your battery-operated candle. Hold the flame at least 1″ away and drip downward.

bleedingcandles6Step Three: Melt the Red Candle Over the White Candle(s)

Take the red taper candle and light the end. Now, holding it at an angle so you don’t accidentally light the wick on the white candle, drip red wax down onto the white candle. Try to have this look somewhat random, as if “blood” were flowing down the candle.

 

Step Four: Allow to Cool Completely

The wax should cool quickly, but some may puddle up near the wick. Allow the candle to cool upright.

Step Five: Add Decorbleeding candles

Now that you have some creepy candles made, you can simply place your bloody candles on a table or around your Halloween party area, or if you’d like, arrange them to look spooky.

Get creative. Add pumpkins, spiders, moss, leaves, cobwebs, or whatever strikes your fancy. (Just make sure to keep flammable items away from the candle flame.) Here, we used Spanish moss and a scrolled candle-holder.

Enjoy – this one simple prop will add awesome ambiance to your decor!

Dia de los Muertos: Get Your Dead On!

Can’t get enough Halloween? Then celebrate it twice! Here’s the 411 on a famous Spanish-community holiday…and how you can get in on the action, including song, dance, flowers, history, and of course…candy!

What is Dia de los Muertos?

Dia de los Muertos (“day of the dead” or “day of the dead ones”) is actually three days: Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2. However, many celebrants combine the traditions into one day.

Dating back hundreds of years as an official celebration and possibly linked to ancient Aztec culture, Dia de los Muertos honors those who have passed through the veil that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead.

Various Spanish-origin cultures celebrate Dia de los Muertos, but in the United States it is most popular among the Mexican population. Parades are held in major Mexican-populations across the U.S., most famously Los Angeles, San Diego and Tuscon.

Behind the Partying: Why It’s Celebrated

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Dia de Los Muertos has a religoius element. Image: Senor Codo

You may not hold to the following beliefs, but taking a bit from tradition can add a fascinating element of honoring one’s past.

  • Oct. 31: All Hallow’s Eve. On this night, altars are erected in the home to honor loved ones who have passed on. Some families officially invite the spirits of their loved ones to the three-day celebration. Children may erect their own mini-altars, inviting the angelitos (dead children) to the household. Grim? Perhaps – but it’s a fascinating and very respectful way to remember one’s own heritage.
  • Nov. 1: All Saint’s Day. On this day, the adult “passed spirits” are believed to enter the celebration.
  • Nov. 2: All Souls’ Day. Families visit the graves of deceased loved ones. They clean the area and decorate it, usually with colorful bouquets of flowers, as well as rosaries, photos and little gifts for the deceased.

These are all Christian calendar dates, but there’s a very pagan element to Dia de los Muertos, and it is believed that some aspects of the three-day celebration tie in to pre-Columbian Central and South America.

Waking the Dead: How to Celebrate

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Mmm! Sugar skulls, or “calaveras,” are (almost) too pretty to eat. Image: Danielle

Wow – get ready for a wild ride! Dia de los Muertos is generally a community affair with colorful décor, music and dancing. Here are a few ways that celebrants honor the three-day festival:

  • A parade. The three-day festival often begins with a procession, complete with music. Individuals carry photos of deceased family members, colorful bouquets of flowers and dress up to the nines for what is basically an opening ceremony to the holiday. Start a tradition by having a parade in your neighborhood or by hosting a Dia de los Muertos party.
  • Las calaveras. Literally “the skulls,” these delicious sugar treats – or “sugar skulls” – are too beautiful to eat. Months may go into crafting these sweet creations, but if you’d like to try a sugar skull yourself, there are online vendors who offer them. (In areas that have a large Mexican population, you may be able to purchase them at markets.)
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Paint yourself calacas-style. Image: Cody Garcia
  • Decorate with flowers. Orange marigolds are the most popular flower for Dia de los Muertos, but there really are no rules – for this holiday it’s flowers, flowers everywhere! Buy flowers or consider making paper flowers yourself.
  • Bake pan de muerto (literally “bread of the dead”). Share it with family and friends, or take loaves to the cemetery to leave as ofrendas (offerings).
  • Decorate with calacas. Calacas are skeletons painted fancifully, often as a spoof: for example, dancing or singing skeletons, or calacas playing musical instruments.
  • Paint your own face calacas-style! Paint your face white with theater paint, then add flowers, patterns and anything beautiful you can dream up.
MexicanSugarSkullDotCom
Image: mexicansugarskull.com

Whatever you decide to do, make sure there’s plenty of great music – traditional Mexican music is a great pick – and lots of food (and drink, if you’d like).

Though its point seems morbid (and is, in its most literal definition), Dia de los Muertos is actually a celebration of life carrying on, while letting the dead know they’re not forgotten. So get your Spanish on and get partying!

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The spooktacular celebration of death (and life) often starts with a no-holds-barred parade. Image: Larry Lamsa

Make a Dollar Store Halloween Wreath

At my house with small children, we appreciate the whimsical as much as the creepy. It’s always a challenge to find Halloween decorations that fit both these criteria.

Here’s one we came up with that was so simple – and so cheap! Using only dollar store items, you can make this project, too. Let’s go shopping and get crafting!

You will need:

  • a grapevine or willow wreath or a metal or plastic wreath form (or you can use a few faux vines, twisted together)
  • dried moss (flower décor) if you’re using a metal or plastic wreath form – buy two bags
  • orange ribbon
  • black ribbon
  • twine, or any dark-colored thin yarn, frayed
  • embellishments (spiders, cobwebs, etc.)
  • one “highlight” embellishment (a miniature witch, a skeleton, etc.)
  • a hot glue gun and a stick of hot glue

(For reference, I got all of my materials at the dollar store, including the glue gun. This item won’t be the best quality if you find it at your local dollar store, but even if you only get a few uses out if it, it will have paid itself off.)

Here’s the process:

  1. If you’re using an empty wreath form, stuff the form with the moss. Pack densely.

    Just one reason of many that I love Dollar Tree: cheap wreaths.
  2. If using a wreath form and moss, begin wrapping the twine all around the filled form, spacing evenly. Use the hot glue gun in various spots to hold the twine in place.
  3. If using a grapevine wreath, start with the ribbons instead. Wrap the wreath with the orange ribbon in the style shown. Now wrap with black ribbon. Use the hot glue gun in various spots to hold the ribbon in place.
  4. If using the wreath form, continue by wrapping the black and orange ribbon as shown (over the twine). If using a rattan wreath, wrap with twine. Hot glue into place.
  5. Now hot glue your embellishments on at intervals all along your wreath. For the wreath form, you’re probably better off gluing and pressing down over part of the form rather than simply gluing items into the moss, unless your items are very light weight. I used spiders.
  6. Tie a piece of twine to the back of your wreath (through the grapevine branches or around the wreath form) so it is hanging down. Tie or glue your highlight embellishment to the end. I used a witch, as shown.
  7. You can easily make this wreath a whole lot scarier. Gore it up or use more graphic imagery. You can also add cobwebs to the finished item for a haunted effect.
Mini skeletons from 99 Cents Only Stores.

You probably don’t need a hanger on the back of the wreath; there should be plenty of spaces between the twigs/along the form to hang the wreath on a hook. You can go ahead and hot glue a hanger if you wish, though. This too can be purchased at most dollar stores.

