Calling all ghouls and boys: Halloween is just around the corner! It’s that wonderful time of year when the weather becomes cool and crisp, the leaves start turning brilliant shades of orange, gold and red; and the neighborhood homes turn into mini haunted houses. It’s been said that Halloween has increased in popularity so much that it comes in second only to Christmas in terms of total consumer retail spending.
Are you looking to give your local haunted house a run for its money? Love all things creepy and crawly? Keep scrolling to read our top tips for creating a Halloween “spook-tacular” out of your home.
History of Halloween
Before you can begin to put together your dream Halloween decorations list, you should have a good idea of where the holiday comes from in the first place. Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Celts believed that on this night, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. Ancient druids would build massive bonfires that were part of their ceremonies to help appease the spirits. Crops and animal sacrifices were typically used to appease the dead. During the Samhain celebration, the people at the celebration would dress in animal skins and tell each other’s fortunes. Many of these traditions would soon be adopted by Christian religious institutions.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rituals. In 1000 A.D., the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It’s widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, church-sanctioned holiday.
All Souls’ Day was celebrated almost exactly like Samhain, with massive bonfires, parades and celebrants dressing up in costumes such as: saints, angels and devils. The All Saints’ Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve; which eventually became shortened to Halloween.
Now that you’ve brushed up on your Halloween history, it’s time to look to the present day for some thrills and chills. Did you know the first ever horror movie was made in 1898? Although the first true wave of movies aimed to terrify began in the 1920s, fans of the grim and gruesome can find examples on the silver screen from just about any decade.
Use modern Halloween classics to inspire your own haunted house decorations. Have the cursed tape from The Ring playing in a loop on screens in your home. Recreate the haunted mansion cemetery from Pet Cemetery with inexpensive garden statues from your local home goods store. If you’re looking to create a truly terrifying haunted house (and you have some extra budget to go around), you can suspend a child sized dummy from a wall in your house just like in The Exorcist; bonus scary points if you can also make the dummy projectile vomit like in the movie.
If you’re looking for horror movie inspiration on a budget, ventriloquist dummies (or just old broken dolls) are a perfect addition to any homeowner’s Halloween decorations. Visit your local thrift or charity store and see if you can find any old dolls or stuffed animals that resemble Annabelle from The Conjuring or its equally bone-chilling prequel Annabelle. If you’re looking for much tamer style decorations, the 1993 classic Hocus Pocus is a great movie to be inspired by. Find a big cauldron, a black flame candle and a leather covered spell book and you’ll have a frightfully fun house in no time.
Time to Go Shopping
Do you still feel a bit overwhelmed by all the hocus pocus of the season? Not to worry. Follow these simple steps below to create a haunted house that will be the envy of every homeowner in your neighborhood. Of course, if you want to scale these decoration ideas up or down, that’s completely up to you. The below list and plan will hopefully provide you with a template for your decorations that you can build upon for many Halloweens to come.
What You’ll Need
- Dried Fall Leaves
- Pentagram Wreath
- Witch Pot
- Medieval Goblets
- Crystal Ball
- Black Candles
- Black Roses
- Cobwebs & Spiders
- Rope Swing
- Rocking Chair
- Skulls & Skeleton
- Victorian Doll
- Witch/Scary Nun
- Fake Blood
- Fake Body Organs/Parts
- Black Hair Wig
- Plain White Dress
- Old Worn Boots/Shoes
Working Outside In
It almost goes without saying that the exterior of your home is the first thing visitors and trick-or-treaters will see. Starting with your front lawn, you’ll want to give the impression of neglect and that a lot of time has passed. If you already have dried leaves naturally on your front lawn, perfect! Leave them be. If not, either collect them from a local forest preserve or even purchase them from your local craft store.
Next, take the tombstones you purchased and place them strategically across your lawn. To make it feel like an ancient graveyard, make sure that your tombstones are not evenly spaced. Arrange some closer together or farther apart, and it you can create cracked or broken looking headstones that would be even better! If you have any trees in your front lawn, hang a simple rope swing from the branches and glue a large doll or dummy onto the seat. To pump up the “creep” factor, put a long black wig on the dummy and have the hair hang over the dummy’s face to invoke The Ring cursed child vibes.
