Tag Archives: props

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.

 

Book Review: How to Haunt Your House, Book Two

How to Haunt Your House: Book Two

By Shawn and Lynne Mitchell

In their first book, Lynne and Shawn Mitchell took you through a gorgeous and macabre world of Halloween prop-building to haunt your house.  How to Haunt Your House, Book Two, we’re happy to say, is not a rehash of their first book, but a worthy companion that ambitiously expands on their haunting tutorials, while easily standing on its own with all new projects, styles and techniques, all presented in clear, glossy photos and instructions.

In their “dead”ication, the authors pay enthusiastic homage to all the things that go bump in the night. One can easily imagine being one the authors’ neighbors as summer begins to morph into autumn … “Strange lights are often spotted in the late, night hours and the occasional, stray sounds of owls, hissing cats and long, drawn-out cries of wolves will be heard echoing down the driveway.”

This successfully sets the tone for the lush and gothic world we are about to enter, and the shadows cast by their props begin to look just a little bit too alive…an effect we can produce by following their inspiring examples.

How to Haunt Your House, Book 2What’s Inside

So. What can you expect by this volume?

Well, how about a full tutorial on building (and deconstructing for storage) an entire scale model gothic mausoleum, complete with an old, rusty wrought-iron gate? Hard to believe it’s all achieved with wood frames, Styrofoam and PVC pipe!

Stock your kitchen with apothecary jars full of strange, glowing liquids filled with creatures you can almost (but not quite) recognize. Construct huge gargoyle columns, fashion a complete crypt that doubles as a hide-away for your electronic components, create foggy, bubbling cauldrons and turn store-bought props and mannequins into ghoulish hags and decapitated brides.

If that’s not enough, Lynne and Shawn devote a large section of their book on animated props. Using clear and detailed images, they show you the components you need, types of motors and connections, and suggested power supplies. Step-by-step, they take you through two motorized projects, one of a monster churning a pot by hand, and an undead creature turning its head in a cemetery.

A book on building and designing props would certainly be fulfilling, but all of these projects are unified with chapters on how to present an enthralling entrance, inside decor (with tips on lighting and accessories), and images and layout tips for a fully-stocked cemetery.

We’re impressed with their creativity, attention to detail, and willingness to peel back the moth-eaten curtains to teach you how everything is done. The ideas are presented with lush, full-page images and eerie backgrounds to keep with the mood.

We give it three thumbs up! (One for each monster hand.)

How to Make “Shrunken Heads” with Apples

Image credit: marthastewart.com

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

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

You will need:

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

Step One: Prepare Your Ingredients

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

Step Two: Peel and Carve the Apple

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

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

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

Step Three: Soak and Hang the Head

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

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

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

Finishing Touches

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

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

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

How to Craft a Witch’s Kitchen

 

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

What’s the Idea?

crafthubs.com
Credit: crafthubs.com

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

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

Getting Started

Credit: amazon.com

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

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

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

Prepping Your Jar Lids

Credit: Pinterest, Dollhouse of Horrors

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

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

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

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

Frightening Fillers

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

  • Werewolf Claws: Cashew nuts, split in half.

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

Making the Labels

Credit: thekolbcorner.com

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

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

Displaying Your Handiwork

Credit: Pinterest

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

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

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

Use your creativity and have fun!