Category Archives: DIY Decorations

Dark decor to haunt your halls and turn your yard downright ghoulish.

Hanging Halloween Votive Holders

Dripping with ghoulish slime, these votive holders add spook to any Halloween setting. Hang from porch rafters or in tree branches in the front yard to help cast a creepy light over trick-or-treaters and party-goers.

Look for inexpensive globe light covers at charity shops and home improvement resale stores like the Habitat Re-store,  or at your local hardware store.

You’ll Need:

  • Rimmed glass jar or globe covers (replacement covers for porch lamps)
  • Green or black glass paint
  • 12 gauge wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Votive candles

Halloween Votive Holders Halloween Votive Holders

  1. Cut three lengths of wire for each votive to the length you require for hanging, around two feet is ideal. Using the needle nose pliers, form a small hook at the end of each piece.
  2. Cut a fourth piece of wire long enough to wrap twice around the neck of the glass globe. Wrap once around the neck, inserting each of the hooked ends of the hanging wires so that they are evenly spaced around the neck. Wrap the wire a second time and twist the ends to secure in place.
  3. Twist the tops of the hanging wires together and then form into a larger hook for hanging.
  4. Pour a generous amount of glass paint along the top rim of the cover, making sure it coats the whole of the rim. Continue to apply paint so that it drips down the inside of the globe in globby streaks.
  5. Hang the glass in a warm place to dry.
  6. Once dry, insert a votive candle into the bottom of each globe, light and hang in place.

Halloween Votive Holders

Sir David’s Window Witch Silhouette Template

What’s that peeking out of that window? Is it…can it be?? A WITCH!

Dress up your windows this Halloween with a life-sized silhouette to peer out at trick-or-treaters and frighten the neighbors. It’s so easy! Here’s how. (Psst! No time to brew up your own wicked silhouette? Check deals out here!)

You’ll Need:

  • Window-sized sheet of black paper
  • Sharp scissors
  • Chalk and pencil
  • Witch template
  • Ruler
  • Clear, double sided tape

Directions:

  • Look for a picture of a witch silhouette (or click and save the template below.) Print it out. This will be your template. Using the ruler and pencil, draw equal lines to create a grid, about one inch squares or smaller. Count the number of lines horizontally and vertically. There will be ten down and seven across if you spaced them out an inch.
  • window halloween witch template
    Right-click to download.

    On your large black sheet, calculate how large you have to space out the lines to fill. For instance, if your sheet is four feet long, each line will be spaced out a bit more than 4 inches (no need to make it exact!) The basic idea is that you’ll need the same number of rectangles in roughly the same proportions to those on the print out.

Next…

  • Look at the line in each grid square of the silhouette, and draw it large in the corresponding larger rectangle on the sheet. Once the entire witch is transferred, cut out carefully.

And Finally…

  • Attach to the inside of your window using double sided tape. The effect of this witch is greatly enhanced by placing it in a window where curtains can be drawn to provide better contrast between the witch and the background. Done!

window witch silhouette

Black Grapevine Pumpkin (+ Illumination Instructions)

 

Photo credit: (l, c) the author; (r) recapturedcharm.com

Thanks, guest contributor Gillian Grimm, for this gorgeous seasonal tutorial!

Grapevine pumpkins pack craft and décor stores this time of year. But how about making one of your own? It’s quick, simple and allows you to customize it to create something a little more unique – like this spooky black version, perfect for your Halloween porch decorations!

You Will Need:

  • grapevine garland (about 7 feet of garland per pumpkin)
  • Floral wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Matte black spray paint
  • Newspaper
  • Single string lights, if desired (cordless)

Directions:

  1. Soak the grapevine overnight in a tub of water to help soften the wood and make it more pliable.
  2. Untie the larger strapping but leave the small wires that hold the vines together into a garland. You’ll remove these later but leaving them for now will make forming the pumpkin easier.
  3. Grasp one end of the garland, leaving about four inches of the tail sticking up to form the stem of the pumpkin. Bring the long end of the garland over into a loop and secure with a length of floral wire where the two cross.
  4. Continue to loop around, forming a pumpkin shape and continuing to wire the garland together at the core, until you reach the end of the garland.

grapevine Halloween pumpkin craft grapevine Halloween pumpkin craft tie

grapevine Halloween pumpkin craft grapevine Halloween pumpkin craft knot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Clip the small wires along the outer part of the pumpkin to release the individual vines in the garland, causing the pumpkin to fill out. Use short lengths of wire to help disperse the vines evenly.

6. Allow the pumpkin to dry overnight. Spray with paint over newspaper, turning to assure even coverage. Allow the paint to dry before displaying.

7. If you’d like, thread battery-operated lights inside the pumpkin to have a beautiful, illuminated look.

 

grapevine Halloween pumpkin craft

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!


Make Fake Blood (+ Brains and Pus!) in Minutes

Credit: Pinterest, CraftersExChange

Fake blood works great to decorate your haunted house, your Halloween party or even as a game of Dunk Tank (replace water with blood). Every great Halloween setup gets even spookier with a little faux blood tossed around.

Use this non-toxic recipe to make blood, pus (eew!) and more this Halloween. Here’s how to get started.

Step 1:  Prepare Your Ingredients

You will need:

  • 1 c. corn syrup
  • 1/2 c. tap water
  • Food coloring (4 drops +/- as needed)
  • A sprinkling of cornstarch

Step 2: Mix the Ingredients

Credit: ourpastimes.com

Mix the corn syrup, water and food coloring together to create that icky, semi-coagulated consistency you want. (Rubbing hands together with glee…) It’s the cornstarch that gives a “clotted” look, so start off with a minimal amount and add more until you have it just the way you want it.

If you would like to make more blood simple double the ingredients. Example: 1 cup corn syrup to 2 cups corn syrup and ½ cup water to 1 cup water plus corn starch to your desired consistency will do the trick.

Step 3: Enjoy and Have a Very Bloody Halloween!

If prepared under clean conditions, this concoction should be safe to ingest (though precautionary measures mean we can’t technically recommend that). Drip your “blood” onto decor (see below) or splatter it on the walls of your walk-through to terrify visitors. Enjoy!

Make fake blood for Halloween

Other Slimy, Gooey Gross Decorations

Fake pus gooey liquid for HalloweenTo Make Pus:

You will need white hand lotion and water. Mix just a little water into the lotion to make the lotion runny. Add 1-2 drops of yellow or blue + green food coloring and stir well to give a particular sickly look.

DO NOT INGEST.

Uses: This is a great option for those of you who will be zombies, aliens or deranged hospital escapees this Halloween. Add your basic makeup first, then drip the “pus” over your made-up look.

To Make Slime:

Mix water, 1/2 c. white hand lotion and 1/2 tsp. lime gelatin powder together. Stir very well. Add cornstarch to get a more opaque look. Refrigerate to get a more solid slimy consistency.

Add 1-3 drops of green food coloring if you want a really deep green look.

DO NOT INGEST.

Uses: This is another good option for Zombie costumes and Alien costumes or for haunted houses featuring these creepy themes.

To Make a Bloody Skull

Credit: Pinterest, My Customize

First, you will need to purchase a novelty skull. If you can’t find one at your local dollar store just yet, try online.

Make cherry or strawberry gelatin according to package directions. Cool slightly but not until it has thoroughly solidified. Mix in some corn syrup. Refrigerate for allotted time on package. For a deeper red, add a few drops of red food coloring before refrigerating.

Once solidified, push pieces of the red gelatin onto the skull. Hang the skull in your haunt and watch as the gelatin slowly melts and slides down the skull.

If you’d rather, you can use the basic blood recipe instead and drip this over your spooky skulls.

Again, DO NOT INGEST.

Uses: This is a great decoration for any haunted house or outside decorations for your home. Just beware the mess! Don’t hang it over your furniture or anything else that may stain.

Brain Mold:

You will need to purchase a brain cake/pie/gelatin mold. Depending on the colors you want, mix those gelatin flavors together.

Example: If you want a green and purple zombie brain, add green food coloring and mix blue and red food coloring into the gelatin mix.