Another way to add general gross-ness to your haunted home is to dress up your fence if you have one. This is the perfect place to impale or suspend your severed body parts and hang a “for sale” sign up as well. If you have a porch, this is the perfect spot for an old fashioned rocking chair filled with broken or frayed looking dolls. You can also see if anyone in your home wants to get involved in your decorations. There’s nothing like dressing up someone like a scarecrow, have them sit motionless by the front door, and jump up and surprise unsuspecting trick-or-treaters.
Now that you have the main elements of the exterior of your Halloween decorations ready to go, now’s the time to add the finishing touches. Take your spiderwebs and drape them where dust and cobwebs would naturally collect for a more authentic feeling. If you have a fake witch, or mannequin, drape her in black or a simple white shift, and position her just off to the side of the window. This mysterious figure constantly lurking in your window will be sure to make people look twice. Last but not least, no haunted home is complete without a pentagram wreath adorning the front door to let all who dare approach your door know who is really welcome there.
Sure things may look grim and gruesome on the outside, but for Halloween decorations to be truly terrifying, a poor soul has to enter your home. Once you’ve created the perfect petrifying display on the outside of your home, you may also want to consider decorating the inside as well.
If you have a second story, the best place to start your interior Halloween decorations is your stairway. What better way to up the gruesome factor than by creating the ultimate “stairway to hell”? If you have any extra spiderwebs drape this up and down the bannister. Add bloody body parts, skulls or bones to the stairs as if they had just dropped down from the top of the staircase. If you have any plastic spiders or rats, position them in strategic places along the stairs.
Lighting is everything, especially with haunted houses. If you have any pendant (or even better a chandelier) make sure to dim the lights, or remove some of the bulbs. If you have a lightbulb that is about to burn out and flickers a lot – even better. You can also drape some cheesecloth or cobwebs from the lighting fixtures in your home. Just be sure you don’t put anything flammable directly on the bulbs as this could be a fire hazard. If you have a larger, or more “heavy duty” pendant light, why not hand some plastic spiders or severed hand from the different arms? You can also look into getting some green or orange colored bulbs to install in your home to create an eerie mood.
The dining area of your home is another perfect spot to create a scary scene in your haunted house style decorations. Why not use this section of your home to create a gorge rising corpse feast? If you have any spare dolls, or you have dummies and/or real people that are participating in your haunted house, arrange them around a table that is dirty and covered with fake blood. Place bloody body parts in piles on silver platters, or have bowls of fake intestines (hint: you can even make edible ones from spaghetti and sausage casings for any live actors to actually eat) piled on your dining room table. You may want to also add some rats squeaking, or have squelching sound effect tracks playing in the background to make the whole scene extra gross.
Finally, the living room section of your home is one final area to stage a spook-tacular Halloween scene. If you have a fireplace this will work to your advantage, but even if you don’t, your living room is the perfect spot to stage a witches’ gathering. Take your large cauldron or pot and put some green led lights into the bottom. If you can put some dry ice into the cauldron as well, this will create the perfect witches brew! Using fake blood (or streamers if you have carpeting instead of hardwood floors), arrange a pentagram underneath your cauldron and surround with candles. We would recommend flameless candles that give a similar effect as the real ones but reduce the risk of a fire starting in your home. Again, arrange any mannequins (or real actors) you have around the cauldron and either have your actors cackle, or play a witch laugh sound effect track in this room. Quickly usher your poor victims out of your home and congratulate yourself on creating a super spooky haunted house!
Extra Tips and Tricks
The biggest factors that make a home look truly “scary” when decorating are lighting and surprise. A home that is too well lit removes the element of surprise, and is not what you’re going for when decorating your home for Halloween.
Don’t underestimate the power of sound! If your visitors have diminished visibility, it means they will be relying on their other senses more.Use silence to your advantage as well, especially if you are inviting guests inside your home as well. Pick some key moments to keep the house silent so your guests will be even more startled by the next sound. Having a spooky soundtrack that is ominous and univiting will only add another level to your Halloween decorations.
Finally, hire your friends and family! Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and loved ones for support. Having live actors as part of your Halloween decorations make your house much more memorable and scary for any visitors that come trick-or-treating.
Decorating your home for Halloween should be a fun and exciting project for you and anyone else living in the property. Halloween decorations can span a whole range of styles, from cute and kooky to a horror nightmare. Halloween decorations can span a range of budgets as well. Some homeowners prefer to go bigger even than the festive period, while others are happy with a few pumpkins outside their door. No matter what your Halloween decorating style is, the most important thing is to have fun!