Halloween has in recent years spread across the Atlantic to the boot shaped peninsula known as Italy. Although the Italians do not celebrate Halloween per se, they do have their own rituals and festivities which are not all too far off.
One of these festive and colorful holidays is All Souls Day. It comes on the day after All Saints Day which is November 1st and honors the fallen Saints. However All Souls Day honors all those who have died. It is an Italian celebration which is not focused on death, as in a morbid fashion, but on honoring loved ones who have passed on.
Although these two holidays are not the same, there is one major similarity – the use of food. Just as our Halloween involves the practice of handing out food to children as they come knocking on our door, the Italians also incorporate the practice of food giving to children on All Souls Day. However, in their ritual, the children leave food and lit candles outside to “guide and feed” the souls of those in purgatory who revisit the home during the night. In some regions the tradition is for children to leave their shoes outside the front door only to find them stuffed with gifts later.
One popular cookie sold in bakery stores throughout Italy is called, Bones of the Dead. Every region in Italy seems to have their own unique version of this cookie.
A very simple Tuscan version of this cookie is as follows:
BONES OF THE DEAD
2 cups flour
1/2 cup hazelnuts chopped
2 cups sugar
2 egg whites
juice of a lemon
Combine the flour, egg whites, sugar and juice in a large bowl.
Next, add in the nuts and mix together until a dough consistency forms.
Roll the dough into the size of 2 inch wide logs and cut in 2-3 inch lengths.
Flatten or shape to resemble bones.
Lay flat on a floured cookie sheet (spray the sheet with cooking spray and then lightly flour)
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 minutes.
For a Chocolate Chip Version:
2 egg whites at room temperature
2/3 Cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup fine semolina flour (plus more for later)
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped almonds.
Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. This can be done with an electric mixer on high speed for about a minute.
Slowly add in half the sugar while beating until whites are stiff.
Fold in the rest of the sugar, flour, chocolate chips and almonds and mix gently.
Line your cookie sheet or pan with parchment paper. Otherwise grease and lightly flour the surface.
Create bone shaped cookies with the dough, about 3 inches in length and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place on the cookie sheet. Remember these will expand so space accordingly.
Bake at 300 degrees F for about 30 minutes until cookies are dry.
Drizzle with a melted chocolate mixture of chocolate and butter. Either dip the bottom side in, or drizzle with the chocolate.
Let dry and enjoy!
Other Halloween Ideas Using Italian Food
If you want a more familiar Italian theme food for your Halloween party, try these:
The easiest way to create cannolis is to buy premade shells.
For the filling:
10 oz. ricotta cheese drained
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Orange food coloring
Always fill the cannolis the same day you plan on serving them. If you make them in advance the shells will become soggy. You can make your filling the day before, and then simply fill the shells just prior to your party.
Mix all the ingredients except the chips, until it is light and airy. You can use a mixer or food processor, such as a cuisinart 11 prep or for this. Or you can just mix it by hand the good old fashioned way.
When finished gently fold in the chips.
Fill the shells with the mixture. A tip is to pour the mixture into a plastic bag and then snip one of the corners, thus creating a makeshift pastry bag. Use this to squirt the filling into the shells.
This recipe can also be used during other holidays, such as Christmas and makes a great Italian Christmas gift or contribution for attending parties. Instead of orange food coloring try green or red.
As with many Italian desserts, remember to serve with coffee or espresso. Especially dry cookies, like the Bones of the Dead cookies, are great when dipped in a latte.
If you do not make your own espresso using appliances like an Alessi espresso maker, to prepare your espresso, regular coffee should suit your guests just as well.
This article was contributed by Liz T. Krause, publisher of simpleitaliancooking.com. Although she grew up in an Italian household, it wasn’t until later in her married life with her Italian husband that she began to appreciate the joy of Italian cooking.
The reason is easy to understand: fairies and elves have a classical and exotic look.