Voila! A great Halloween wreath on the cheap. For this low cost, you can make several and decorate all your windows. Or have a wreath-making party for friends. You’ll be surprised by how both adults and kids get into this.

CAUTION: Do not allow children to operate the hot glue gun. Have them place their items onto the wreath where they want them and then have an adult hot glue them into place. Be safe and have fun with this easy, inexpensive Halloween craft.

 

 

Seven Unique Ways to Use Skeletons in Your Decor

As an icon of spookiness, skeletons have always had their place on Halloween. If you grew up in the 60s, 70s or early 80s, you may remember the dangling cardboard skeletons that the “good candy house” always had on their door.

Today’s skeleton decor is kicked up a notch – a big notch. Lifesize plastic skellies (poseable or dangling) are showing up in more windows, more yards — even in more cars (more on that later).

Here are seven ways to have fun with a skeleton and give a giggle as well as a scare. Note: click each pic for a source reference. Stealing someone else’s work? Now THAT’S grim.

Just Hangin’ Out

Have your skeletons climb various parts of your house or even hang from one another. You can use wire from Home Depot or Lowe’s to secure your skeletons. Be careful and be sensible. If you’re going to attach your skeletons up high, use a sturdy ladder and have a friend over as a spotter.

Here are three fun ideas for hanging your skeletons (you will need to use poseable jointed skellies):

  • Have the skeletons climb the side of your house. Place one skeleton securely on the ground on its knees. Place top skeleton next and wire in place (be careful of your siding and fixtures). Now you’ll know how to pose the skeleton or two in between. Have them climbing one another’s shoulders or giving each other a boost. Wire securely in place.
  • Hang skeletons from a tree. Using a noose is old school (and can be awesome, don’t get us wrong!). Having the corpses actually grab onto a branch and hang gives the hanging theme a fun twist.
  • Wire one skeleton’s hands to another’s feet and place them in funny poses. Hang from any area outside your house that will securely hold them.

Haunted Hillbillies

Available at Grandin Road

Pose two or more skeletons on a bale of hay. I find hay bales on the cheap in early October at pumpkin patches and local farm stores. If you can’t locate a hay bale, seat them on creaky old chairs.

Dress your skeletons in “hillbilly” gear. If their joints don’t stay in place when you pose them, wire them to the rib cage in hilarious poses. The picture shown here is very Deliverance, with a sense of humor — if that’s possible! (We believe it is, but then again…we’re creepy!)

The Pedaling Dead

For this idea, your skeletons don’t need to walk — they have a sweet ride!

Use any bicycle for this idea. Use the kickstand, if your bicycle has one, to secure the bike upright. If not, set the wheels between large stones. Place your skeleton in riding position on the seat. Wire its hands to the handlebars.

Even more horrifying: dress your skellie as a child and dress up the bike old school, with a huge bicycle horn and ribbons in the wheels. Eek! Use 3″ or 4″ poseable skeletons for a child, 5″ or larger for an adult.

All Creeped Up

Image: Six Flags Magic Mountain

If you have a skeleton or two hanging around and they’re in a state of disrepair, don’t despair. This quick decor idea covers flaws and is very creepy!

To create this creepy creature, drape pieces of old fabric over the head and torso. We suggest cheesecloth or pre-aged Creepy Cloth, available in craft stores or online.

Once you have a draping you like, use a hot glue gun to attach the fabric to various points on your skeleton. Be sure to leave lots of fabric loose, though. When the winds pick up, you’ll get a wonderful waving-in-the-breeze effect.

Bony Scarecrow

This is another very simple idea, and it’s cheap if you already have a skeleton hanging around.

Nail together two boards into a lower case “t.” You can use as tall a vertical board as you’d like, but make sure your skeleton including the head will be at least 4″ off the ground.

Tutorial by rupertoooo

Drive the bottom of your “t” into the ground. If you’ve used a board that has a pointed shape on the bottom, this will be easy. If not, use a mallet and try to find semi-soft earth so your board will go into the ground at least 4-6″ for sturdiness.

Dress up the top portion of a skeleton torso in rags. Have plenty of hanging material so it will blow in the wind. Place a hat on its head with some craft store hay sticking out. Insert creepy twigs into the sleeves of the shirt or jacket you’ve dressed your scarecrow in. Or you can use old gloves.

Now hang the dressed up skeleton onto the boards, using wire or twine. Done!

If you really want to get artistic about it, corpse up your skeleton beforehand by adding plastic wrap around the skull, then using a blow dryer to melt it into creepy skin all around the skull (see our tutorial here).

Haunted House Guest

Available at Shindigz

Set up your poseable skeleton in any chair, on the couch or on your porch. Place it in a relaxed position. Some ideas:

  • Place a drink in its hand.
  • Have a cigar hanging out of its mouth.
  • Put it on an old castoff toilet and glue a newspaper to its hands.
  • Put it in a rocking chair with a mini skeleton in its arms as if it’s rocking a baby.
  • Pose one arm up so it’s waving at cars as they go by.
  • Set it up in bed with a book propped between its hands. Make sure party guests go into your bedroom to put aside coats or bags.
  • Sit the skellie in a chair, holding a bowl of cereal. Put a handful of cereal in the skeleton’s lap as if it’s eating the cereal, and the food is just falling through.

Riding Shotgun

Credit: imgflip.com

This decoration is guaranteed to get a second glance. Be careful, though; don’t go too hard-core as rubbernecking of other drivers could cause an accident.

Place a life size skeleton in the passenger side of your car. Put a seat belt across the skeleton as if it were a normal passenger. You can add any accouterments: a pretty Sunday hat, a cigarette in its fingers as its bony elbow leans on the door, etc.

Bottom line: be creative and have your skeletons do things a live person would do. That’s the irony and the humor — albeit morbid.

Make a Dead Fairy…Plus BONUS Unicorn Skeleton

Brothers Grimm, look out – this is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Have you seen the dead fairies in jars or trophy cases that are popping up all over Pinterest? So cool! They look complex to make, but prepare to be surprised: I made my own dead fairy for our Halloween garden display in a creepy little twinkle. (And they call me butterfingers. Or worse.)

Here’s what I did to turn a pair of wings and a little plastic into something truly (wait for it)…Grimm.

You Will Need:

  • A small plastic novelty skeleton
  • Craft fairy or dragonfly wings (link below)
  • Doll tutu or other fairy-like outfit that will fit your finished prop
  • A small amount of faux hair
  • Hot glue gun and a glue stick
  • Matte brown spray paint and matte tan spray paint to distress your skeleton, if desired
Credit: Pinterest, Syren Song

NOTE: See the bottom of this article for my finished version.

ONE: First I gathered my materials. I already had a set of 5” plastic skeletons on a string. I cut one off the string and laid it aside.

Meanwhile, I had done some bargain shopping on the internet and found a small pair of craft fairy wings.  Make sure you’re buying a size that will fit your skelly!

I also harvested a few pieces of hair from an old wig. And (shhh) I stole a skirt from one of my daughter’s Barbies. I know. For shame.