Prepare gelatin per directions. Refrigerate. Pop out of mold once it’s done and place on a creepy serving platter.

If you want a more string-like look, add cooked spaghetti noodles and add to your gelatin mix with the mix prepared and just slightly cooled, then refrigerate. Add pasta sauce to the noodles for bloody brains.

Note: You may also use this as a cake mold or meat mold (meatloaf). Both work wonderfully for deliciously gross fun!

Uses: A great centerpiece for any Halloween party, a delicious treat for the kids or a great decoration for your Haunted House or walk-through.

Oh yes, and it’s great to eat, especially if you’re a zombie!

Brain mold for Halloween

Easy Halloween Ornaments

Decorating your house for Halloween doesn’t have to mean rushing out to buy styrofoam tombstones and plastic skeletons, although those can make fun additions to your home as well! Almost anything can be made into a Halloween decoration with a little time, spray paint and sense of fun.

Look around the house for tchotchkes, ornaments and knickknacks you don’t really care about anymore. Or if your house is knickknack free, hit up your local charity store and bring home a bag of candle-holders, porcelain statues and small vases.

Give everything a good scrub in hot, soapy water, or run through your dishwasher to remove any dust or sticky labels.

Once dry, set your pieces 5-6 inches apart on cardboard and spray with black, glossy spray paint in short, thin bursts. You’ll end up with a cleaner finished product using several thin coats rather than a single thick coat that is likely to drip.

Continue painting, turning the objects as needed, until they are completely covered in paint. Allow the paint to cure overnight before scattering your Halloween Knickknacks thought out the house.

halloween ornaments halloween ornaments halloween ornaments on bookshelf painted halloween ornaments

6 Creative Uses for Halloween Coloring Pages

Halloween coloring pages offer a fun, simple and inexpensive way to keep children entertained for a few hours. Whimsical ghosts, goblins, and jack-o’-lantern grins can be fun to color or paint, and kids always love coloring activities and craft projects.  It’s possible to find free Halloween-themed coloring pages online, which you can download and print, or you can purchase cheap coloring books from your local dollar store. There are several different ways of using coloring pages at Halloween.   Here are a few ideas of things your kids can create.

1.       Yard Decorations

It’s actually quite easy to print a coloring page to any size that you need. If you will like a six-foot tall black cat guarding your house after dark on October 31st, it is fairly straightforward to create. Many stained-glass or quilt pattern websites offer free pattern enlargers that can send your choice of coloring page to the printer in pieces, which can later be taped together into a very large design. Children can decorate these separate sheets, glue them to poster board, and add a stick to plant in the yard.

2.       Invitations

Halloween party invitations are always fun to make. You could get your kids involved by getting them to color your invites.  Another idea is to ask each guest to decorate their own invite for judging at the party. With each Halloween invitation you send, you can include a coloring page for a mask, a pumpkin, or other Halloween-themed items. When guests arrive with their decorated invitations, they can be displayed as decorations at the party for everybody to enjoy.  You then can ask your guests to vote for their favorite.  Make sure you have some candy or some sort of treat available to give to the winner.

Halloween Pumpkin Cartoon Character coloring page3.       Party Favors

Halloween coloring pages can be made into fun party favors. For instance, there are paper baskets that can be colored and folded into shape to hold fruit or candy treats, which kids will love making. The baskets will hold their shape better if the sheet of paper is glued to a lightweight cardboard backing first.

4.       Fabric Stencils

If you are looking for imaginative ideas for Halloween crafts, many craft stores sell crayons that color in lines that will work as an iron-on transfer for fabric. Children will love the idea of coloring their own Halloween pictures that can then be ironed onto an old T-shirt.

5.       Window-Painting Templates

Coloring pages can be taped to the outside of a window for a child to copy onto the inside of the glass with washable poster paints. This is a fun way to decorate your home for the exciting Halloween season.

6.       Moving Pictures

Young children will enjoy coloring a very simple shape that can be glued to a cardboard backing. This shape can then be cut apart and put together with an office brad that will allow parts to move.

Halloween coloring pages are a great resource to remember for all types of holiday needs. These handy lined drawings can be used with crayons, paint or markers. With our modern printers able to enlarge or shrink these coloring page shapes, they can be used in a wide variety of ways that can add to your yearly Halloween fun.

This article is courtesy of HalloweenPartyIdeas.org, which offers lots more Halloween party ideas for kids, including games, crafts and food.

Making Body Parts and Monsters Out of Fiberglass

 

Guest contributor, props expert and comedy king David Lay is back! Thanks for contributing this fantastic tutorial, David.

Ever wonder how they made the costumes for Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers in Star Wars? Believe it or not, portions of these famous outfits were crafted the same way car bodies are made: in a mold with fiberglass or a similar resin.

In fact, so many things are made with plastics and resins today that it’s not likely you have any device that doesn’t have a molded part on it. (No, really!)

In my years as a haunter I’ve seen some extremely complicated – and convincing – costumes made entirely from molded fiberglass, including whole suits of Medieval armor.

With the basic knowledge of how to do this yourself, you can make almost anything your imagination can conjure up. Below we talk about how to make a simple body part as your starter example. However, please note that these concepts can be extended to almost any level to make extravagant costumes, monsters or even full Halloween haunt sets.

The Project: Let’s Get Crafty!

For this project I have decided to make a single body part -specifically, a hand. Actually, not just any hand, but a mummy hand. (This is a Halloween site, after all!)

I also chose materials that you can buy locally (think hardware or craft stores), or can get a hold of very inexpensively on sites like Amazon and ebay. These include::

  • Plaster of Paris, available at hardware or craft stores
  • Cheesecloth, which you can get anywhere cloth or canning supplies are sold
  • Fiberglass resin and fiberglass cloth or spun fiberglass, which you can get at an auto supply store
  • Plastic cups and spoons
  • Cheap disposable “chip” brushes

The Mold

I wanted my body part to look like a mummy’s hand, so I needed to make a mold that would give it mottled skin. I could have taken modeling clay and sculpted the part that I wanted, but I decided to use my own hand and arm. If you’re confident of your freehand sculpting skills than I am with mine, you may prefer making a clay model first.

fiberglass01

I mixed up some plaster of Paris as per the box’s instructions and dipped strips of cheese cloth into it. I then coated my arm with Vaseline petroleum jelly so the plaster wouldn’t stick, and then layered the plaster infused cheese cloth onto my arm.

fiberglass02

I pushed the cheesecloth into the spaces between my fingers, but made sure I had no convolutions (where the mold folds under itself – when you try to take the finished product out, you will have to break the mold in order to get it out – bad if you want to make another, identical part). I let the cheese cloth hang over the end of my fingers to make sure I covered the tips of my fingers. And yes, before you ask, it felt a bit…eew. (Halloween props are worth it, though!)

I used a canned vegetable can to rest my hand on so it would have the right bend to it. I made sure I had a tall cup of coffee, good music on, and then I waited the requisite time of about 45 minutes for the plaster to harden, trying not to move my hand or arm during that time.

fiberglass03

After hardening, I carefully pulled the “cast” off (Ouch! Not enough Vaseline, too many arm hairs), pushing and pulling at my skin to get it to break away from the mold.

fiberglass04

Casting the Fiberglass hand

I coated the inside of the mold with Vaseline to keep the resin from sticking to the mold. Unfortunately, one of the problems with plaster is that it is porous, and it takes a lot of Vaseline. I did have some trouble getting the resin hand out of the mold, ultimately breaking the mold. There are commercial anti-stick materials that work really well, which I’ll tell you more about later.