Moreover, the ample varieties in fairy costumes make it easy for women to dress uniquely, truly expressing their own fairy “flavor,” whether that’s sweet and winged, sexy, traditional, or kick-A, a la The Hobbit’s Tauriel.
And let’s not forget the accessories! (Can I get a “yes please”?) Awesome ears (see image at right), butterflies, flowers and more – you can do all of this and add your own special creativity to your gorgeous fairy costume.
If you are planning to attend a Halloween party this year, or host your own, choose one of the stylish designed fairy costumes and be truly magical. Here’s how.
Choose Your Fairy Style
There are many varieties of fairy costumes available in the market. But don’t stop there – you can craft one of your own.
Buy a basic skirt and tank top (try Etsy for cool selections) and add on whatever you’d like that’s truly magical.
You can opt for a classical gothic costume or a sensuous sexy fairy costume, or choose a famous fairy, such as Tinkerbell (aww!).
You can even be one of Sleeping Beauty’s protectors – remember the three fairies in the cottage? Or be a bippety-boppety-boo fairy godmother.
Glamming Things Up
Depending on what you choose, your costume should be elegantly designed and feature skirts, silk flowers, traditional pointed ears, wings and other matching decorations and accessories. You can also shop separately for accessories and add them to the costume to give you a unique fairy look.
Hint: You’ll find some COOL stuff at consignment and thrift shops, including filmy pieces of material and nifty shoes. And you’ll save beaucoup bucks!
Whatever you choose for your fairy costume, remember: today, anything goes for Halloween. And we do mean anything!
Grab some cool ears, something filmy, and you’re good to go. After that, it’s all up to you and your imagination.
Now hurry and grab me a pumpkin – I’m late to the ball!
Editor’s Note: Getting ready for Halloween – In July!
Special edition The Dead Matter DVD set including soundtrack and Midnight Syndicate Greatest Hits CD available at all HOT TOPIC stores nationwide.
July 30, 2010 (Cleveland, OH) Midnight Syndicate Films is releasing a special edition of The Dead Matter DVD that will include two bonus CDs by gothic Halloween music artists Midnight Syndicate. It will be available at all Hot Topic stores nationwide on July 30th. It will also be available online at Hot Topic, Amazon, and Midnight Syndicate’s site. The specially-priced set will include The Dead Matter DVD, the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD by Midnight Syndicate, and a new Midnight Syndicate 13th Anniversary greatest hits CD entitled Halloween Music Collection.
The Dead Matter DVD features the much-anticipated dark fantasy film produced and directed by Edward Douglas of Midnight Syndicate Films and Gary Jones and Robert Kurtzman of Precinct 13 Entertainment. DVD extras include two Midnight Syndicate music videos, the music video to Eternal Legacy’s song, The Dead Matter, three of the finalists from Midnight Syndicate’s 13th Anniversary Video Contest, audio commentary with the producers, gag reels, and a feature-length behind-the-scenes production entitled Maximum Dead Matter. Produced by Frank Purtiman of Smudgeline Studios, Maximum Dead Matter allows viewers to watch the film in one area of the screen while behind the scenes footage, interviews, location information, and concept art comparisons related to that scene play in other areas of the screen.
The Dead Matter: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD contains the score composed by the film’s director, Edward Douglas of Midnight Syndicate, as well as several limited-edition remixes of Midnight Syndicate songs performed by Jerry “Haunt Rocker” Vayne, Destini Beard, and Pat Berdysz of the industrial band Encoder. The disc also features other music that appears in the film from bands like Lazy Lane, hipNostic, and Eternal Legacy.
Midnight Syndicate’s Halloween Music Collection is a greatest hits-type CD that features over 60 minutes of songs hand-picked by Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka to celebrate the band’s first 13 years. Both new CDs will also be available at Halloween retailers nationwide beginning in August.
