Amber Arnett-Bequeaith knows a thing or two about creating creepiness. She’s vice president of Full Moon Productions, operator of Edge of Hell, Beast and Macabre Cinema in the West Bottoms.
I asked her to come up with a list of ways to turn a pleasant, everyday front yard into a ghoulish graveyard that will scare trick-or-treaters right out of their superhero capes and Donald Trump wigs. (Please tell me there will be a lot of kids with Donald Trump wigs. Please.)
Arnett-Bequeaith went one better by providing tips for inside the house as well for people hosting parties.
She also suggests using strawberry syrup as nontoxic fake blood. Internet snooping found that mixing it with chocolate syrup makes it even more realistic, as does combining red food dye and corn syrup.
You can also create gruesome candles by holding a lit red candle upside down over a white pillar candle so the melted red wax drips over the white wax.
The (grave) yard:
▪ Dress scarecrows as family members by putting them in old clothes you don’t wear anymore. Put your names or nicknames on their straw hats or printed across the front of their clothes. If the girls in your family want to make a “prom queen” scarecrow, don’t forget the tiara and sash.
▪ Use old Halloween costumes to make scarecrows. The more tattered the better. Add fake blood.
▪ If ghosts are more your thing, stab sticks into a hay bale, put bike helmets on top of them and drape sheets over them. They make wonderful spirits among the graveyard idea, listed next.
▪ Carve tombstones out of Styrofoam, drive stakes through the middle and plant them in the yard. Leave them white or paint them silver or black, and carve or stencil “R.I.P.,” names and dates, including one for Edgar Allen Poe. “Never write your name on one, though,” Arnett-Bequeaith says. “It’s bad luck!” Ask your local cemetery for discarded flowers for your graves.
▪ Scatter bones and skulls about with scoops of potting soil next to them to lend a just-unearthed look.
▪ Cover trees in fake cobwebs and decorate with spiders of various sizes. Add Spanish moss, dried leaves or body parts, such as fingers and toes.
▪ Place a mini-fogger and strobe light near your front door and play Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” “Monster Mash,” “Ghostbusters” and other Halloween songs.
▪ Install a cheap, noise-making doorknocker, preferably one with a motion detector.
▪ Put dead flowers in your flower pots, add tall sticks and cobwebs.
▪ Going for an abandoned look? Stick light wood boards over windows with duct tape and write “BEWARE! DO NOT ENTER” with red strawberry syrup to look like blood.
▪ In Kansas, “The Wizard of Oz’s” melting witch is a classic. Place black fabric or even old black T-shirts in a heap on your sidewalk with a cheap black witch’s hat on top. Have a green goo oozing out the side and yellow caution tape circling the creation, and Poof! The witch is dead. You may wear the ruby red slippers, of course.
▪ Deck out the entryway with lights strategically placed to show off your decor, but they shouldn’t be too bright. You want the house to look dim so that mystery looms.
▪ Scour vintage shops for old brown medicine jars and label them with fun, eerie potion names or specimens. If you only have clear jars, add green food coloring
▪ Prop a plastic or rubber skeleton in a rocking chair. With old boots planted next to them, a broom and black cat.
▪ Decorate a black Christmas tree using old pictures of Halloween past, cobwebs, spiders, old toy trinkets sprayed with black paint, bats, cats, Halloween children’s art, candy and top with a raven. Read “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe on Halloween Eve next to your tree and tell spooky ghost stories.
▪ Arrange old mannequins wearing formal black or red dresses in your windows, preferably on the second floor or attic, so they can be seen from the street. Shine a flashlight under the mannequin to create a ghostly effect.
▪ Shred old pictures or cover them in blood splats, put in frames and hang in your entry way.
▪ Cover couches and chairs with old tattered white sheets to continue the abandoned look. Cover tables with tattered black tablecloths or old black sheets with ragged edges.
▪ Drape bookshelves in spider webs. Pull out spooky books and display them prominently on a shelf, or use them to create different levels of height with skulls and black candles. Accent with red chair for a bloody flare.