I wanted the skin to have a mottled look to it, so I made up a small amount (about two ounces – see below on how to do this) of resin and coated the inside of the mold, not getting rid of any air bubbles (that helps create the mottled look) and let that harden before making the main cast.

fiberglass05 fiberglass06

Next I cut a piece of fiberglass mat material to fit inside the mold. I also pulled some individual fibers out to fit into where the fingers are.

fiberglass07

I then mixed up about 8 ounces of the resin with the hardener as instructed on the can of resin, and stirred it. Then I poured the resin into the mold…

fiberglass08

…and spread it out with a chip brush.

fiberglass09

I let this harden for about 2 hours, and then began pulling the mold from the “hand”:

fiberglass10

This, it turns out, was not so easy. The Vaseline had been absorbed into the plaster, and the resin was stuck in many places on the mold. I ultimately destroyed the mold getting the hand out. That’s ok; I can always make another one. Great way to sit and pity the folks with broken arms set in casts…

fiberglass11

Painting Your Body Part

I trimmed this with a jig saw and with “nippers” to cut away the excess, and then painted the hand using acrylic paints (modeling paints would have been better, but this is what I had on hand). I painted it with yellow ochre:

fiberglass12

After drying, the molting looks like a mummy’s hand:

fiberglass13

I added some red and black paint to make a “wound”:

fiberglass14

…and did the same for the fingers:

fiberglass15

…and, viola, a mummy’s hand!

fiberglass-hand

Going Further With Your Newly Acquired Casting Skills

This ain’t nothin’, folks. The sky’s the limit, literally. There are airplane kits you can buy to build a whole airplane out of fiberglass! But that’s a different article. Let’s stick to costumes, sets, body parts, weapons… and the list goes on.

I said above that there are better materials out there. You betcha… there is a company that specializes in moldings and castings called Smooth-on, and you can visit their web site at http://www.smooth-on.com/

There are also hundreds of “How To” videos on YouTube that will lead you step by step in molding and casting. When you become the resident expert, make your own video and post it on YouTube. Pay the freaky forward, I  always say.

Got all that? Great – now, get started on that seven-foot monster, and Happy Haunting!

How to Quickly Make a Halloween Scarecrow Family

Each year I think I’ll add new items to my yard display, but every year the same thing happens: I‘m broke and have no time! Let’s face it, the two most important things we all need if we want to add something really great to our Halloween display is time and money. Both always seems to slip though my fingers like grains of sand in an evil inspired hour-glass.

But no matter how short on time and money you are, you’ll have most of the things to make a few fast scarecrows. The only thing you need to have is a few old clothes, garden stakes, and an hour or so and you’ve got instant decorations for little or no money!

Supply list:

  • Tall poles or PVC pipes
  • Trick-or-treat Buckets
  • Yarn, wigs and/or old hats
  • Wire
  • Duct tape
  • Plastic shopping bags or garbage bags
  • Newspapers and/or Leaves
  • Cutters
  • Clothes
  • Old gloves
  • Shoes

scarecrow-familyStep One–Scarecrows (SC)

Before we dive in, I want show you the three scarecrows I made once and talk about making a twist to the basic SC. How about making them in poses so that they do something rather than just standing there? Look at the photo of my family of scarecrows as if you’ve caught them in the act of adoring their daughter. I’ll describe how I made these so you can get ideas of how to branch out and pose your own SCs.

Step Two–Construction

Mommy Scarecrow

I drove one long bean pole into the ground for the standing mom. I held up the housecoat to the pole and measured where the neck needed to be and then measured a wooden garden stake to make her shoulders. I then wired the garden stake and then wound a strip of duct tape around the wire for stability. I grabbed a hand full of the plastic bags and stuffed another bag fairly full of newspaper (also try leaves) and taped it to the neck and chest for her body. Then I slipped her housecoat on and let it drag on the ground since I didn’t have any shoes for her.

Daddy Scarecrow

Now it was time to make the dad SC, and this is going to be fun since I wanted to make him sitting down. I stuffed an old pair of sweat pants with newspaper inside garbage bags and filled the pants until they looked like legs. Between the picnic table top and seat, I drove into the ground a shorter bean pole until it was the right height for his head and shoulders. I attached the cross piece the same for him as I did for the mom. Now I ran some wire through part of the waistband of the pants and attached it to the stake so the legs wouldn’t fall off in high wind. I slipped on the sweatshirt without stuffing him and started the child SC.

Child Scarecrow

The child SC I assembled differently. I drove two short garden stakes though a pair of old shoes, dropped her pants on over the stakes and stuffed her pants before I wired on the stake for her shoulders. I lightly stuffed her sweatshirt with more plastic bags, and then I was ready to attach all their heads.

Scarecrow Heads

As you can see, their heads are two sizes of old trick-or-treat buckets that I cut x’s in the bottom of so they’d fit on the poles. The treat buckets are perfect for this purpose because they’re weather resistant, have ready made faces, and we all have scads of them lying around the house. I finished off the heads with some yarn hair and old hats. I then safety pinned the gloves to the sleeves, and I was finished.

I can’t tell you how many people stopped by and talked about how much they loved my scarecrows. Some families stopped and as asked if they could have their picture taken with them. Others had the kids do some silly poses by them.

To this day, my family of scarecrows are the hit of the neighborhood, and now they have lots of other scarecrows to play with in my neighbors’ yards. So gather your family, a pile of old duds, a few garden stakes, and makes memories as well as decorations this Halloween season without spending a dime!

Advanced Pumpkin Carving Techniques

Tired of seeing the same old carvings on every jack o’lantern you see? Are you obsessed with carving all things gourd and always looking for a way to bring your passion from “craft” to “work of art”?

Or perhaps you just a spare gourd, some cool tools, and a few extra hours on your hands.

This year, forget the triangle eyes and pointy, crooked teeth – a jack o’ lantern can be so much more. Here’s the scoop on how to carve up something spectacular this Halloween.

It’s Easier Than You May Think

Beginning carvers generally only see two options when it comes to carving a pumpkin. We can see the orange of the pumpkin’s skin, or we can see a candle through holes in the skin.

But we really do have more options than that. Peel away a pumpkin’s skin without cutting all the way through the flesh and get a buttery yellow, for example. Or if you’re really determined, scrape away only part of the orange, leaving a lighter orange that can be used for shadowing, and presto – you’ve got three cool colors from one great gourd.

With these new options we can start to create some really unique Jack O’ Lanterns. So if you’ve got the time and the inclination, pull up a pumpkin and come carve wtih us.

Step One: Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

In order to choose the right pumpkin, think about what kind of design you want to do and how intricate it will be. (HINT: Pumpkin stencil books can offer awesome selections.)

Your image choice can determine such things as the size of the pumpkin, the overall shape -for example, tall and somewhat flat on one side for a creepy hanging spider –  and even whether or not it has a stem.

Now that you’ve narrowed down the size and shape, try to find a pumpkin that’s smooth on the side you’ll be carving on – a little scarring on areas that won’t show is totally fine.

Most pumpkins have ridges running from top to bottom, and that’s okay. But do try to find one with the least amount of scratches and scars. This will give you the best, easiest surface to carve no matter what your finished design will be.

If you want a pumpkin with minimum, shallow vertical ridges, go for a bigger one, as these tend to smooth out as they grow.

Step Two: Prepping Steps

Once you’ve found your perfect pumpkin, it’s time to prepare it for carving.

NOTE: Even if you only plan to carve on the surface of your pumpkin (rather than cutting all the way through the skin), you should prepare it the same way you would a normal jack o’lantern, as this will help you protect it from rotting.

Using a pumpkin knife from a carving kit or a small, hand-held jigsaw (these are safest and cut most easily), cut a circular hole around the stem and pop the top off. You may want to leave a little “lip” or a slightly oblong shape so you can easily see how to set the top back down on the pumpkin once it’s carved.

Scoop out all the seeds and save for roasting (yummy!). Scrape the insides to get rid of as much pulp as possible; bugs and bacteria love this goo the most, so keep it to a minimum if you can.

pumpkin-carving01

Prepare Your Image

lon_chaneyYou can put pretty much anything on your pumpkin. One of my favorite things to carve is something iconic from a classic horror film. For this tutorial I chose a picture of Lon Chaney from the lost silent film, London After Midnight. .

When choosing your image, pick something that’s easily recognizable. If it’s a photo with a background, it’s probably best to omit the background and just focus on the characters or main subject so you don’t distract they eye with unnecessary detail.