The Dead Matter is the remake of a film that director/composer Edward Douglas shot on a shoe-string budget of $2000 back in 1995. The film tells the story of a guilt-ridden young woman (Sean Serino of The Rage) desperate to contact her deceased brother who discovers a powerful ancient relic that controls the dead. Her dark obsession drags her into the tangled world of two warring vampire lords (Andrew Divoff of Lost, Wishmaster and Tom Savini of Friday the 13th, Dawn of the Dead) each with his own sinister plans for the artifact and a vampire hunter (Jason Carter of Babylon 5) who will stop at nothing to destroy it. This chilling gothic dark fantasy co-produced by Robert Kurtzman (creator of From Dusk Till Dawn, KNB FX) and Gary Jones (Xena, Boogeyman 3), also features a score by director Edward Douglas of the Gothic Halloween music band Midnight Syndicate. It’s a mix of classic horror themes with modern twists and a touch of dark humor that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
About Midnight Syndicate:
Midnight Syndicate has been creating instrumental Halloween music and gothic horror fantasy soundtrack CDs for the past thirteen years. The group’s music has become a staple of the Halloween season worldwide as well as a favorite in the haunted house, amusement park, role-playing game, and gothic music industries. From Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights and Hugh Hefner’s Halloween parties to Monday Night Football, X-Box games, the classic Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, and Barbara Walters specials, their CDs are designed to take listeners on a journey into the darkest corners of their imagination.
The following inspiration was shared by guest contributor Liz Trementozzi. Thanks, Liz!
Halloween parties are always fun events to attend. With everyone dressed up in various costumes and makeup, it can be a wild ride even for the more timid among us.
But beyond all the trick-or-treating, costumes, and decorations lies an important aspect of your event: the food and who will provide it.
Choosing to hire a caterer can be an intimidating process for those who are not familiar with the process. It is always best to do as much research as possible before signing any contracts. In fact, the more caterers you interview, the more informed you naturally will become.
There are two main advantages to hiring a caterer:
If you know you have your hands full, and are confident you do not have the time to prepare all the food yourself, then a catering company can help.
Your caterer will give you various options for what kind of foods you want to be served. All you have to do is select what you want and they take care of the rest. This greatly reduces anxiety and stress as the pressure is off of you and placed instead on the company you are hiring.
Quality of Food
Assuming the caterer has a positive reputation, you can rest assured at the quality of the food which will be delivered. For example, many of their featured foods they have made many times before. These are professionals who know how to get a job done.
However, there is one main disadvantage: cost.
For those who rarely entertain and rejoice at the idea of handing the responsibility to a company, this may not be a road block, but for those who often do their own entertaining, it can be hard to give the job to someone else.
It is easy to save money by providing the food yourself – if you have the right know how and tools. For example, some people who entertain frequently will buy many of their foods such as meat, in bulk. They then cut the meat into smaller portions and freeze. When party time comes, they pull out only what they need.
They also have specific equipment which makes entertaining easier by investing in heavy duty appliances such as home food slicers, or meat grinders. A food slicercan be used to slice slabs of meat (and other foods) into deli thin slices perfect for sub sandwiches or for deli roll ups. A kitchen meat grinder can be used to grind large amounts of solid meat chunks for making meatloaf, meatballs or fresh hamburgers.
By purchasing in bulk and with a decent amount of pre-planning, those who fit this level of party enthusiast will undoubtedly save themselves the cost of hiring another company to do what they can very well do themselves.
Therefore, it really depends on where you feel comfortable, and what your priorities are.
Going the Catering Route
If you do choose to work with a caterer, here are some questions you can ask yourself which will help in the planning process.
1. What style of food presentation do you want to have?
Do you want to prepare an entire event with appetizers, a main dish and then dessert? Or do you prefer to offer a number of various smaller entrees and finger food? Perhaps your setting would be better with a nice variety of desserts.
2. What is the size of your party?
For smaller crowds, a full meal may be a nice choice if you plan on hosting the event yourself. But for larger crowds where guests will be mingling around showing off their costumes, a more relaxed buffet style meal might be appropriate.
A caterer may have different methods for charging for their services. They may charge per plate, or per food item – make sure to ask.
