Double-Duty Halloween

Ghosts, goblins, witches and more…what do you fear showing up at your door? Maybe like some people I’ve met it’s decorating for Halloween that truly sends a chill up your spine. “Monsters, schmonsters; how can I get through the haunted day with clever decorations but without sending my wallet to the morgue?”

Boo! Don’t be scared, it’s just me, Mar, with some quick and easy ideas for making Halloween at your house stand out from the crowd. Whether you are entertaining wee trick-or-treaters or full-grown gremlins, everyone will remember your house this Halloween. And all with things you can find around your house, and since you already have them I call it my Double Duty Halloween.

You’ll need:

  • Masking Tape
  • Branches
  • Black Spray Paint
  • Pumpkin
  • Books
  • Paper lunch bags
  • Laundry line or rope
  • Burlap sack or old material

 You’ll be creating:

  • a tableau of “spooky” jet-black items
  • a “chalk” outline on your walkway (or the floor of the room where you are entertaining)
  • a sinister display visible when you open the door

 Optional decoration items: (all minimal cost if you don’t have this in your house already)

  • Black wrapping paper
  • Plastic spiders or rats
  • Styrofoam head
  • Small LED lights
  • Funny signs

In this type of decorating, simple is better, so I like to keep to a single-color theme, in this case, black. I buy standard all-purpose black spray paint and use it to “spookify” all manner of things — this year I used fall branches, a pumpkin, and an old Styrofoam head that I found in my neighbor’s garage. A sMARt tip: You’ll want to let these dry for at least 24 hours, and be sure to place them somewhere high enough that pets and small children don’t get at them during their dry-time.

The day of Halloween, create a “chalk” outline on your front walkway. I like a couple of X’s for the eyes — it’s more cartoon-like and less likely to scare small kids. If you have adults coming for a party, create the outline of a martini glass in the hand. People are always surprised by this amazingly simple decoration.

Then, around these items you can create any kind of black-on-black grouping you want. I add a few plastic rats and spiders and I’m done!

To give added illumination to your drive, instead of expensive lights I use plain old paper lunch bags. I was inspired by a left-over treat bag from a party a few years ago (pictured). After drawing a pumpkin’s characteristic face on a plain lunch bag in black (you could draw a ghost shape or if you’re talented, a black cat silhouette), then open it and fill with some small stones so it won’t blow away. Pop a LED light inside (these are so cheap these days and last for a long time.) I add some tissue on top to give more of a glow.

When the door opens, you can create a sinister little tableau for your visitors to see by draping burlap or old material (the older the better) over a small table — like you, I usually pull one near to the door to hold my treats so they’re easier to give out. Get some old books, or take new ones and wrap them in black wrapping paper. I like to put stickers on them and use a silver Sharpie pen to write horrifying titles on the front: Spells, Horror Stories, Terror at home, etc, whatever you want to make up. Then simply take some laundry line and create a quick hangman’s noose to suspend overhead or leave on the floor or table.

Okay, so back to the double-duty part of my ideas! Most of my decorating ideas use things you already have, so that’s the obvious part of the double duty title. But I encourage you to look for things that serve more than one function during or after Halloween. For example:

  • Raisins and granola bars for treats because you can eat them yourself afterward (rather than be tempted by all that great — but bad for you — candy.)
  • Styrofoam head: Maybe you don’t need something on your front porch. So try using it for a centerpiece with sunglasses. This is the one time you can use your sunglasses indoors!

Less frightened about this “dark day” now? It’s easy and fun to entertain and decorate for this holiday when you use things around the house. I enjoy it now more than ever before, so I hope I’ve inspired you to get creative and get into the “spirit” of things.

And there you have it.