It’s best to find a picture with a lot of contrast – extreme darks and extreme lights working together well. If your design is in color, you will have to change it to grayscale. All photo editing programs can do this, as can oldschool photocopying if you prefer.

Once your pic is in black and white in your editing program, it’s wise to turn up the contrast. This will make the blacks blacker and the whites whiter. This simple step will help simplify the image so you don’t have too much detail to worry about.

lon_chaney_photoshop

Print the Page and Puncture Your Pumpkin

Print your image out on a piece of paper. You may have to play with your settings to get it to the right size to fit your pumpkin.

Once you have the image printed, position it over the best side of your pumpkin and decide exactly where you want it to go.

Next, use a few pins, needles, or thumb tacks to stick the photo in place.

With another pin (I suggest push pins, as they are easiest to hold) trace every line of your photo by poking holes along the line into the pumpkin. Any line you want to make note of should be perforated this way. This may take a while, but you’ll see that the outcome is worth it.

Hand getting tired? Take a break once in a while to munch some pumpkin seeds or candy corn. Whatever you need to do to keep the momentum, don’t skip this important step; it will determine exactly how you carve your cool image.

When you’ve perforated the entire image, and while the lines are still fresh in your mind, remove the paper and connect the dots by slicing with a craft knife or box cutters. Keep the slices as straight as possible. They do not have to be too deep, but you do need to be able to use them as trustworthy guides.

pumpkin-carving02

Pick Your Pumpkin Pigments

You’re almost ready to carve, but first you need to decide which parts of the pumpkin represent white, black and gray. Once you decide, stick with your vision unless you absolutely have to change it. You might run into this problem when you get to two shapes next to each other that are similar in color, but need to be separate.

This is why it is wise to carve from the outside, toward the center. This will help you coordinate and will leave more possibilities to switch if you later find you need to.

I decided that for my picture, the black of Mr. Chaney’s hat, hair and coat would be represented by the solid orange of the pumpkin skin. That means that the black lines of his face must also be solid orange.

I chose not to carve all the way through my pumpkin, but instead to use the white “meat” of the pumpkin for the color of my creepy subject’s skin and the whites of his eyes and teeth. I also knew that for subtler shadows (gray) I could gently scrape only the very top of the orange skin away and leave a light orange.

You may choose to do it the way I did, or you may have a different vision for your project. Use your creativity to find neat way to incorporate the black of cutting all the way into the pumpkin flesh to the other side. Do whatever you think is best for your design – remember, you’re the artist!

Pare and Peel Your Pumpkin’s Pelt

It’s finally time to carve your pumpkin! After all this preparation you must be dying to get started, right? But first – safety tips! You’ll want to wind up with an awesome carving AND all 10 fingers.

  • Children should not carve pumpkins without adult supervision, even if they’re using safety tools.
  • Cut away from yourself, not toward. If you need the blade at a different angle, just rotate the pumpkin.
  • Go SLOWLY. If you can’t seem to quite cut through, use SMALL sawing motions as you go along your lines. Don’t jab and yank at your blade. Trust us on this.

Now that that’s out of the way…

pumpkin-carving03For this tutorial, I started from the outside of my image and worked inward. The first thing I did was make a little halo around the outside of my image in white. I did this by stripping away the orange flesh all the way around to distinguish the black hat, hair and coat from the rest of the pumpkin.

Then I moved in for the details. And you thought the perforating dealio was hard work! This will probably actually feel more like whittling than carving. Just relax, take your time and have fun!

TIP: When carving details, slice down at an angle toward the part you are cutting out. If there is a piece of skin you need to keep, always push the blade away from it, or you weaken it underneath and risk loosing the detail. That’s how I lost the right side of Lon Chaney’s lower lip, for reference.

blade on pumpkin

The hardest part of my design was probably the teeth because they were so close together. It was hard to take pieces out without damaging the others. So as you can see, even we old pros (or so we like to think of ourselves!) have our challenges. Remember – go slowly!

As I continued with my design I found places where I wanted to leave a shadow. In these cases, before cutting all the skin away, I lightly scraped only the top. The main sections where I used this technique were along the length of Mr. Chaney’s nose and on his jaw, near his mouth. I felt this would give more depth and realism to his face, even though I did not follow the shadows in the picture exactly.

pumpkin-carving04 pumpkin-carving05

For a finishing touch, you can scoop out most of the flesh on the inside to make the wall very thin. Then put a candle inside and you’ll get a nice glow through the flesh. Just leave the top open so oxygen can get in.

When you are all done, sit back and admire your work. Looks pretty awesome, doesn’t it?

If it’s not perfect, don’t worry – neither was mine! Nothing can ever be perfect. But if you did something that’s totally you, it’s sure to turn a few heads – and we think you’re going to even impress yourself.

To help your pumpkin last longer, cover the inside and outside with vegetable oil or Vaseline (warning: flammable) and consider keeping it in the fridge until the big day.

Congratulations! You are an advanced pumpkin carver!

pumpkin-carving-finished

Halloween Mobiles

Constructing Halloween Mobiles are a fun way to spend an afternoon. There are so many different ways to be creative and make fun mobiles for the season. Let’s get started!

Halloween clip art images are an easy way to get a lot of pictures for coloring. Cookie cutters are also great for making cute shapes out of construction paper. The shapes can be colored and decorated anyway you want. Also, you could make a mobile with just one shape, like bats, or use all the different seasonal icons you can imagine.

Materials

  • Cookie cutters or clip art
  • Crayons, permanent markers, colored pencils
  • Glue
  • Fishing line or thread
  • Small diameter dowels
  • Construction paper

Optional Items

  • Needle
  • Hot glue gun
  • Glitter, sparkling beads, feathers, etc.

materialsBuilding Your Halloween Mobile

Any craft or home improvement store will have 3/8″ dowels available for purchase. I was able to find a package of small dowels cut to 12″ in length for about $1. Very handy. We first painted our dowels black.

Trace the cookie cutter shapes onto paper. Cut them out and have fun decorating. If you use clipart you may want to print a mirror image as well so the pictures are double sided.

Enjoy the decorating/coloring and talking with the kids about Halloween and what they are most excited about. Take your time during this step, because the hanging step could be difficult with little helpers.

When you are ready to assemble the mobile, cut the fishing line or thread to anywhere between 6″ and 10″ lengths. This will allow for a nice length once a knot is tied and glued, etc.

Use a 12″ dowel for the top. Cut another dowel into 6″ lengths and hang them from the ends of the top dowel. You can stop there or hang another 12” dowel from the center of the top so that it hangs below the 6” dowels, and so on. It just depends on how large you want the mobile to be and how many different shapes you want to add.(Don’t make it too heavy! Mine broke when I got too ambitious!)

IMG00632 IMG00634

We painted the dowels black and used fishing line to hang the Halloween shapes. We also bought some 1″ wooden letters to spell out “trick or treat”. They were not very expensive but you could do the same thing with scrapbook paper by gluing two pieces together so you have the back and front decorated, or use a two-sided piece.

The complete Halloween Mobile
The complete Halloween Mobile

Have fun! I’d love to hear of others who tried this project. Please comment below.

Spooky Chalk Rubbings for Halloween

 

 

 

Thank you, guest author Ruth Randall, for this beautiful Halloween craft!

Sidewalk chalk takes on a whole new look this time of year. Making chalk rubbings on black construction paper gives it a ghostly appearance and can make for some spooky monster shapes.

Check out this EASY info on how to create your own spooky chalk rubbings for your Halloween decor. Fun!

Materials Needed

  • Sidewalk or other chalk, or crayons
  • Construction paper – especially black
  • Aerosol hair spray
  • Shapes to rub: leaves and/or Halloween cut outs
  • Textured papers or cloth

This is a simple project that even a 2-year-old can get into and enjoy!

1. Lay your choice of shape on the counter or other hard surface. You can do one shape at a time or lay several out at once. However, we found that leaves get lost in each other if they all get put down together.

