Tag Archives: tombstones

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.

 

A Grave Matter: Building a Halloween Cemetery

 

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

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

Terrifying Tombstoneshalloween tombstone ghoul

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

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

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

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

mel-graveyard-ground-breakThey Come Out at Night

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

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

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

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

A Spooky Atmosphere

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

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

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

mel-graveyard-skeleton mel-graveyard-cross

mel-graveyard

The Ten Minute Tombstone

 

Image credit: DIY Network

Editor’s Note: From first tracing to spray-painting, this project should take about 10 minutes. Beginners may want to go more slowly. For fast, party-ready results, do just the basics. If you’d like to add creative touches, allow more time. Enjoy and stay spooky, friends!

Ready to scare up some inexpensive, fast and totally terrifying fun? This is the BEST tombstone tutorial we’ve come across and our most popular DIY here at Halloween Alliance. It’s so easy, it’s scary! Read on for the scoop.

1. Gather Your Building Materials

  • Styrofoam sheeting. Because we’re going with a simple, classic design in this tutorial, we are going to use a high-density Styrofoam sheet for the body and join it to a lumber wood base.
  • Small ground stakes.
  • Small push-pins, any type.
  • A pencil.
  • A craft knife or if you prefer, a saw suitable for cutting styrofoam.
  • Lettering stencils, if desired.
  • Latex spray paint: one black can, one white can and one gray can.
  • Materials and tools for an optional base if desired. (This step is NOT required. If you’d like to try it, the tutorial is at the end of this article.)

Let’s get started!

Step 2: Drawing the Stone’s Outline

Not everyone is blessed with DaVinci-esque art talent. This is why I always like to use geometric shapes. (Don’t worry, starting with the basics, you’ll wind up with something super-scary and ultra realistic!)

  • Google “tombstones” or “tombstone shapes” and be as simple or complex as you’d like – it’s up to you.
  • Draw your shape on a piece of large paper, such as butcher block. You can use straight edges, rulers, or curved items to draw around if you’d like to make sure you’re being perfectly geometric. Use any pencil.
  • Using a push-pin, poke holes periodically around the shape of your stone. This will show you where to cut in Step 4.

Step 3: Etching Your “Epitaph”

This part is easy and very creative – have fun with it! Start off simple until you get the hang of working with styrofoam. (For quick “ten minute” results, etch the name and/or a brief epitaph only. Once you get started, you’ll want to be more creative; additional touches will take more time. Enjoy!)

  • Use your imagination and come up with a great saying for your stone.
  • Use stencils or a steady hand to write/draw the words and images on your butcher block paper.
  • Add any decorations you’d like, using stencils or grabbing household items to circle around with your pencil.
  • Now use your push-pin to poke tiny holes to form the shapes and letters.
  • Remove the paper and cut your shapes and letters deeper and wider with your cutting tool. Go slowly! Take your time with this step.
  • TIP: Don’t create decorations too close to the edges of your tombstone. You may loose parts of them when cutting the styrofoam.

Step 4: Cutting Out the Tombstone Shape

IMPORTANT! This article assumes you have the skills, knowledge and previous experience needed to be able to safely operate and use any of the tools which may be required to complete this project. If you don’t – just buy a tombstone! We’re serious about this.

  • Lay the paper back onto your styrofoam sheet. Tack it down if you’d like with pins.
  • CAREFULLY cut around the shape of your tombstone. Keep your steadying (non-cutting) hand well away from the cutting tool and don’t cut toward that hand.
  • Alternately, you can use any sharp knife or a small keyhole wood saw.
  • “Touch-up trim” as necessary. An old carpenter’s rule is “measure once, cut twice.” Go slowly and you’ll be much happier with the results!

NOTE: Want to attach a wooden base to your tombstone? We’ve included one at the end of the article. However, for the quick-and-dirty for a basic, read-to-scare tombstone, read on. (The images include an attached wooden base.)

Step 5: Painting the Tombstone

The choices for decorating your tombstone are only limited by your imagination and your budget. For the sake of the Ten Minute Tombstone, we’ll keep the finish simple – something appropriate for mid- to back-row placement.

For this project we’ll paint the entire tombstone with flat gray latex paint. (Note: It needs to be latex because oil based paints will dissolve or eat into the Styrofoam.) If you have a latex allergy, DO NOT use this method. Use an alternative method instead.

  • Once the gray coat of paint is dry (or once your choice of finish is ready), use black and then white spray paint to add some highlighting.
  • Spray in spurts so it isn’t too “perfect.”
  • Use a LIGHT touch so you don’t get one flat color; the effect is meant to be mottled.

Tip: Practice first on the back side of the tombstone or on scrap styrofoam.

It’s really hard to go wrong with this, as the tombstone is meant to look weathered and imperfect.

Step 6: Attaching Your Stakes

Push two or three stakes into the bottom of your tombstone so you can secure it into the ground later.

Go slowly so you don’t poke through the bottom of the stone. Grip the stakes by the side if you’re using a staple style, so you don’t cut your hands during this step.

You’re Done!

Add touches such as graveyard moss or a faux crow for an additional scare factor. Or simply place your gorgeous and grim new creation in the ground as is. Happy Halloween!

BONUS: Attaching a Wood Base (Optional)

This is an ADVANCED technique. If you’re not familiar working with the tools described below, ask a friend to help.

Depending on how thick the Styrofoam body is, you can use a combination of 2X6 and 2 X4 lumber or 2X8 and 2X6 lumber.

In this example we’re using two inch hi-density Styrofoam, so we will need to cut two pieces of 2X6 the same as the measurement across the front of the tombstone’s body. In our case, it’s about 17.5 inches.

Then measure the depth of the two pieces of 2X6 plus the body – this will be the measurement of the next two 2X6 cuts. In this case, about 5.25 inches.

Once they are cut, place all the cut pieces of 2X6 around the Styrofoam and screw them together by using 2 ½ inch screws – I like to use three per joint.

Once this is complete, measure across the width of the 2X6’s. This measurement will be the amount we need to cut the 2X4. In this case, it’s approximately 20.5 inches.

Cut two pieces at this length and line them up in the same manner as we did for the 2X6.

Next measure the depth of the two pieces of 2X4 plus the body – this will be the measurement of the next two 2X4 cuts. In this case approx 8.5 inches.


Image of nail compared to the depth of the 2×6 plus the body

The next step is important because it helps ensure the tombstone body and base will ultimately stay together.

Hammer three 6-inch nails through the 2X6, the Styrofoam body and the other 2X6. (Always use safety-goggles when hammering.) Do this from the front as some of the 6-inch nails will stick out the back. To handle this we’ll place one of the longer cut 2X4’s under the bottom 2X6 so the excess nail can go into the 2X4. Be sure that 2X4 is lined up correctly with the 2X6.

Once the nailing is done, place the remaining three cut pieces of 2X4’s around the Tombstone body with its attached 2X6 base. Screw these pieces together using 2 1/2 inch screws – three per joint.

Now for a little added reinforcement. We’ll go ahead and add a few extra screws which will further hold the 2X4’s to the 2X6’s for a nice solid base.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Halloween!