3. Do they provide their own servers? And is this required?
Some caterers will be happy to simply prepare and deliver the food, rather than hassling with finding servers. On the other hand, if the party is a large formal event, the option to hire some servers may be the more logical decision.
4. Does the caterer offer special food items specific for your event, in this case Halloween?
If they do not, they may be excited at the opportunity to try something new and creative. This also gives them the ability to add this “new” menu item to their list of experiences.
If they do agree to create a new menu item, make sure to arrange a tasting so you can taste a sampling prior to the party – at least a few weeks so if any alterations are to be made, they have the time to do so.
If they do not make special customizations, request that you have permission to provide some of your own theme specific foods such as cookies, cupcakes, etc…
5. Do they provide chairs?
This is important because it may not cost much to have the caterer bring an extra 10 or 20 folding chairs for your guests. It is always a good idea to have ample seating at your party.
If concerned you will have too many empty chairs, then simply store some of the chairs in a spare room, and pull them out when needed.
6. Who does cleanup?
In other words, will the caterer be in charge of taking out the trash, cleaning up dirty plates, vacuuming etc, or are you expected to do this yourself? There may be extra charges for this too, so make sure to ask.
By taking into account these various considerations, you will be closer to making a decision if hiring a caterer for your Halloween party is appropriate – and if so – determining how involved the caterer will be.
Never be afraid to discuss your questions, concerns or thoughts with your caterer. If they are unwilling to work together, take the time to take a step back and shop around. It could be the difference between a stressful event and a stress-free event!
This article was contributed by simpleitaliancooking.com, a website devoted to Italian food recipes and kitchenware reviews.
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::
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
…and spread it out with a chip brush.
I let this harden for about 2 hours, and then began pulling the mold from the “hand”:
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…
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:
After drying, the molting looks like a mummy’s hand:
I added some red and black paint to make a “wound”:
…and did the same for the fingers:
…and, viola, a mummy’s 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!
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!
Tall poles or PVC pipes
Yarn, wigs and/or old hats
Plastic shopping bags or garbage bags
Newspapers and/or Leaves
Step 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Your child is dressed up all adorable, proudly ready to go out trick or treating! The Halloween costume is fantastic, scary and cute at the same time. However, something’s not quite right … something ruins the whole ensemble. Perhaps it’s the ugly plastic bag being used to hold the mountains of candy?
Never fear, you won’t have to worry about that, because you’re reading this article and will now make your own gorgeous masterpiece of a trick or treat bag! Or, at least, something better than a grocery bag or pillow case.
At least ½ yard of Halloween themed fabric or pre-made canvas bag
Sewing machine and thread
Decorations to match the fabric
Buttons, sequins, foam shapes and beads
Sewing Your Trick or Treat Bag
Cut a rectangle of fabric that measures 16.5” x 25”. Fold the 25” side of the fabric in half so that the wrong side is showing. Stitch the bottom first and then the side. Turn the bag right side out and press the seams with an iron. At the opening turn down ¼” and press. Then turn it down again 1-1/2 inches. Press and stitch.
Cut fabric for the handles that measures 3” x 19”. You will need to cut two of these. Fold the fabric in half with the wrong side showing. Put a safety pin in the very center of one end with the head towards the other end. This will make turning it right side out much easier. Take a ¼” seam allowance and stitch the strip of fabric. Turn it inside out by pushing the safety pin through the tube; press under ¼” on each end.
Pin the handles to the bag before stitching to make sure that you like the placement. Use the sewing machine to sew them on with a large ‘X’. This will attach them securely so that no trick or treat candy gets lost.
Now you can turn the bag over to the kids to have fun with. With fabric glue, beads, sequins, plastic confetti, and anything else you can think of, your kids will make and have their own personalized trick or treat bag!
We welcome guest contributions and are pleased to share this game idea. Scare up some fun this Halloween with Ghost Hunting!
As a youngster, I participated in a cool game that I just KNOW would make a great addition to any party, kids or adults – so I’ve decided to share it!