TWO: My skeleton was already distressed-looking. If you have an all white

You can make a “pet” for your fairy too! Grab a model horse skeleton, diistress it with matte spray paint, etch it with a fingernail to rough it up, and add a plastic horn. Credit: Pinterest, Oddard.

skeleton, make it more realistic by taking black chalk and gently feathering it into the eye sockets, between the ribs, etc.

Another great way to distress “skeletons” is to dab brown or flat bronze spray paint onto a sea sponge. Then transfer the paint onto the skelly in dabs. Allow to dry completely, then dab accents with a slightly lighter color.

THREE: I heated up my trusty glue gun and put a dot on the wings where they joined. I pressed the wings onto the skeleton’s back. Then I placed the skeleton on its front, wings upward. The glue hardened within about three minutes.

FOUR:  I took a few strands of the wig hair, cut them to length and hot glued them to random spots on the fairy’s skull. This wasn’t necessary; I just thought it looked really, really cool.

FIVE: Next, I placed the skirt onto the fairy. I had to tuck the top under due to sizing issues, but the effect was still great. If you have any tulle, lace or other foofy material around, cut a bit and make a skirt out of that. Simply hot glue a seam and hitch it over your skeleton’s legs.

SIX: I placed the dead fairy in what we call The Grotto at our house. This is where we plan to have part of our spooky walk-through on Halloween. The fairy and other creatures will be spot-lit on the big night. You can put your fairy in a jar, pin it down onto a matte board taxidermy-style or prop it up anywhere.

dead fairy prop for Halloween

Tips and Alternatives to the Above  Method

  • Some truly inspired souls use modeling clay to create dripping flesh, pointy ears, etc. If you’re the artistic type, go ahead and try this. However, if you distress your skeleton as in Step 2 above, you don’t necessarily have to add anything to the fairy’s bones.
  • You can also hot glue tiny antennae on the skull (in fact, I may do this with my next dead fairy). Have one antenna bent down. You can use small cuttings of craft wire to create this effect. Ball a tiny bit of clay on the end of each and allow to dry before positioning your antennae and gluing them on.
  • The creepiness of this prop lies in the fact that most of us associate fairies with whimsy and sweetness. To see one lying there rotting in its tutu is a bit of a shocker – and makes for a great Halloween prop. Dress your dead fairy in bits of adorable draped fabric or, like I did, with doll clothes. You can dress your fairy male, female or androgynous.
  • Position the arms and legs so that the fairy looks like it has expired. If your miniature skeleton isn’t poseable, break off the arms and legs carefully and then hot glue into the position you want them.

Remember: you can always buy a creepy creation if you don’t have the time, materials or will to make one. Check out ebay and etsy for artists who will be happy to creep up a sweet memory just for you.

And now … I’m out of here. (waving wand)

How to Make a Haunted Doll Halloween Prop

 

Above: This not so innocent little prop is a real scream.

dollcreepyDolls. They’re just…creepy. Dolls have been used in movies and literature to send a chill down the spine. And they’re uber-popular a Halloween costumes – especially the “broken doll” variety.

But why? Aren’t dolls supposed to be lovable…huggable…cute?

There’s something about a doll that’s almost – but not quite – human. Perhaps it’s what’s termed the uncanny valley effect: they’re real-looking (sort of), yet they’re frozen, staring eternally at something we ourselves can’t quite see. 

This year, go spine-chilling with your decor and creep up a doll as a Halloween prop. Here’s how to create a skin-crawling Halloween doll on the cheap.

Finding a Victim … Er, Doll as Your Prop Base

Doll, Before Being Creeped Out
The author’s starting product: cute!

If you don’t have an old doll around, hunt for one at the Goodwill, Salvation Army, a local yard sale or thrift shop. Ebay can offer steals, too.

Remember: the worse condition the doll is in, the better. Missing limbs or off-kilter eyes really amp the creep factor, but any wear and tear will add to the eeriness of your prop.

Want MORE Realism? Click HERE to Craft a Haunted Reborn Doll

Clothing and Hair Tips

  • Come on – really get your claws into this one! Ruffle your doll’s hair. For curly doll hair, a hairbrush is perfect for creating huge, awful-looking frizz.
  • Get his/her clothes a little messy. For instance, a cute boy’s doll vest that’s off one arm and hanging is a great “haunted doll” look. A girl doll in a sweet sundress that’s tattered and a bit dirty is definitely high on the creepiness scale. One item missing can be the perfect touch, i.e. one missing patent leather shoe or one pants leg torn off.
  • In my example, the doll arrived without clothes (an ebay bargain). I felt the contrast between the stuffed and sewn body and the plastic limbs gave the doll an older feel, adding to the haunted effect, so I left her undressed.
  • If your doll’s hair is dyed into the plastic or painted on, paint over it in dramatic black. Use a flat rather than a glossy paint. After the paint has dried, chip it here and there with a fingernail.
  • Remove some of the hair if it’s sewn in. Take a chunk out of one side or rip the hairline back a quarter inch. This effect is extremely spooky. Or go the opposite route and make the hair super-cute – the weird contrast amps up the horror factor. In my example, I put my doll’s frizzy locks into two little-girl ponytails.
  • If you’ll be removing any limbs from your doll, do so now, before painting and altering the rest of the doll. Keep the body part as you can use it later if you wish.

Head and Face Tips

  • Roll the eyes back in the head if you can. (Not all eyes will roll without force and some are painted on.) Or poke one out. Eew! …and awesome.

    "Suturing" of the mouth using shadowing. Photo: craftastrophe.net
    “Suturing” of the mouth using shadowing. Photo: craftastrophe.net
  • Another option is the “possessed eye”: using acrylics, paint the entire iris and conjunctiva in white or very light gray.
  • It’s all about the paleness. Using acrylics, paint your doll’s body light gray or white get a ghastly effect. For a mottled appearance, dot the paint lightly onto your doll’s face and limbs with a dry sponge. (In my example, I mixed very light blue with orange to get a sickly medium gray, “old porcelain”/undead pallor.) I found the paint dried very quickly, allowing me to do the front of the doll and then flip her over to paint the back without my mixed paint drying out. Don’t worry about a few streaks; they give a cracked porcelain, antiqued appearance.
  • Blood red lips and/or black eyebrows will contrast with unnaturally pale skin, so keep the lips unpainted when you’re paling up the rest of your doll. Draw eyebrows on with magic marker or very thin streaks of paint, or paint just one eyebrow on.

Final Touches

  • Altered dolls are scary without any blood at all, but you’re free to add a bit of gore if you’re so inclined. Use faux blood, paint, ketchup (which dries very dark and blood-like on fabric) or red gel icing that dries. Go ahead and smear it around a bit. Smearing in the form of four fingers, as if someone bloody had grabbed the doll, is perfect.
  • If you’ll be “bloodying up” a plastic body part, make sure you’re using paint that will dry completely on plastic.
  • Add accessories if you’d like. A mini knife or similar object in the hand of a mauled baby doll is very scary (expect trick-or-treaters to back slllllllowly out of your driveway). Or have her hold an old, tarnished object, such as a broken costume necklace, in one undead hand.
  • Add touches that go with the theme of your doll or your display. For instance, make Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein’s baby by drawing hatched stitch marks across your doll’s forehead. Glue small wooden painted pieces on either side of his neck. Or scrawl “help me, Mama” on a torn piece of paper and place it in her clutching fists. Paint notches across her lips to give the impression that her lips have been stitched closed by some unholy hand. (I added blue bride-of-Frankenstein streaks on both sides of my doll’s hair and added one creepy streak to each ponytail.) Your creativity is what will really make this prop special.