2. Lay the construction paper over the shape(s).

3. With the chalk on its long side, begin rubbing. Depending on how distinct each shape is you may have to rub harder or softer.

4. When you are satisfied with your rubbing, hold the hairspray at a distance and spray it to hold the chalk in place. If you get it too close, the picture will disappear; but I’m happy to report that, eerily, your picture will return once it dries.

5. If you chose to use crayons you’ll need to be more careful in holding the paper in place because they do not move as smoothly as the chalk does.

chalk-spooky_leaf

Each of these pumpkins was rubbed separately with a single shape. After each pumpkin appeared we moved the pumpkin shape underneath to a different spot:

chalk-pumpkins

For the monsters we used grape leaves and then added the eyes after removing the leaf from under the paper. The purple monster is made with a whole leaf, the blue “bat’ was made after I tore the leaf a bit. Some of the shapes we used came from tracing cookie cutters on paper and then cutting out the shape.

chalk-monster-leaf

You can also find shape inspiration by using Google Images to find clip art of Halloween themes or anything else you can imagine!

These tree-looking rubbings were made with a weed grass that still carried lots of seeds. The seeds gave quite a nice effect. Using different colored chalks and letting them blend together is a nice way to create a deeper visual. We used several different colors of paper, but the most stunning effects were achieved with the black construction paper.

chalk-monster-weeds

Chalk Rubbings at Your Halloween Party

These chalk rubbings can become a fun game at a party, too! Get a roll of butcher paper (which you can buy in black) and cover your table with it or hang it along the wall. Offer a prize to whoever colors the best leaf or shape or whoever finds the biggest leaf/shape.

You can also offer a “booby” prize – at least that’s what we called it when I was a kid: a prize for whoever is furthest from the mark. The idea, of course, is to have a lot of fun!

Another neat idea is to take butcher paper to a graveyard and make rubbings of old gravestones to decorate your house with. Let your imagination take you through the year with chalk rubbings.

Make Your Own Slow Cooker Fog Machine

 

Looking to scare up some foggy fun this Halloween? Here’s how to do it – the easy way!

You will need:

  • A slow-cooker
  • Dry Ice
  • A hammer
  • A plastic cauldron or other prop container
  • Heavy-duty gloves

The method:

It’s easy to make fog just by dropping dry ice in warm water. The problem is that dry ice is so cold, it actually starts to freeze the water around it, which squelches the fog effect pretty quickly.

So how do you keep the water warm for hours? A slow cooker, of course!

  • First, fill your cooker about halfway with water and turn it on high.
  • Next, break up your dry ice into manageable chunks. You can get this stuff at your local grocery store – just ask the checker to have someone get it for you. You will need gloves – never ever touch dry ice with your bare hands. It is so cold, it will burn you.
  • Now pick up your hammer to take out your frustrations on the dry ice.

slow-cooker-fog03 slow-cooker-fog04

  • When you have some manageable chunks, carefully drop them in and watch the fog bubble up. Because your home made fog machine works so well, it will gobble up dry ice fairly quickly, so be ready with more chunks.

slow-cooker-fog05 slow-cooker-fog06

What you do with your fog machine is up to you. I suggest putting it in a cauldron or a pumpkin with holes in it for the fog to flow out.

This is low-floating fog, so if you want fog to flow out the top of a pumpkin, don’t put any holes in the bottom or it will all go that way. Small, single-serving slow cookers can fit in most pumpkins and can be purchased for less than $15 at many retailers.

Please remember not to touch the dry ice, and please crack a window if you run it inside. The dry ice produces a lot of carbon dioxide, which can push out the oxygen in a room and give you a headache. And the best reminder of all is to have fun!

slow-cooker-fog-final

Making Halloween Decorations with Bakeable Clay

Halloween is a holiday which has seen a wide variety of decorating options grow over the last decade. These options include Halloween villages, Halloween trees, and the expansion of miniature collectibles, some directly related to Halloween, and others to the fall season in general. Prices for such decorations can range from several dollars to upwards of a hundred, and while they are inevitable worth it at the moment of purchase, guilty can quickly follow – or at least it does for me.

In order to satisfy my Halloween addiction, and to keep money in my wallet, my wife introduced me to bake-able clay. Bake-able clay is sold in packets. Most of these packets are roughly one inch deep, two and a half inches wide, and three inches long.

The generic brands of bake-able clay, such as “craftsmart” Polymer Clay, usually cost under two dollars for one package. Craft stores such as Michael’s and A.C. Moore carry not only the “craftsmart” brand, but several others as well, and they are available in a broad array of colors. For Halloween, the basic colors needed are white, green, orange, and black. Bake-able clay is extremely malleable, and requires very little in the way of tools.

Working With Bakeable Clay

With aluminum foil, wax paper, a sharp knife, and some imagination, the creation of your own decorations is much closer than you realize. Each piece of bake-able clay can be cut or pulled apart, and the more that you work it with your hands, the warmer the clay will become. As the clay warms, it will be easier for you to form and shape it.

Once you’ve chosen the shape that you want, be patient, haste will only cause you to ruin whatever work you’ve done. As the clay cools a sharp knife can be used to trim the piece, or to do fine work. Sewing needles and pins can also be used for the same. Make sure you place the piece of clay on your wax-paper, or on a smooth clean surface so there’s no damage to it before you put it into the oven to bake.

Pumpkins are fairly easy to make, as you need only to roll a small amount of orange clay in your hand (as if you were making cookies), to get the basic shape that you want. Once you have the shape your sewing needle or knife can make the necessary lines. A small curl of green clay can be the remains of a vine, and if you’re truly skilled (like my wife), you can use an Exacto blade to make leaves for your pumpkin.

Headstones can be formed by warming up the clay as with the pumpkins, then rolling it flat with a pen on your wax paper. Once you have the clay to the thickness that you want, carefully use a sharp knife to trim the clay into the shape you want. A needle can be used to make decorations, or epitaphs. When you’re ready to make a base for your stone, follow the same procedures.

Baking in the Oven

Once you’ve finished your piece, or pieces, carefully move them from the wax-paper, or smooth surface, to a baking sheet lined with the aluminum foil. If you don’t have a baking sheet that you want to use for your project, then doubling up a sheet of aluminum foil will work fine as well.

When you place the ornaments on the aluminum foil you should use smaller pieces of foil to make sure the ornaments stay upright and don’t flatten in the baking process.

Baking only takes around fifteen minutes (look on the package for baking instructions), so depending on how many pieces you’re making, you can see the fruits of your labor quickly. Once the pieces are done, you’ll be ready to start decorating with your own ornaments for Halloween!

bakeable-clay

Halloween Decoupage – Create a Papier Mache Photo Purse

Papier Mache and decoupage has come a long way, and luckily for you and me, there are hobby stores that carry a full line of Papier Mache boxes, purses, and chests that are a breeze to decorate for our favorite holiday (Halloween, of course!) Here is just one example of how to blend Papier Mache and decoupage a Halloween purse photo frame.

Supplies:

  • Papier mache photo purse
  • Decoupage Solution (ie Mod Podge)
  • Small Sponge Brush
  • Halloween paper or prints
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife
  • Photo or antique reproduction of post card for front
  • Ink jet printed pictures and hairspray
  • Scrap booking papers (optional)
  • Paints (optional)
  • Tissues
  • Damp rag (to wipe sticky fingers on)
purse01
Print pictures on your computer with your ink jet printer. Spray the pictures with hair spray and let them dry.

Step One – Gather Your Supplies

Gather up your supplies and cover the table you’re going to be working at with newspapers or a vinyl tablecloth because the decoupage solution is messy and can be hard to get off some surfaces.

You can cut up old holiday and craft magazines that have Halloween pictures. You can print out pictures with an ink jet printer, but you have to spray it with hair spray and let it dry completely before you can use it. Some stickers may work but only if they’re not printed on really thick, heavy paper.

Once you’ve selected the items you’re going to use, make sure they’re clean and dry. You might want to paint on the paper items you’ve chosen, which is fine – just make sure it’s dry before you add the decoupage solution. Any moisture will mess up the decoupage and might cause problems like air bubbles down the road.