It’s goofy enough to get in some good laughs, and kids will go wild with fun with this awesome idea. I call the game Ghost Hunting, and it involves you, a ghost, and some stomping just for good measure.
On spooky, creepy Halloween night, it’s just you and your ghostly ally against the rest! For best results, have at least five players. The more the merrier!
Glow-in-the-dark balloons/white balloons and a black light
How to Play
Each player grabs a balloon and blows it up.
Next, draw the creepiest ghoul face you can muster. The scarier the face, the more likely your opponents will wet themselves, and therefore give you more time for stomping! Also, don’t forget to name him. Something not too out of the ordinary…Dexter, William, Casper, anything you wish.
If by any chance your little friend should fall due to the enemy during combat, you are obligated to call out your ghost’s name and ask why. I shall demonstrate for you… “POP!! No, Dexterrrrrrrrr!Whyyyyyyyyy???!!!!”
Next, tie your scary teammate to your ankle. Don’t have too much string between the two of you, or he will be near impossible to defend. However, you don’t want him right on your heal either, unless you like bleeding heals 🙂
Finally, throw on some glow sticks to avoid crashing into each other, and hit the lights! If using a black light to make the white balloons glow, turn that one on now. If you start feeling something touching you but don’t see any glow sticks nearby, stay calm, you are merely being groped by an actual ghost. So be sure you all decide on a safe word before you hit the lights…tee hee!
No grabbing or holding any opponents.
No non-ghost allies.
No covering your ghost.
Once your ghost has passed on to the next world, you must sit out. Do not attempt to stomp anymore ghosts.
The partner of the last ghost standing wins!
Have multiple ghosts attached per game. Three on the same ankle for example.
Team ups. Four vs. four for example. (Two Ghosts and Two Humans.)
No glow sticks. (This is a more dangerous version, and therefore more awesome!)
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.
Prepare Your Image
You 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.
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.
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…
For 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.
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.
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!
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.
Cookie cutters or clip art
Crayons, permanent markers, colored pencils
Fishing line or thread
Small diameter dowels
Hot glue gun
Glitter, sparkling beads, feathers, etc.
Building 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!)
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.
Have fun! I’d love to hear of others who tried this project. Please comment below.
Every year there’s controversy over a certain Halloween costume, and this year it’s the “Illegal Alien.” The costume features an extra-terrestrial dressed in prison garb holding a green card (which is a legal document allowing you to work in this country, ha ha). If the pun is lost on some people, the words “Illegal Alien” are boldly stenciled across the front.
Depending on your point of view, it’s either a hilarious pun, a political statement, or an extremely insensitive costume to a group of people.
According to Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the costume is “distasteful, mean-spirited and ignorant of social stigmas and current debate on immigration reform.”
The organization successfully pressured retailers such as Target, Ebay and Amazon to pull the costume off its shelves. Another states the costume “perpetuates this idea we have about undocumented immigrants as alien foreigners, strangers, scary.”
Should Offensive Costumes be Banned?
Should this particular costume have been pulled from shelves? Did it cross a fine line? Or is it yet another over-sensitive political correctness issue that has been stifling free speech for the last two decades?
Is this costume distasteful? Definitely! However, and so as to leave nobody guessing, I believe it should not have been pulled, and here’s why: Halloween is supposed to be offensive. It’s the one night where people parody and make fun of frightening monsters, authority figures, celebrities, political and cultural issues (as this one is), and, frankly, anything else people are scared of, angry at or downright tired of.
Why else do you see over-sexed nuns, stereotypical rednecks, Bernie Madoff complete with a hammer to whack him with, revealing native American costumes (wow, racist and sexy!), and Obama masks (Obama-care – there’s a scary one!). The list is endless. A couple years ago, the big offensive costume was a guy dressed as a Catholic priest with an altar boy hanging by his … you get the picture. How about Harry Potter costumes promoting witchcraft? How about “evil witches” offending Wiccans?