Enjoy making your prop – and sweet dreams. 

Possessed creeped out doll
What a cute little, uh, possessed thing you have there, sir. The author’s own creepy creation.

Make a Decaying Mummy Skull Prop

I love Halloween, and I love Halloween projects.

And by the way, I’m seriously lazy.

So when a friend of mine told me he had a great, terrifying-looking, gory, easy prop to show me, I was all in! But even I (the corner-cutting queen) was rather delightfully surprised at how easy this really was. Together, my friend and I created three creepy decaying skulls in less than 10 minutes.

And the best part? They were cheap to make…very cheap. Yet they looked incredible. Want in on my friend’s and my little secret? Follow the directions below.

How to Make Your Skull

You will need:

  • A plastic novelty skull
  • Saran Wrap or bargain/store brand cling wrap
  • A heat gun OR a hair dryer with a “high” setting
  • Any medium to dark color wood stain or crafts paint
  • Paint brush, sponge/crafts brush or stippling brush

Directions:

1. Wrap the plastic wrap COMPLETELY around the skull, including the bottom, at least 4-5 times. (The more you layer, the more “decaying skin” you’ll get, but don’t go overboard. We found 4 times was our minimum to produce a really good result.)

2. If your heat gun or hair dryer has settings, start on the lowest unless it is a “cool shot” setting. Wear protective gloves if you wish; otherwise, WATCH OUT, YOUR SKULL WILL GET HOT. Hold the heat source approximately 4” from your skull. The plastic wrap will begin to shrivel in some areas; in others, where the heat is concentrated for more than several seconds, you will achieve holes (see pic, below). Don’t overdo this; melt a little bit at a time, all around the area of your skull.

Skull Holes Halloween decor

3. Do NOT hold the heat source directly against the plastic wrap/the skull. If the wrap is melting too slowly, turn up the heat source in increments and/or hold it closer to the skull, but never closer than 1.5” away.

4. When you have the effect you want, set the skull aside to cool completely.

5. After your project is cool, dip your paint brush into a small circle of paint or dip no more than 1/4” deep into your wood stain. Begin painting your skull. You will want to paint it all over; inconsistencies in color are a good thing and add to the realism, so don’t worry about painting “perfectly.”

6. Allow the project to dry completely, about 10 minutes.

Decaying skull Halloween prop

Where Should Your Skull Rest in Peace?

You can do practically anything with this cool skull. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Have it be a prop in your witch’s kitchen.
  2. Set it up next to a candelabra (I suggest battery-operated flicker candles for safety) with faux cobwebs all over to make an awesome, spooky and very realistic-looking party centerpiece or decoration.
  3. Skull Halloween PropStraighten the curved top of a wire hanger using wire cutters or a bending tool. Stuff the head with cotton balls or cheese cloth; anything to create bulk and resistance. Stick the point of the straightened end at least halfway up into the skull, so it’s on the hanger firmly. Drape cheesecloth from the “shoulders” of the hanger, allowing them to float. Hang so your decaying ghost floats in the autumn breeze.
  4. Using the above idea, hang an old shirt from the hanger’s “shoulders.” Stuff the shirt with any material you have on hand to bulk it up. Place the torso on a chair near the area your trick-or-treaters will be approaching. Now take an old pair of pants and stuff them similarly; place on the chair, bending the knee area and placing the cuffs at ground level. Gather each cuff and stuff it into a shoe. Very scary and very cool!
  5. Stuff the head with cotton balls or pieces of styrofoam. (If using cotton balls, stuff very firmly.) Stick a tall dowel – 5-6 feet – into the cotton or styrofoam. Carry with you as an evil walking stick or wizard’s wand; dress in draping clothing and, if you wish, a scary mask.
  6. Remove the head from a life size (or at least 4′) plastic poseable skeleton. Carefully remove the head that came with the skeleton using the easiest and safest means; some pop right off – if so, you’re in luck. If not, you may have to cut to remove the skull – BE CAREFUL. Stuff your mummified skull with any method mentioned above; stick firmly down onto the now-empty top of the spinal column of your skull, replacing the manufacturer’s skull with your mummified one. Set up your creeped-up skeleton in a faux spider web, leaning against your front steps to scare the ghost out of trick-or-treaters, etc.

Have fun with this prop. It’s versatile and if you pack it away carefully after Halloween, you can reuse it year after year. And it’s so inexpensive, you can create a whole army of ghouls if you wish. Happy haunting (and creeping-up)!

Haunt Your House With These EASY Hacks

 

Over and over again I hear from rueful friends, “I just don’t have the time to decorate my house for Halloween…and besides, I don’t want to spend a lot of money.”

My answer? Both the time AND money you spend on decorating your house for the scariest day of the year are up to you – and neither has to be a frightening prospect.

Through the years, I’ve haunted my own house in every possible way, from dollar-store die cut black cats to a full-on front yard cemetery, fog machines, zombies and more.

I’ve gathered my go-to Halloween preparation tactics, the ones I use year on year because they’re so easy, yet they’re guaranteed to bring a smile (and a spooky chill!) to admirers of all ages.

Choose the ones that work for you, and remember: it’s your own creativity that’s puts the “spooky” in Halloween. Whether you’re the autumn harvest type or you adore a great Freddy or Jason flick, show your love of Halloween this year with freaky flair!

What’s That Peeking From Your Windows?

Windows offer perhaps the best opportunity to show off your dark side as they’re above the level of the ground and therefore usually very visible to passersby.

No house is truly haunted unless it has creeped-up windows, so try these ideas:

 

  • Attach cobwebs across the windows and dangle a plastic spider from each. Or buy or make an oversize creepy crawly and have it cover one entire window. You can even bundle an old doll in gauze or cheesecloth and dangle it from the web as a spider “victim.”
  • Buy “creepy cloth” in black or white (or rip into some old sheets with scissors or an old nail file – it’s great therapy!). Hang it on either side of each front window of your house for a tattered-curtain look.
  • Hang horrifying styrofoam heads in front of or from windows and eaves. Drape these in billowy white cheesecloth.
  • Cut spooky shapes out of black construction paper; tape to the inside of any window, facing out. Then tape yellow tissue or other transparent paper behind the entire scene. On Halloween night, turn the light on in that room. The lighting behind the tissue paper will make your window scene glow eerily.

Raise the Undead

I find the use of skeletons an integral part of any Halloween decoration scheme.