Step Two – Design Layout

Pick up your purse with dry hands and look at it carefully. Consider how you want to put your paper designs on before you cut or tear your first picture to use. This is a good time to plan out if you want to add a background paper or if you’d prefer to paint your background along with other items.

Then cut out or tear out your items and place all the elements you are going to use on the dry purse and see how it looks. Play with all components until it looks the way you want it to.

purse02
Select the picture you want to use, insert it in the window of the purse and paint on the Mod Podge solution so you can add your background paper.

Step Three – Applying the Decoupage Solution

Pick a corner and start working in small areas with lots of the decoupage solution anywhere the paper will touch. You can also cover the picture with the solution if you prefer, and then stick it on the purse.

Either way, place the picture on the purse and use your fingers to gently press the picture down to make contact and then carefully work all the wrinkles out of the pictures. Dab off any excess solution with your finger and wipe on a tissue so you won’t have lumps that will show when dry.

Keep overlapping pictures until you have the surface covered and let dry. It can take hours or even overnight in some climates to completely dry, so use your own judgment about how long the drying time will be for you. Don’t try to rush the drying process with a hair dryer or by blowing on it, or you may get air bubbles in the surface that will ruin all your work.

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purse03 purse-complete
Cover the surface of the purse with Mod Podge and let dry. Now the purse is covered in paper and has at least two to three coats of Mod Podge.

Step Four – Coating and Coating

After all the pictures have dried completely, apply a thin coat over the whole surface and keep adding coats until it is how you want it to look. Watch out for bubbles as your project dries, and if you find one, just pop it gently with a straight pin and smooth over. How many coats to do? It’s up to you, but it’s always a good idea to put enough coats on to cover up the edges of the paper for a smooth, seamless look to your piece. Let it dry completely after you’re done adding coats, and you’re done.

Decoupage pieces are stunning when dry, and you can express yourself in as many ways as there are holidays!

How to Make a Scary Movie Using Sony Vegas

 

Guest contributor David Lay takes us inside the mind of a moviemaker – and tells you how to get ALL the awesomely spooky effects. Thanks David!

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not here to tell you how to make a 105-minute Halloween horror blockbuster. I’m talking about a little 1 or 2 minute “tickler”, to chill the bones of people at your party or those pesky trick-or-treaters who may come to your door with the intent of scaring you.

And you aren’t going to need a 2 million dollar budget, either.

You ARE going to have to have some kind of video camera. These days, your cell phone has one, so you probably already have what is needed.

There are four elements to making a scary movie:

1) A scary story. Remember, we’re not talking about voyeurism, or revulsion, like when you pass by an accident and you just have to look even though you know you shouldn’t. We’re talking about fear; you want to tell a story that tickles the part of the imagination that trips off the “fear switch” or creates an imbalance in the viewer, which can lead to fear.

2) Lighting. Good lighting is essential to a good movie. This does not have to be expensive, simply picking the right time of day, or the right day, can be all that is needed.

3) Sound. Sound creates half of the fear (perhaps even 75%). The sound creates empathy, and makes the image up close and personal.

4) Playing it in the right setting. A scary movie playing in a brightly lit room just doesn’t have the scare appeal that it would have in a darkened room full of hidden ghosts and monsters!

1. Setting Up a Scary Story for Your Movie

Let’s start with the first element: A story. What you are going to do is sit down and write a simple story. Don’t let it be longer than a few sentences. The story should have an element of hopelessness, where there is no escape from the “nightmare”. Better and easier if there is only one or two characters.

The story should have a single location. A rule that every low budget producer knows is don’t have too many locations. More locations mean more time and money. A location, by the way, is where the story takes place. In your story you will only want one location. Here’s a simple example:

A face, cloaked in black with a black background, unmoving except for its mouth, lit from below to give it deep shadows in dark surroundings, is talking backwards. The video has an old film grain given to it, and the image is mirrored so that the face is in duplicate, and turns to look at itself every now and again. End. Loop back to the beginning.

Play this over and over again, maybe just a little out of focus. Make sure you have the sound up loud enough to keep everyone’s attention. Maybe while you’re playing this, run a little “mist” low to the ground from your fog machine (see my article on “Maximizing the Effect of Your Fog Machine”). The ideas are endless.

Here’s another, simple, example:

A hooded figure, lit from below its face only by a hidden flashlight carried in its hands, walks in from one side of the video frame, across the frame, and out the other side. End. Loop back to the beginning.

Or, how about:

A guy, who is also the cameraman pointing his camera down at the path he is on, is running through the woods. All you see is his shadow, but you hear twigs breaking and him breathing. There is an element of desperation in his voice. He trips once in a while. End. Loop back to the beginning.

Finally, maybe this:

A guy is walking through an old cemetery, maybe with fog or mist. He senses someone is following him. He looks over his shoulder and sees a dark form following him. He starts to walk faster. He’s breathing faster, deeper as he works up a “fear”. The breathing has desperation to it. The figure seems to be keeping up with him, gaining on him. End. Loop back to the beginning.

2. Lighting in Your Halloween Movie

The second element, lighting, is the bugaboo of movie makers. Good lighting is expensive, but you’re lucky since you’ve decided to make a short, scary movie. Simple lighting is all that is needed because scary movies do better with fewer details. Remember, it’s the imagination that creates the fear. You just have to spark it.

You can do that with one light on each subject in the movie: Set it low and point it up. Lots of long, upward shadows means scary… OR, you can use the sun, but you’ll need to pick the time of day, and the kind of day to make it work. A bright, noon day sun is not scary. Early morning or evening is good, but it doesn’t last long. But, then again, neither is your movie.

Overcast days are good as they flatten the color and the details, but the disadvantage is they don’t have good shadows. This kind of light would work if you were making the cemetery movie above.

As an example, consider the guy above running through the woods: This would be best shot in the mid-afternoon or in the mid-morning, so that you get a good shadow, but there is plenty of light to see the shadow on the forest floor.

If you are going to make an elaborate set with lots of lights, which I don’t recommend, light the background and background characters first as it frames the foreground, then light the foreground and characters. I’ve seen amateur movie makers following the “three point” lighting scheme you’d use in portrait photography struggle with the lighting because they didn’t understand this simple concept.

For the other example of the talking face or the cloaked figure walking across the room, use a dark room, or a black backdrop, so there are no details in the background. Have the character wear dark clothing. Only light the face with a single light, like a flashlight held under the chin, pointed up.

Creating Spooky Sounds

Now, what about sound? A good scary sound is breathing. It’s easy and doesn’t require any editing. But, to really explore the possibilities, I’m going to refer you to my other article “Making Scary Sound Effects with Sony’s Sound Forge.” However, I still need to make a mention: There are simple sound effects that you can do with a video editing program that do not require a program like Sound Forge, but that also means you’ll need an editing program, which brings me to the next topic: Editing.

Using a Video Editing Program Like Sony Vegas

Certainly you can make a simple video without doing any editing, and it will play pretty well as is. But to create a clean story, that is, it tells exactly what you want without extraneous start-ups and “FUBAR’s”, you’ll need a video editing program. There are several video editing programs available, but I will discuss the one I am familiar with, and that is Sony Vegas Movie Studio.

The nice thing about this software is that it ties in with Sound Forge, and you can do audio editing easily. But even if you don’t have Sound Forge, then there is enough power in Movie Studio to do simple effects.

The best way to do this is by example. I made the talking face movie mentioned above (because it’s easy) by putting on a black turtle neck and standing in front of a black backdrop. I stood to one side of the frame so there would be room to create a duplicate “me” on the other side of the video frame. I shined a flashlight up at my face.

scary_video01

I recited “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and the tape lasted about 15 seconds. I’m going to lead your through how to edit my movie, but understand the possibilities are endless.