As of this writing, there’s still a few places that sell this costume, such as here. (Disclaimer: I’ll make a commission on the sale – if you don’t agree with that, click here instead and search for it.)
The point is, poking fun at sacred institutions and cultural values is a healthy part of any civilization. It’s not just free speech – if nobody can poke fun at anything, the line isn’t too far away from a police state. It’s not insensitivity and racism, it’s a cultural safety value – one even the Romans had. More on that later.
Why Do We Celebrate Halloween, Anyway?
Most people will tell you the origins of Halloween comes from the Celtic Samhain, when the line between the living and the dead was weakened. Grotesque costumes were worn to scare away spirits who had come back to possess living bodies.
Medieval Christianity tried to erase pagan traditions by turning them into Christian holidays – hence, the creation of a competing “All Hallows Day” on November 1st – “All Hallows Eve” the night before, or Hallowe’en. (Christmas, too, is originally a pagan holiday.) Irish immigrants (there’s that “i” word again!) fleeing the 1840’s potato famine took this holiday with them to New England (which already had late October traditions, including pranks such as toppling outhouses.)
As our country’s population has shifted from rural to urban settings, Halloween traditions have shifted from the harvest and bobbing for apples to door-to-door trick or treating (which actually has its modern origins in the 1930’s).
Today, there’s another shift occurring. As parents are (alas) too scared to have their kids go door to door asking strangers for candy, the holiday is looking to becoming more of an adult celebration. And with an adult audience comes a more political view of Halloween – thus, instead of the cute princesses, goblins and witches, we now have more easily offensive “sexy” costumes, political masks, stereotypes and, of course, the “illegal alien.” Is this a bad thing? Does it show the moral decline of our civilization?
The Moral Code and the Right to Be Safe
Everybody wants to be safe. It means you can grow up without being hurt or uncomfortable, both mentally and physically. However, we’re ingrained NOT to expect being safe all the time. We’re still programmed to watch out for lions stalking us outside our caves. But there are no more lions.
The result? We have to subconsciously make up our own fears. Parents believe all neighbors are mass-murderers, so trick or treating is out. Children are no longer allowed to play alone. Terrorists and child abductors are lurking around every corner. Gated communities and massive alarm systems are the norm.
Those of us living a safe, suburban middle-class life want to be scared, if only temporarily. (I certainly do not want an actual lion prowling my front lawn!) Deep inside, most of us wish for our lives to be epic, to be famous or be able to have an evil enemy to do battle with. Why else are Hollywood movies so popular?
Even deeper inside, we sometimes want to lash out at the moral constraints that being safe entails. If everybody is safe, nobody can be uncomfortable, and this means nobody can be offended and hurt. We all have to tread carefully to avoid insulting someone. Can we all restrain ourselves indefinitely? Heck, no! The pressure to be good, inoffensive and docile all the time will build up and eventually burst. We’re all human – none of us is perfect.
Fortunately, there are pressure release valves – violent video games, horror movies, the popularity of the t.v. show House (who offends everybody), the aggression of sports and … I’m finally making my point … the wearing of outrageous costumes.
What Does Halloween Represent Today?
Halloween today looks to be more of a cultural pressure release valve, a day to let off steam (similar to the ancient Roman a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia” target=”_blank”>Saturnalia, where social order was reversed and slaves could insult their masters.). After being angry, frightened and weary after 364 days of watching our language, tiptoeing so as to not offend anybody, and fighting over polarizing issues like immigration and health care reform, not to mention worrying about our paycheck and keeping ourselves and our families safe from real and imagined terrors, we have one day to mock, poke fun of and laugh at all these serious issues and things in our lives.
That is why I justify offensive costumes. Every costume will insult somebody. I’ve been insulted more than once, or shook my head at the bad taste or pathetic attire long on the tooth (another pimp and ho? Please!)
