Halloween decorating filter...
September 12, 2006 8:52 PM   Subscribe

Please offer your cool, but cheap ideas for decorating our new house and yard for the trick-or-treaters.

Neat special effects, shop projects, sewing/crafts... what makes the cool house on the block for the kids, considering the lessening in popularity of trick or treating? (We will have good candy to give out, none of that popcorn ball business.)
posted by Jazz Hands to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
fake dead bodies strewn about, make them scarecrow style by stuffing old clothes. but one of the "bodies" has a person in it that moves when the little guys get close
posted by Iron Rat at 9:03 PM on September 12, 2006

Get some plywood and saw up a coffin, lots of big traditional jack o' lanterns. Extra light sources aside from the porchlight, not too bright but just enough to make it look like this is the place but still spooky and a little muted.
posted by Iron Rat at 9:16 PM on September 12, 2006

Plug in to your neighborhood's ethic on trick-or-treating. Nothing is less likely to endear you to your neighbors than big, theatrical Halloween displays, if your neighborhood is mostly Big Church holy rollers, who are taking all their kids to "faith celebrations" at church on Halloween night. Also, the littlest kids, the cute ones that can barely remember they are supposed to say "Trick or treat!" when they show up at your door, are already pretty scared, just by being sent up to strange doors to knock. I've had a few that broke out in sobs, just when I opened the door, listened to them do "Trick or treat!" and bent down to ask them what kind of tricks they'd play if I didn't treat...

Plenty of light, a safe, swept path to your door, smiles, and good candy, if you do get any ghosts and goblins.
posted by paulsc at 9:42 PM on September 12, 2006

About 40 years ago my dad cut a panel to replace the lower window in the storm door, cut a small opening in it with a simple door, painted it black. Kids are still dragging their friends over to see it. Simple things....
posted by pointilist at 9:54 PM on September 12, 2006

If you have a pond or outdoor fountain in front, fill it with dry ice. Put a red or green light nearby, to make the mist scarier.

We always put a robotic hand in the mailbox.

Blacklight bulbs switched out for regular ones.

We like to have a theme every year. One year was the three macbeth witches, so we had three dummies around a cauldron and recorded scary voices doing the "double double toil and trouble" speeches. Another year was skeletons, and we suspended full realistic skeletons from the roof dressed as bride and groom.

Make a graveyard in your front yard. Lots of sites online can show you how to do this. It's great if you can get a robotic moving part or two (just make sure no one steals it.)

Target sells lights that look like eyes glowing in the dark. Good to hide those in your dark shrubbery.

Oh, and the simple recorded sound of a heartbeat is always a good alternative to the classic scary music tapes. We use a "sleep machine" turned to high volume (I guess some people sleep well with the sound of a heartbeat, I think it's scary as heck.)

I'll try to think of some more...
posted by np312 at 9:55 PM on September 12, 2006

Response by poster: Definitely not looking to be obnoxious, just fun. To clarify a bit, not looking for big production values,,, when I say special effects, I'm talking dry ice fog type things.

So we get to be known as the satanists on the block, oh well.
posted by Jazz Hands at 9:56 PM on September 12, 2006

When I was in 4th or 5th grade, I had a friend who hid in a fake coffin in his family's front yard. It was set up to look like the family was too lame to hand out candy at the door and that one was supposed to simply reach inside the coffin to grab a piece. When they went for the prize, of course, he grabbed their arm and tried to drag them in.

Of course, you have to be pretty small to fit in a fake coffin, but I thought this was pretty cool nonetheless.

Then again, I was in 4th or 5th grade.
posted by rossination at 10:54 PM on September 12, 2006

Second the fog machine. They're very cheap now at the Halloween superstores.