Look for inexpensive jointed plastic skellies; don’t worry if they’re a little banged up – that only adds to the charm. Or have fun with super-cheap cardboard cutout skeletons. Try these ideas:

  • Wire one posable skeleton to your roof with one arm dangling down (always be careful and use a spotter when climbing a ladder or crawling around on your rooftop). Wire a second skeleton with one arm vertical, as if he’s reaching for help up.
  • Halloween skeletons hanging from a treeHang skeletons from your trees.
  • Set up either a posable or non-posable but dimensional (plastic or rubber) skeleton at the top of your front steps for visibility and dress him up. Give him a saucy pirate getup (eye patch, hat, sword), put two together in unholy matrimony with wedding clothes (check your local consignment shop for deals) or even set him up with an empty can of beer, an ashtray and that 1970s TV you’re always saying you’re going to throw away. The possibilities are endless, and in my experience, the funnier and more outlandish, the better the response from trick-or-treaters (and their jealous moms and dads who didn’t think of it first!).
  • Dance a row of inexpensive cardboard skeleton decorations across the front of your house. Be sure to use tape that’s weatherproof but can be removed later without harming the siding.

 

Credit: partycity.com

Create a Creepy Cemetery

  • Foam tombstones can often be had at a steal. Or consider making your own. Check out this tombstone tutorial.
  • Use plastic animals for a super-creepy effect. Have them gnaw on discarded body parts.
  • Make use of old, broken Halloween decorations by scattering plastic bones and skulls around the area, making the scary site look freshly picked by someone (or something).
  • Make liberal use of fake spiderwebbing across and between your tombstones for a haunting touch.

Get Ghoulish

Halloween ghoul ghost prop

Ghouls are easy to make, and the more tattered the better (or look here for some great choices at prices that won’t come back to haunt you).

Set up something wicked on your front porch by sitting a groundbreaker-type ghoul in a patio chair and adding pants (stuff these with newspapers or old clothing if you’d like) and shoes. Or drape cheesecloth over an old Halloween mask, prop on a broomstick stuck into the ground and voila – the Angel of Death is ready to greet partygoers with an evil grin.

Get Your Autumn On

Last of all, don’t forget to take a little of the outside indoors and to drape mementos of the soon-to-be-gone season along your decorations. Make liberal use of leafy faux vines, inexpensive knick-knacks and seasonal baskets or even toys and dolls to bring a delicious, crisp chill to your home, both inside and out.

 

Head in a Jar Halloween Prop

Image credit: instructables.com

Looking for a great new Halloween prop that hasn’t been done to death? Don’t lose your head – make this creepy decoration! Making a Head in a Jar prop is so easy, it’s almost scary – and the project won’t bust your Halloween budget. Read on to find out how to create this creepy Halloween decoration.

What You’ll Need

Make sure you have all of your materials ready before starting your project. Here’s what you will need to assemble your Head in a Jar:

  • a printed color image of a spread-out face; look here and here for examples
  • a jar that your head printout will just fit into when the paper is rolled up (tinted or aged/imperfect glass is preferable, or anything with a cloudy appearance)
  • scissors
  • school glue
  • small amount of wig hair, if desired

Assembling Your Severed Head

Jar for Head in a Jar Halloween prop(I just had to make the title gory!)

The first and one of the most important steps in this project is to locate a jar to hold your “head.” For a spookier effect, choose colored glass; otherwise, a standard Mason jar (you know….for preserves…even human ones, apparently!) will do.

Now find a great face image by Googling the words “3D face texture map.” The face should be realistic; a Photoshopped image of a real person’s mug is ideal. A tortured appearance adds to the effect, so look for squinty eyes, puffiness, an open mouth or other evidence that the donor was less than willing.

Print out the image you’ve chosen and make sure it fits your jar once it’s rolled up and inserted. Enlarge or reduce the size if necessary. (We cut around the top portion of a wonderful rendering by artist Ravinder Sembi).

Head in a Jar Halloween prop

Adding a 3-D Look to the Face

printed face for Jar Head in a Jar Halloween propNow cut small pieces of the wig and glue them to the face image. This step is not absolutely necessary, but definitely adds a touch of three-dimensional realism if done subtly.

Place the hair randomly across the forehead/hairline, trying to make it appear natural and in disarray. (We pasted tiny bits of hair to the eyes of our face image to make them look sunken and more dimensional, and then added a few wayward curls at the forehead.)

Allow the glue beneath the hair to dry completely, then roll up the face and insert it inside the jar. Spread it out from the inside with your fingers if it remains too tightly rolled. Rearrange the hair with a finger inserted between the face image and the jar if you need to.

Now screw the top on your jar. If you’d like, go ahead and get creative with some dripped-on candle wax (so that it looks as if the jar was hastily sealed) or a length of rattan or rope tied around the jar’s neck.

You’re done – display your creepy cranium among the gristly goods of a Witch’s Kitchen, in some wads of red-dyed “bloody” cotton as a sinister centerpiece or on a shelf where party guests will least expect it. They’ll never believe you were the “brains” behind the experiment – or how easy it was to put it all together!


A Grave Matter: Building a Halloween Cemetery

 

It’s spooky. It’s creepy.. It’s blood-curdling. It’s…a week before Halloween and you don’t have a single decoration up yet!

Never fear: help is here, and in a hurry. Here’s how to haunt your own front yard or indoor party area with these chillingly good graveyard scene ideas.

Terrifying Tombstoneshalloween tombstone ghoul

Naturally, the first thing you’ll want to grab hold of is a set of eerie cemetery tombstones. Don’t worry if these don’t all match; different sizes and textures add to the spooky effect and will make your grave scene more believable.

If you’re pressed for time, buy pre-made foam tombstones; three to four are sufficient for a small to medium-size front yard, and two to three will work for an indoor scene.

If you’re feeling creative, you can make your own gravestones in a flash with our Ten Minute Tombstone tutorial.

Finish off your stones by adding some realistic moss around the tops; glue the moss on if your display will be outdoors and exposed to the weather. Another handful or two at the base of each stone delivers a realistic look that’s even creepier after dark.

mel-graveyard-ground-breakThey Come Out at Night

Since all the best cemeteries are haunted, create a few creatures to set the scene.

Use an old Halloween monster or ghost mask, metal coat hangers and a torn sheet to make a ghost or mummy in minutes. To create this effect, tie some of the sheet (the more torn the better) around the mask and stuff the inside with paper or rags to fill out the “head”.

Then carefully unwind the hangers (careful—the metal can be sharp) and twist enough together to make a lawn stake that’s one to two feet higher than one of your tombstones.

Insert the metal inside the “neck” of your creature and stake it behind the tombstone. For added effect, insert wires crosswise in the fabric for “arms” and fold them in front of the stone.

A Spooky Atmosphere

Create finishing touches with novelty spiders, bugs or poseable skeletons. If you have an old Halloween skeleton prop that’s missing a rib or two, it will be all the more perfect for your “neglected cemetery” scene. Set up the pieces in front of one of your stones or scatter bones all around the cemetery.

Hardcore haunters like to add lighting, fog machines and/or strobe lights with sounds (to mimic thunder and lightning).

Add novelty bugs or birds, old cloth and other scraps to your graveyard and you’ll have a haunt fit for any Haunted House. Happy Halloween!

mel-graveyard-skeleton mel-graveyard-cross

mel-graveyard

How to Grow Your Own Pumpkin Patch

 

 

 

Ah, the orange, glowing, delightful jack-o-lantern: it’s perhaps the most immediately recognizable icon of Halloween.

Each autumn, thousands of families across the U.S. flock to farms, vegetable stands and even supermarkets to buy a pumpkin or two (or more!). But a few in-the-know growers avoid the rush by cultivating their very own decorative pumpkins.