However, I don’t believe people wear them to actually be insulting and mean-spirited. It’s an outlet to mock our beliefs and institutions and to laugh at our fears, if just for one night. It allows us to be someone or something we are not, to act as we normally wouldn’t, with the collective knowledge that we don’t mean anybody real harm. For one night, we can prove to ourselves that we are not so crushed under the moral and serious weight of living day to day and paycheck to paycheck that we can’t sometimes throw up our hands and laugh at it all.
The next morning we’re back to our real and imagined fears, helping others out, trying not to upset anybody, and debating serious political and cultural issues. We’ve let off some steam, the tightness around our shoulders are a bit more relaxed, and the offensive and insensitive costumes go back in the closet for another year.
What do you think? Is Halloween a way to let off some steam without harming anybody, or an excuse to insult and offend others?
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
Looking to scare up some foggy fun this Halloween? Here’s how to do it – the easy way!
You will need:
A plastic cauldron or other prop container
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Photo or antique reproduction of post card for front
Ink jet printed pictures and hairspray
Scrap booking papers (optional)
Damp rag (to wipe sticky fingers on)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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”:
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.
This is what the full window should look like:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
Now you should have two images, one the mirror of the other:
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:
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:
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:
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!!
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!
Just 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.
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!
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!
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!
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 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!
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!
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 decorationsthat 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:
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).
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!
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.
Don’t stop here. Come up with ideas that follow the basic principles of “scare” and make your own video version of Window Horror!
Dollhouses serve as doorways into a magical world of imagination for many children and adults. The design, decoration, and furnishing of dollhouses is a popular hobby, and one into which you can sink thousands of dollars.
Each season has its appropriately scaled holiday items, yet for the thrifty collector, these varied decorations can be quite expensive as each is generally handmade, and not mass produced. Halloween decorations seem to be especially costly, as the items are limited, and tend to take a great deal of skill to craft and prepare.
Decorating Your Own Dollhouse
The cost of decorating with store bought items should not put you off from decorating your doll house yourself for the Halloween holiday, however! Your local craft store is rich with a wide variety of items with which to make your own Halloween decorations.
You can easily buy unfurnished dollhouses at any craft store, or look for an old one at a flea market or rummage sale. If what you buy has already been painted, sand it down to get rid of dirt and particles to create a clean surface to work with.
Whether your dollhouse is a simple cottage, a grand Victorian, or a rustic farmhouse, the basic materials to prepare it for Halloween can be found with just a little bit of looking. Once you’ve obtained the necessary supplies, all it takes is a little imagination, and a little patience, to create a Halloween scene for your dollhouse.
At craft stores and general office supply stores you can find ribbons, glue, glue sticks, construction paper, tissue paper for wrapping delicate and breakable items, and a fairly new material referred to as ‘foamies.’
With these items (and a sharp pair of scissors), you can begin to create your decorations. Tissue paper ghosts are a mainstay of elementary schools around the country, and can be easily made with some ribbon, a few cotton balls, and a Sharpie. Various pumpkins, additional ghosts, witches, and other Halloween symbols can be cut from the foamies. Black ribbon can be cut and tied into small bows.
For more inspiration, check out the following how-to articles on crafting furniture and dollhouses:
When you’ve settled on the items which you would like to make, make sure that your work space is clear (and that you don’t end up accidentally cutting your own clothing!), and take your time. There is no need to rush, as you’re looking for quality over quantity.
Once you finish your decorations, its time to place them in your dollhouse. How you’ve decorated your dollhouse with its regular furnishings will more than likely dictate how you put out your Halloween decorations. If you have a Victorian dollhouse, you may want to focus on ribbons and silhouettes. Cottages may call for witches and ghosts. A farmhouse might need pumpkins and tissue paper ghosts.
However you decided to decorate your dollhouse, though, you will have made your own decorations, and prepared your miniature home for Halloween in your own fashion. And whether you’ve done that alone, or with the help of others, it will be an enjoyable and relaxing experience. One which you will be able to look forward to with the coming of each Halloween!
Get your Halloween on. All year long.