A big blanket chest works as a coffin if you have small kid willing to play dead.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:12 PM on September 12, 2006

Just what are you trying to do here? In a new house in a new heighbourhood? I would go for simple, friendly and welcoming, particularly if you don't know what the rest of the neighbours usually do. If you want to do something really macabre, set it up away from the route to the door, so that kids can take a closer look if they wish, but don't have to.
posted by Idcoytco at 4:43 AM on September 14, 2006

We took red christmas lights that were set to flash and put them in an old dog house on the porch. Then we ran a speaker into the dog house and using our Amiga 500 took some audio clips of Leonard Nimoy from a star trek movie and slowed them down so they sounded unearthly, adding a lot of echo as well, and dropping it a few octaves. We turned off the porch lights, and all you could see was the weird reddish pulsing from the dog house and hear the weird guttaral (sp?) noises.

Almost nobody came to our porch that year, but we thought it was cool at the time.
posted by mecran01 at 4:49 AM on September 14, 2006

You want effect for your fog machine? Hide it. Place is so that it will be behind the trick or treaters, pointing at them with the remote inside the house. The ring the doorbell and while you answer it, your accomplice sends a smoke charge. I've had kids literally jump from that.

We bought candy from Oriental Trading company that was shaped like severed/removed body parts (fingers, ears, eyes).

If you don't want to go as far as a smoke machine (by the way, you get what you pay for), find a local beverage supply place that carries dry ice. It's usually US$10 or so for a good side block. When you put it in water, you'll usually get good smoke for a while, then it peters out as the dry ice gets sealed in a block of wet ice. An immersion water heater will help with that...
posted by plinth at 5:12 AM on September 14, 2006

I have a few pictures of the one time I did a big setup on the porch on my webpage (obvious self-link). The brain-inna-jars got good reactions (that's the bottom of a clear salad-spinner with some aquarium tubing taped to it and cauliflower + food coloring; the floating one is just floating in a container that used to hold pretzels).

Everything there was really cheap; mostly stuff found around the house, plus the blacklight, the colored lightbulbs, the paint and the vegetable. You probably don't have giant breaker switches or experimental lettuce gardens floating around, but the thing about 'mad scientist' is that it doesn't really matter.
posted by cobaltnine at 5:55 AM on September 14, 2006

Great stuff! I've tried a bunch of things. Here what I've done that works well:
1) Tombstones on the front yard. Made of that pink foam insulation board you can buy at HomeDepot. It cuts easily with a drywall saw. Spray paint gray, carve out names if you like, fill with black paint. Cost: $20 for board and paint.
2) Have a lawnmower? Make Moe Dover (mowed-over, get it?). Put flexible downspouts inside a pair of old pants, attach shoes, shove under mower. Cost: $8 for downspouts.
3) I got an inflatable spider from Oriental Trading. Very cool. (This year, I'm going to try to mount it on the roof.) Cost: $50.
4) I answer the door in costume. Last year was Tor Johnson. And I offered the kiddies...
5) Brains. Jello mold (email me for a decent brain recipe), $8. Use edible stage blood as garnish.

Be careful with dry ice. If you want smoke, the water it sits in must be HOT. Otherwise, it just bubbles pathetically. Keep the kettle on to "re-charge" the water. A single 10-pound block will last a long time. Use an ice pick (and goggles) to break it into chuncks. Wear gloves when handling it.

Second the candy from Oriental Trading. It's funny/scary. But also keep some good "normal" candy as well.

Scary music &/or sound effects piped through the windows is good too.

For more ideas google "halloween haunts".

P. S. Take pictures, and tell us about it later in MeTa...
P. P. S. Cobaltnine - Nice setup! What are you doing this year?
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 7:32 AM on September 14, 2006

This year we're going to my partner's house to hand out candy in costume but his mom is utterly lame and doesn't want me rigging the front porch out 'like some gothic music video.'

So it'll have to be something stealthy.
posted by cobaltnine at 8:42 AM on September 14, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great ideas. I don't want to do something terrifying, or off-putting. Just fun.

We have a completely open entry/yard, no places to hide and pop out from, and I'm not sure I'd want to do that anyway.

But we'll incorporate a few of these ideas, so thanks again.
posted by Jazz Hands at 8:59 AM on September 16, 2006

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