How do these home growers do it? Pumpkin growing isn’t as difficult as you may think. All it takes is a little patience, a lot of yard space and a few tips on how to grow the best pumpkins in the neighborhood.

Read on for a tutorial on growing your very own pumpkin patch.

Selecting Your Seeds

Your first consideration is how much land space you have for your pumpkin patch. This will partly determine what variety you’ll be growing (hence, which seeds to choose).

Be aware that pumpkins require a lot of space—often ten feet or more per vine, depending upon the variety —so be sure you have a sufficient area available.

If space in your garden or yard is limited, try one of the two following options:

  • Semi-bush hybrids. The most popular variety among these is the Spirit Bush Hybrid. It requires a mere 4-5 feet of space per vine and yields 10-12 lb. fruits, suitable for carving.
  • Miniature decorative pumpkins. Jack B. Little, Wee B. Little and Baby Boo all fall under this category. Although the vines on these minis can still get quite long, the light weight of the fruits makes them ideal for a space-saving hanging garden. Simply fill a large size hanging basket with nutrient-rich soil, plant one to two seeds and allow the vine to dangle (it may reach the ground by the time its growth cycle is over). Be sure to keep the soil well watered and fertilized.

The most common commercially grown pumpkin in the U.S. is the Connecticut Field (Jack O’Lantern); you will find seeds for this variety in any plant nursery or store gardening section. Other popular carving-size choices include Howdens, Autumn Golds and Happy Jacks. Each has its pluses and minuses, so choose the variety that is best for you.

Preparing the Soil

Begin preparing your pumpkin bed after all danger of frost is over. Be absolutely sure of this timing – pumpkins are a warm-weather plant and new seedlings will not survive a frost. Depending upon what area of the country you live in, Final Frost will occur anywhere from mid-March to early May.

Choose an area that receives a lot of direct sunlight in the spring and summer; pumpkins prefer at least 6-8 hours of sunlight daily. Pumpkins do well in nutrient-rich soil; consider starting a compost heap or purchasing a fertilizer that contains manure. Otherwise, try turning shavings of your food and lawn leftovers into the soil. (Fruit parings and fallen leaves are popular choices among growers.) Do this well ahead of your planting date so your additives have time to decompose into the soil.

Dig an area approximately 4’X5’ and about 2’ deep and fill with your compost and soil. Remember that your plants will grow beyond this area; the bed is for the initial seedlings and the first root shoots.

Planting the Seeds

Credit: countryliving.com

If you live in a northern area which experiences very short, cool summers, you can get a jump-start on your pumpkin growing by planting seeds in peat pots about 4-6 weeks before final frost. Otherwise, sow your pumpkin seeds directly into the soil. Poke a hole in the earth 1-2” deep with your finger and drop in two seeds; cover loosely with soil and water well. Space your seed mounds several feet apart (refer to your seed packet for the exact distance your variety requires).

Credit: gardeningandplanting.com

In four to six days, you will be rewarded with a view of your first seedlings. As the plants grow, keep them well watered, but try not to let the leaves get wet; this can promote diseases, including the powdery mildew that is common to pumpkin plants.

Pollination, Maturation and Harvest

When your seedlings are approximately 2-3” high, cut the weaker of the two plants in each pair. You want the soil nutrients to go toward your most viable plants. Now sit back and watch your vines grow! Pumpkin plants grow at an amazing rate.

Credit: beeaware.org

About 40 days after planting, you will begin to see flowers on your pumpkin vines.

Pumpkins produce male and female flowers; generally, the males appear first, with the females following a week or two later. Female pumpkin flowers have a tiny “node” below the base of the bloom. If pollinated, this node will begin to grow into a pumpkin.

(l-r) Male and female pumpkin flowers. Credit: http://www.leafrootfruit.com.au

Insects will probably do the pollinating for you, but if you’re unsure, take the pollen from a male flower with a small paint brush or Q-tip and transfer it to the inside of each female flower.

Depending upon the variety, your pumpkins will be mature and ready to pick 95-120 days after planting. Be sure to leave a few inches of stem on the pumpkin when you cut it; an accidental slice into the fruit will dramatically shorten its shelf life. Store your pumpkins in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to carve them.

Pumpkin growing is a delightful activity for adults and children alike. Get your kids in on the growing action by involving them in every step of the growing process. You’ll leave them with an experience they’ll always remember. Just be sure to save some seeds for next year’s growing season!

How to Host a Spooktacular Halloween Movie-Themed Party

FrankensteinEveryone loves a scary movie, and Hollywood has brought us plenty of them. From the Wolfman to demonic possession to creatures that creep in the deep or come from outer space, suspenseful, creative Hollywood movies have helped shape what we think of as horror.

Hosting a Halloween movie-themed party celebrates the monsters that keep us on the edge of our seats, year after year. So grab your cape and walk this way to get started on creating what’s sure to be the best party of the season.

Dressed to Kill

One way to get your guests involved in (and excited about!) your party is to invite them to dress as their favorite horror movie characters.

Guests can dress as individual monsters (like vampires or werewolves), horror film good guys (such as one of the two priests in The Exorcist or Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s character in Predator), or even come in groups dressed as entire scenes.

Encourage your invitees to get their creative juices flowing. The results are sure to thrill, chill…and possibly even make you chuckle.

Be sure to buy or make trophies for “Scariest Costume,” “Most Original Costume Idea” and any other category you’d like to see at your party. (Give your guests a heads-up that there will be awards by having the information printed on their invitations.) In addition to a small trophy, you can hand out movie theater tickets, horror DVD or other goodies as awards.

Need some killer ideas? Here are some great horror movie characters and creatures:

  • The aliens from Cloverfield
  • The shark from Jaws
  • Regan, the possessed child from The Exorcist
  • Father Karras or Father Merrin from The Exorcist
  • Freddie Krueger
  • Jason
  • Jason’s mom – wear the mask off your face, dangling on one shoulder
  • Any horror movie victim; these will often be scantily clad girls covered in blood, or football jocks or dorks covered in blood
  • Dr. Loomis or Laurie from Halloween (trench coat for the former; terrible 70s attire and blonde wig for the latter)
  • The Wolfman
  • The Fly
  • Sam from Trick ‘R Treat
  • A bloodied Carrie from the movie Carrie
  • Any vampire, from any vampire movie…ever…you can’t go wrong with this idea!
  • King Kong
  • Kaiju (i.e. Pacific Rim or Godzilla)
  • Alien (from the Alien franchise)
  • Predator
  • The Mummy – male or female; any (wait for it) incarnation
  • Stephen King’s It
  • The “pet” set upon Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
  • The Creature From the Black Lagoon
  • Disney creatures, such as Ursula the Sea Witch
  • Fun monsters, such as Sully from Real Monsters

Home Theater

Decorate the party area to imitate an old-fashioned movie or stage theater. Age some movie posters (easy and often very cheap to find; try online auctions or poster companies) by crinkling and then unfolding them, then arrange them on the walls of the party area.

For an added movie theater-like effect, have spotlights across or near your movie posters. These are simple to make; simply cover flashlights with cardboard tubes painted black (leaving the lighted ends exposed). Place colored bulbs in the flashlights and set them up so that the lights cross one another.