Open Up Sony Vegas Movie Studio

Let’s start by opening up your editing program and follow along, if you have one. Most new computers now come bundled with some kind of video editing software. Most are user friendly, but may not have the ability to do some of the things I will be suggesting here. I am using Sony’s Vegas Movie Studio, version 8 because that is what I’m used to using (actually, I’ve used several very sophisticated editing programs, and Vegas Movie Studio is just on the edge of being a professional editing program – just right for the beginner).

I’ll just have to assume you have it, or something close, and will guide you through as I use my video clip “Scary Movie 2”.

Upon opening, you get an opening “Show Me How” window that gives you a list of tutorials if you need help getting started. The tutorials are very helpful, though I would like it better if they provided a manual to go with it. (Editor’s Note: There’s lots of Sony Vegas video tutorials on Youtube.) Just call me old fashioned. Anything not covered in the tutorials is covered in the Help window, but sometimes you may not know what key word to use to do a search, and that can be frustrating.

Luckily Vegas Movie Studio is relatively intuitive, once you get the hang of the layout. Here is what you’ll see at startup:

scary_video02

Close out the “Show Me How” window and then, next, you want to start a New Project. Go to the File menu and choose New. Name the Project “Scary Movie” and click Next. Let the program choose where to put the project. Usually it will be in My Videos if you have windows.

Select the output. I always choose “I’m not sure yet. I will choose later.” This gives me more control over how the movie will be published when I’m finished.

Click Next and you will be given default values for editing in a new window. These are typical: Television size is 720 by 480 and the Frame rate is 29.970 if you are editing in NTSC standards (the America and Japanese standard). PAL if in Europe.

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Video-capture Your Clip

OK. Hook up your camera or camcorder to your computer (read your manual to your camera for how to do this), or if you’ve previously recorded a video, save it to your computer and click the “Explorer” tab to find it, then drag and drop it onto the timeline.

Otherwise, to capture a video, go to the “File” menu and choose “Capture Video”:

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The Capture Video window will open and it will ask you how you want to capture your clips. A clip is any segment of uninterrupted video. I chose “Don’t capture any clips right now”, because I like to have control over what the computer brings in. Every time the video camera was started and stopped, Vegas will start a new clip.

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This is what the full window should look like:

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Press the Play button at the bottom and “Shuttle” or use the fast forward or reverse to find you beginning point for capture. Once you’ve found the start point, click the Capture Video button. Once you get to the end, click the Stop button. You’ll get a confirmation window that your video has been successfully captured.

Click Done. You’ll get a clip listed at the bottom. Mine says “Scary Video 2”. Click and hold that file and drag up to the “Timeline” to the Video track just above the Voice track.

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Next, “crop” the clip by placing the cursor on the right most edge of the video clip and “pushing it” toward the last sound wave, or wherever the scene “makes sense”. Repeat on the left hand side. Now you only have video where there is talking:

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Then, place the cursor over the middle of the video clip and click and hold as you drag the clip to the beginning of the timeline.

Editing and Adding Effects to Your Spooky Video

Ok. Let’s do our first effect. Let’s reverse both video and voice tracks by right-clicking on the video and choosing Reverse from the menu:

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Do the same for the voice track and you’ll see two arrows; one on each track. That arrow indicates the track has been reversed.

Ok. Now press the play button and see what happened. The face is talking backwards – scary.
Let’s do another effect. Go to the bottom of the page where the files are listed and you’ll see six buttons. Choose Video FX tab. Scroll down the menu on the left hand side and choose Mirror:

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Then choose the effect “Reflect Left”. Click and hold and drag that effect up to the video track and release. You’ll get this window. Ignore it and close it.

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Now you should have two images, one the mirror of the other:

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This is now double creepy. Let’s do another. Let’s do an old film look. Click on Film Effects in the menu to the left. Choose Very Old Film and drag it up and drop it on the video track. Now play the clip. Double creepy with extra creep on top:

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scary_video-faces-old

So, right now the “movie” is only about 10 seconds long. You can make it as long as you want (don’t go over two hours – your DVD can’t hold that much). Simply click on the video track which should highlight it. Then Copy, or Ctrl C, and then, at the end of the clip, Paste, or Ctrl V. Keep doing this, each time adding another 10 seconds on the length, and making the clip repeat over and over. Very Creepy:

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Now you want to print this to a DVD, or to your camera. Go up to the “Make Movie” tab at the top tool bar, and click. Vegas will ask you what you want to do with your movie… make a DVD, etc. Choose the final way you want to make your movie. I choose Burn it to DVD since I will want to play this through my DVD Player into my video projector:

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Click Next and the following window I just use the default values Vegas chooses, because that is the most general and will “render” the whole video track. Rendering is when Vegas converts the timeline video into a file that is actually in a video format that can be played in a DVD Player. This part takes a long, long time, usually about five to ten times longer than the video track. The more video effects, the longer it will take to render. So, if your timeline track is 10 minutes long, it will take about 50 minutes to render…

Time to take a break and go out and see your favorite scary movie while your movie is rendering. It will save to a file, and then you’ll be prompted to burn the DVD via Sony’s DVD Architect, a program that is bundled with Vegas Video Studio.

If you would like to see how my Scary Movie turned out, see below:

You can also export the audio to Sony’s Sound Forge by right-clicking on the audio track (see my article “Making Scary Sound Effects”), do some creepy stuff there, and then import that audio track back into Vegas. Totally Creepascious.

So, now that you have an academy award winning scary movie, where to play your movie? Get a video projector and project your movie on your window as the trick or treaters come to the door, or on a manikin head, or on a balloon (see my other article “Scary Video Projections on Your Window”).

If you’re having a party inside, keep the lights down low and have the video playing in the background on your TV or projected on a wall. If your party is outside, there are inflatable screens you get buy or rent just for this purpose. Or, if you are a craftsman, make a frame and hang a cheap sheet of white, disposable vinyl table covering over it and project the image from the back!

And don’t forget, use your fog machine! Mix creepy with creepy and you get scary!!

Happy Haunting!

Two-Way Mirrors: A Haunted House Must-Have

 

You’ve seen them in haunted houses – eerie mirrors that seem to be haunted with some terrifying, ghostly presence. Just how do they do that?

As they say in show biz, it’s all done with mirrors! Also known as a a transparent mirror, a two-way mirror is a piece of glass that’s been treated so that one person can see out, but a person on the other side can’t see in. It’s a traditional trick for haunted houses everywhere.

Placed between a darkened room a lighted room, a two-way mirror allows a person in the darkened room to see through the glass, but the individual in the lighted room sees only his or her own reflection – eerie!

You may know of this type of mirror from crime shows. And yes, they’re actually used for that purpose. Here, though, we’ll show you how the mirror becomes transparent to produce ghostly images that are PERFECT for your haunt.

Read on to make a spooky two-way mirror of your own

But First…Here’s How You’ll Use It

If you’ve ever gone through Disney’s Haunted Mansion and been amazed by the hitchhiking ghosts that seem to sit beside your reflection, you’ve seen a two-way mirror at its fullest spooky potential.

You can create a similar effect in our own haunted houses without too much effort. The mirror does most of the work for you!

haunted-mirrorJust set your mirror into a false wall in your haunted house and place something spooky behind it. Then find a way to click on the lights at just the right moment for the maximum scare effect.

Depending on the size of your mirror and what you have available, you can hide a person in a costume, an animatronic or just a scary portrait behind your mirror.

Your victim will walk down the hall and at first see only hisreflection. Then, when the time comes, light up your ghostly apparition and let the mirror do its work. Your “victim” will suddenly see what is behind the mirror. Eek!

We find that strobe lights work well for lighting up your apparition – some of them can be set to timers, and others have foot controls. For smaller mirrors, a flashlight under your chin is the simplest and most effective method for getting that traditional scary face.

Let’s Get Started

It’s fairly easy to buy a haunted mirror online, and it’s not too expensive. If you don’t have much time on your hands before Halloween, go ahead and go that route. But if you’re feeling creative, here’s how to craft your own totally awesome two-way haunted mirror.

You will need:

If you plan on putting a person behind your mirror, you should choose a larger-sized picture frame. You may want to use a poster frame, but the thicker the frame, the better.