A great place to set up your spotlights is near your haunt’s entrance, so that your guests are “in the spotlight” as they enter. Or have them point upward to illuminate your movie posters. Hang artificial spider webs in the corners of your posters and between them for additional spookiness.

Mood Music

Music immediately sets the mood when guests are arriving, so be sure to choose tunes that are all about movies, monsters and magic spells.

Look for background music or musical artists that fit in with your party theme. “Werewolves of London “(Warren Zevon), “Spooky” (The Zombies), “Ghost Busters (Ray Parker, Jr.),“ “Weird Science (Oingo Boingo),” “Witchy Woman“ (The Eagles), “The Time Warp” (from the Rocky Horror Picture Show) and the immediately recognizable themes from Halloween and The Exorcist are all great choices.

Another idea is to have favorite horror movies running in your DVD player as a background mood-setter; keep the sound somewhat down, as movie voices and action tend to be more distracting than music.

Freaky Foods

For monster-and movie-related snacks, try a few creative ideas:

  • Wrap croissant dough strips crosswise over mini cocktail franks for “mummies in a blanket” (The Mummy, 1932, 1959 and 1999).
  • Lady “fingers” with “fingernails” made of slivered almonds are both tasty and creepy; use any cookie dough rolled and elongated to look like a finger (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991).
  • And of course, you’ll want some “blood punch”, made with any red-colored juice, at the center of your table; buy a novelty hospital blood bag online or at a Halloween store and have the “catheter” leading to the bowl (Dracula, 1931 and 1958 and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992).

You can also continue the movie theme with orange colored movie popcorn–add three drops of yellow food coloring and one drop of red food coloring to some oil or butter and toss well, then place in movie theater-style bags.

If you’d rather, just serve regular popcorn, but place it in striped boxes.

Your horror movie theme decorations, treats and background sounds are limited only by your own creativity. Watch a few horror favorites in advance of your party for more ideas, or ask a few friends. They’ll be thrilled to get in on the action – and to receive the credit for their own ideas at your very special Halloween bash.

Halloween Costume Classics: Wizards Throughout the Ages

Whip up an enchanting costume this HalloweenGandalf costume

Halloween is a time of magic, making a sorcerer’s costume the perfect pick. But there’s more than one way to wave a wand. Famous wizards have their own distinctive looks, giving you plenty of options. Try a classic or contemporary enchanter outfit and express your personality behind your beard this Halloween.

The Basics of the Wizard’s Costume

The standard “wizard” look is well known and easy to identify. Wizards in classic fiction – including books, movies and oral tradition – nearly always sport a long, white beard, a robe (often with stars or other decorations) and some sort of cap, typically of the pointy persuasion. We’ll get into modifications in a moment, but for now, let’s concentrate on the basics of the typical wizard costume. From there, you can go in the direction you want to create the perfect wizard costume for you.

The best wizard costumes start with a beard. Technically, a beard isn’t absolutely necessary, but if you don’t mind the feel of it around your face, this addition is one of the gold standards for the sorcerer look. Costume beards come in either glue-on, tie or elastic versions. Glued artificial hair is the most realistic, but it’s time-consuming, so be sure you have the patience before committing to this costume embellishment.

You will want to test the glue on an inconspicuous part of your body (for example, the inner arm) 48 hours before applying the adhesive to your facial skin; if you have any reaction at all, including redness, itchiness or pain, buy an elastic banded beard instead. Important: Never use any type of glue except one that states specifically that it is for use on skin and is hypoallergenic.

Hats are another standard feature of the wizard legend. Pointed sorcerer hats can be found at any costume shop around Halloween time, and are often inexpensive to buy. However, if you prefer, you can make your own. Measure your head for the hat’s size, then staple two pieces of flexible cardboard or oak tag together and roll into a cone shape the same number of inches as your head measurement; staple closed. Cut a hole the size of the cone’s opening into another piece of cardboard and cut circularly around it. Tape the cone and cap brim together firmly. Now coat the entire outside of the hat with a strong glue and cover the hat with a satiny material. Cut off excess material and glue flat, making the seam as invisible as possible.

The cloak or tunic will probably be the most expensive part of your costume, but it needn’t break your bank. Consider buying a plain tunic in a light color (for example, the basis of an angel or monk costume) and dyeing it a deep and mysterious color. Purple and midnight blue are two favorites for wizard costumes. If your tunic has a base color (such as beige, light blue, red or yellow), be sure that it will combine with your dye to create the end result you want. Try dying a brilliant gold over pale yellow or covering tan completely with deepest royal purple. Black dye works over any base color. Consult an online color chart if you’re not sure what dye color to purchase.

Which Wizard are You?

Now it’s time to pick your wizard (or to use some combination of these to create your very own look). A few of Hollywood and literature’s favorite wizards include:

  • The Classic Wizard. He (or she!) stands with a crystal ball in one hand and a short wand in the other, ready to make merry or mischief at a moment’s notice. Try a sky-blue, rope-belted cloak decorated with glue-on stars, a gold colored hat and a silver wand. For your scrying ball, look for something plastic; it’s easier to carry, and safer, than glass.
  • Merlin. Arthur’s confidante and the sage of ancient Britain, Merlin lives in our hearts as the wisest magician of them all. As Merlin, you’ll be regal in a long white cloak and a garland of oak leaves or mistletoe; also carry a staff (decorate a cheap dowel from the hardware store and attach a “crystal” or stone to the top with glue or a thin strip of leather).
  • Gandalf. The children’s – and adults’ – classic Lord of the Rings trilogy is full of characters we all love, and Gandalf tops many a devotee’s list. Gandalf wears a gray tunic and sometimes a cloak; both are tied with strips of fabric. His hat is often depicted comically tilted downward at the tip, showing that this book and movie magician is ever the rebel. Like Merlin, Gandalf carries a staff, usually at least his own height. For safety’s sake, you can go a bit shorter if you prefer. For Gandalf, the hanging gray beard is an absolute essential–yes, even if you‘re a woman.
  • Harry Potter. Harry Potter burst onto the book scene in 1997 and stole our hearts immediately. Luckily for Rowling fans, his character is easy to recreate. Harry wears a long black robe, a white collared shirt, a striped tie and round “owl” glasses. This fabled character is so well known that not only children but grown men – and women as well – can be seen on Halloween dressed as the student sorcerer!

Other less traditional but definitively magical enchanters include Star Wars’ Obi Wan Kenobi, who mentored both Anakin Skywalker and his son Luke; the corrupt Saruman of Lord of the Rings; and Count Duku, also of Star Wars fame. All can be fun choices depending upon your personality type. One thing’s for sure: with a few simple costume pieces and a modification or two, this year you’ll have a costume that’s sure to enchant others on Halloween.

How to Make “Shrunken Heads” with Apples

Image credit: marthastewart.com

Shrunken heads are the stuff of myth, legend and Hollywood voodoo movies. This Halloween, bring an eerie tradition to life by creating apple “shrunken heads” for your diabolical display.

Be as simple or as detailed as you’d like; they may look like they take a lot of effort, but making a creepy shrunken head prop is so easy, it’s almost scary.