If you can find a large antique-looking frame (try a second-hand shop or check around at garage sales), that would be ideal. A neat idea is to paint your frame black or crack the paint to make it look distressed. Just don’t damage the frame so much that you can’t get the glass back in!

After removing the glass from your frame, you will apply the privacy film to one side. Follow the directions in the package to apply the film to your glass. See our video below for a tutorial. It’s easier to attach the film to a loose piece of glass than a window because there’s no measuring involved. Just lay your glass on top of the film and cut around the edges.

Make sure you cut the film so that you have an extra inch on all sides. Next, you may want to ask a friend for help, as it’s easy to crease the film or get it stuck to itself when you work alone. Apply the film and squeegee it as flat as possible, removing any bubbles. When you trim the excess film off the edges, it doesn’t have to be perfect, as the edges will be hidden beneath the frame. You may want to hold the squeegee on the edge of the glass when you pull the excess away, as it tends to stick and pull up what you’ve already squeegeed down.

After you’ve trimmed and dried the film, place the glass back into the fame with the film facing forward.

Installing your Haunted Mirror

False walls are the key to a great haunted house. Monsters can hide behind them and spooky hands can reach out from them to grab (and terrify) haunt visitors.

To hang your mirror, you will need to cut a hole in one of your false walls. The hole should be smaller than the outside of your frame, but larger than the visible glass so you can hide the seam of the wall behind the frame.

Your guests should not be able to tell there is anything strange about the wall. It’s such a great effect!

Ghostly images

If you want to get really advanced (or just don’t want to sit around behind a wall for hours) you can put a TV or computer screen behind a small mirror and loop a spooky video on it. You can make your own video if you like – It should be black most of the time to allow for the appearance of a normal mirror. Then create bright, ghostly images that emerge from the blackness. Do this by simply moving into a beam of light (flashlight under the chin works) and make a scary face! You don’t have to limit yourself to just faces – get creative, you can put anything behind your mirror!

After your get your video up on the screen, you will want to turn the contrast way down because even when the screen is black it can emit a glow that will alert your guests that something’s up. You may also need to cover the sides of your screen with black cloth or paper (paint it black if you have an old spare) and make sure all lights on the knobs and power button are hidden and won’t glow through. Then push the screen up behind the mirror and let it work its magic!

Transform Candles into Cool Halloween Candles

I’ve done many sorts of decorated candles for other seasons of the year; I just hadn’t ever considered a Halloween candle before. Your imagination can go crazy with this project because there are so many varieties of decorative items to choose from!

Materials List

  • Candle(s)
  • Glue
  • Wax Paper
  • Tooth Picks
  • Butcher Paper or vinyl tablecloth
  • Decorative shapes: Brads, confetti, adhesive jewels, sequins, glitter, etc

Prepare your work area by spreading out a table cloth or butcher paper out on a hard surface before letting any little hands help with opening the decorations – especially if you are using brads or tacks with sharp points. It will also help with keeping glue off your counter or table.

decorative-candle1Decorative brads and tacks will be difficult for younger children to push into the wax. We also tried using straight pins to attach some of the confetti shapes; we had to use a hard object to help push them in because the pinheads were so small they quickly became painful. We decided that glue would be a good choice to finish the project with. Regular Elmer’s glue was sticky enough to hold the small plastic confetti pieces to the candle. If you chose to use larger shapes you’ll need a stronger glue (like Gorilla glue) so that the shapes will curve with the candle.

Little children will just go for it without thinking about a particular design, but you can do some lovely things with these candles. Twist a stream of glue around a taper candle and roll it in glitter. Shake off the excess and you have a decorated candle. You could stand the candle up and let the glue start to drip before rolling it in red glitter…… that would be a really spooky effect.

When we were shopping around there were all sorts of Halloween or Autumn brads to choose from as well as sticky “gems”, and glitter galore. Enjoy this project for the easy fun it is and let your imagination take the lead!

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Adult Alternative: Candle Molds

For a more advanced Halloween candle, try using candle molds. If you buy a candle that has a diameter that is a little less than the mold, you can then sprinkle decorative shapes into the mold with the candle, then pour melted wax around it and let it cool. For Halloween it could make for interesting and Gothic decor!

Scary Video Projections on (and Through) Your Window

While there’s nothing wrong with round-cheeked jack-o-lanterns and cheery, waving ghosts, this author is a firm believer in real scares. With that in mind, here’s a twist on window decorations that will send a chill up the spines of all those cute little trick-or-treaters as they approach your house. (Remember those days? It’s so much fun to be on the other side of the scare!)

These live (or at least they appear to be on video) shadow dramas take place on a window, sound and all. Even better, how about a talking head, or if you like “cute,” a singing one a la the busts in Disney’s Haunted Mansion? It’s all up to you! Read on

 

How to Create Video Projections for Your Halloween Haunt

STEP ONE First, come up with a creepy idea and video tape it. Keep it simple. If you are going to project this on a tall window, turn your video camera sideways and then project it sideways so the image fills the window.

Second, you’ll need a projector. You’ll need one that has a fairly bright light – at least 1500 lumens are recommended (2000 if you don’t mind going up in price for the projector; that’s up to you and what you see for the future of your haunt).

But video projectors are expensive,” you say. Don’t give up yet! If you live near a larger town or city, there are audio visual rental houses that will happily rent you a projector for a day or two. Or go on the hunt for an inexpensive projector. Today, you can easily order quality projectors for a relatively low price.

STEP TWO Next, you’ll need a translucent “screen” to project the image onto. A sheet is fine, but the light from the projector will defract with this method”, and soo experiment to see if the light is strong enough to penetrate all the way through and be seen from the other side.

Other ideas I’ve seen for this purpose are those cheap disposable table cloths or vinyl shower curtains.

EXAMPLES USING DIFFERENT METHODS Here’s a video of the author reciting poetry in black and white, in duplicate. This was on white butcher paper, and it did not cover all of the window. It showed well since the image was bright, but for a darker image, this didn’t work well at all:

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Below: I hung a cheap, white, vinyl table covering over the window (I just realized that I had knocked one of the support rods loose…don’t tell my wife – now THAT would be scary).

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Below: Replacing the paper with the plastic vinyl, I did a spooky face by simply putting a cape over my head and lighting just my face with a flashlight. This one really creeped my wife out when she saw it, and she’s a teacher so it takes a lot to scare the daylights out of her!

projections-spooky

Other materials you can get just for this purpose include special filters and papers for putting over windows and lights to diffuse light. The gel that will make your window into a translucent screen is what is called “heavy frost, and comes in rolls or large sheets. Even if your projector doesn’t have a bright light in it, this gel will let enough light through to see the image well.

STEP THREE Finally, sound. Make sure the windows are open so that you can crank up the stereo and let them have the scary stuff up close and personal! Sound is the depth of vision and adds a lot of realism and suspense.

Sounds easy, right? Well, here’s the problem (there’s always a problem). To keep the image going for as long as the little devils are coming to the door, about two or three hours, you’re going to have to make as long a video as you can.

Some of you might act creepy all the time so no big deal, but for most of you, you could get pretty tired acting creepy for longer than a few minutes. Set your video player to”loop” or “repeat” and you’ll have that extra effort off your hands so you can scare your little visitors personally.

Another cool method (it’s an idea from the Hollywood oldschool film days) is to project the image of someone’s head on a mannequin’s head (like you would store a wig on), or an inflated balloon. If you’re using video, the head appears to be talking.

I made a simple little video wearing all black and a black background, and I recited some poetry. I then went into Sony’s Vegas Movie Studio and reversed the image and the sound. (That’s an advanced technique; you can start smaller than this if you’d like.)

As you can see below, I cut a small hole in a cardboard box and stuck a balloon in it so it wouldn’t move around too much (a little bit is good – spooky) and then projected the image on it. What’s cool about this is that the image not only projected on the surface, a little bit went through to the other side, only real blurry.

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Don’t stop here. Come up with ideas that follow the basic principles of “scare” and make your own video version of Window Horror!

Happy Haunting!