You will need:

  • 1 (or more) large-size, fairly round apple(s)
  • Bowl of water
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 2 lemon wedges
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Small knife for carving
  • Whole cloves if desired
  • Dried rice grains if desired

Step One: Prepare Your Ingredients

Prepare your water about 5-10 minutes before you’re ready to dip your apple in (see Step Three, below). Start by filling a bowl with about four cups of cool water. Pour in the salt, then squeeze juice from the lemon wedges directly over the bowl. Mix for several seconds so that the salt will begin to dissolve into the water and the lemon juice will blend.

Step Two: Peel and Carve the Apple

Select an apple that is fairly round and as large as possible. Apples shrink significantly in size as they dry, so the bigger the apple you start with, the better. Peel the apple with your vegetable peeler; leave the stem on if desired (it will not affect the drying process).

Coring your apple isn’t necessary for drying, but if you wish, you can create a longer, more drawn “face” by coring. (Non-cored apples will end up more round or square in shape.)

Now begin carving a face into the apple. You will be carving inward around the most prominent facial feature—the nose. The eyes should be sunken into the apple. Don’t worry about details at this point; just exaggerate whatever features you’d like to stand out on your finished project. For deeply-set eyes, make sure the eyebrow ridge stands out fairly far, and place a clove in the center of each to make a dent once the head is dry.

Step Three: Soak and Hang the Head

Now you’re ready to soak your apple in the prepared water. Allow the apple to sit in the water for a minimum of 10 minutes (for dry, warm areas) or up to one hour (if you live in an area that experiences high humidity). “Spin” the apple a few times in the water during the soaking time. The salt will draw moisture from the apple once it’s out of the water, making the apple dry more quickly and helping to keep it from becoming moldy, and the lemon will help keep the color of the shrunken head light and uniform.

The best way to dry your apple is to hang it from a string. Try not to hang it directly in front of a window that receives a lot of sunshine; the warmth and brightness can encourage rot. You also want to avoid very moist areas, such as the kitchen sink or near the washing machine in the laundry room.

Please note that your shrunken head will take up to two weeks to dry. If you need a finished product sooner, try a vegetable dehydrator, or turn your oven to its lowest setting (200 degrees or less is ideal) and heat the apple for 3-6 hours, until dry and shriveled.

Finishing Touches

Once your apple is fully dried and shrunken, you can display it as is, or you may add details if you wish. Glue some faux hair onto the stem if you’ve left it on, or directly onto the top of the head if the stem has fallen off. The cloves you inserted for placement may have softened during the drying time; replace them for very beady, dark eyes. (Leave them out for a sunken-eyed look.)

Take your rice grains and glue them into the mouth area for teeth. For this detail, the more jagged, the better; place them at angles, or glue one or two into the top lip and just one on the bottom.

However you choose to display your proud creations, you’re sure to get comments from impressed friends, including “How did you make those?” Don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with us!

How to Craft a Witch’s Kitchen

 

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the craftiest of them all? You are—with a few simple tips on creating a simply ghoulish witch’s kitchen!

What’s the Idea?

crafthubs.com
Credit: crafthubs.com

The Witch’s Kitchen is a concept that has grown in popularity since it was first spotted as a trend a few years back. The concept is simple: fill jars and bottles with gristly-looking concoctions, label them, and add a few props to complete the look.

Options run from simple (and often humorous) to more elaborately-staged presentations. Luckily, you can put together a basic Witch’s Kitchen with just a few supplies, many of which you may already have on hand.

Getting Started

Credit: amazon.com

The first thing you’ll want to do is to start collecting bottles and jars for your Witch’s Kitchen items. These needn’t be in perfect condition; in fact, slightly imperfect containers will add a “weathered” and very authentic effect to your completed project.

Some die-hard Halloween fans purchase old or unique containers for this purpose. Search online auctions or the back of your very own kitchen cabinets to find interesting (and spooky!) bottles and jars.

Thoroughly wash the inside of each jar (wider-mouthed containers, such as honey or pickle jars, tend to be your best bet). Be sure to save and wash the lids, too. Now soak your jars in hot water for an hour or two, until the labels loosen. Remove the labels once the glue is soft enough. If a bit of paper or paste remains, don’t worry; you can cover the area with the label you will eventually be making.

Prepping Your Jar Lids

Credit: Pinterest, Dollhouse of Horrors

Corked bottles have an authentic apothecary look. These are perfect, and there’s no prep (see image at left).

However, if you’re using jars with meatl lids: for a scary look, spray paint each jar lid black. If your jar or bottle comes with a cork, so much the better; this can either be spray painted or left natural.

Do this step outside—spray paint fumes can be harmful, and an open window might not provide enough ventilation for your safety. Place the lids on old newspaper before spraying if you’d like to protect the area you’re working on. Allow all lids and corks to dry thoroughly before handling.

The black lids can be used as they are, or wound with twine (the “scruffier” the better) after they’re placed on your jars.

Frightening Fillers

Now comes the fun part: inventing gristly, ghostly or just plain gross fillers for your jars. Try the following easy-to-find items for your jar contents:

  • Werewolf Claws: Cashew nuts, split in half.

    Credit: ehow.com
  • Shrunken heads: Try our tutorial here.
  • Frog’s Livers: Raisins or other small, dried fruits.
  • Snake Oil: Small plastic or rubber snakes in oil and food coloring.
  • Shrinking Test Subject: A mini prop skeleton in a jar of water.
  • Heretic Skin: Peels of apple (the fruit—not the apple’s skins), allowed to dry (they will shrivel and take on a “peeled skin” appearance).
  • Seamonster Babies: Grow-in-water novelty toys; try an octopus, manta ray or other sea creature. Stuff into jar so that the actual animal is less identifiable.
  • Garden Gnome Heads: Several shrunken apple heads and a handful of dried moss, obtainable at a floral crafts shop.
  • Eye of Newt: Whole dried cloves.
  • Ghost Droppings: small marshmallows, pushed together.
  • Coffin Nails: Any large-size hardware nails will do; add a sprinkling of dirt.

Making the Labels

Credit: thekolbcorner.com

It’s easy to make labels for your creepy containers. Place a few sheets of computer printer paper in cooled tea or coffee. Remove when the sheets are well stained. While your pages are drying, create a document with names for each of your items. Allow plenty of space between each.

Print the sheet of names onto the stained and dried paper. Now cut or tear off each label. Apply glue to your label backs and place the labels on your jars. If you’re planning on using the jars again next year, apply a thin coat of varnish over each label. (NOTE: Do NOT keep items that might degrade or mold. Empty the jar, wash it and put it away, then re-stuff it next Halloween.)

Displaying Your Handiwork

Credit: Pinterest

If you’re handy, you can refurbish an old piece of shelving to house your devilish delights. You’ll be refurbishing in reverse; try to rough up the look of the shelf as much as possible. Add some dollar-store spider webs for added dramatic effect.

You can also forego the shelving altogether and simply place your bottles and jars on a special area of your kitchen counter. Make sure your placement is easily visible to visitors at that fabulous Halloween bash you’re planning. If necessary, set up your “kitchen” on a small table in a high-traffic area of your home.

Add some props to your display, such as skulls, spooky candles and a prop cauldron. “Severed” body parts or plastic newts, rats and other creatures are great additions, too. A motion-sensor activated prop can add hilarity to your party by surprising (and scaring) passing guests.

Use your creativity and have fun!