Frugal Ways to Haunt Your Home

Written by marilyn zelinsky-syarto Google
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Scare Up Inexpensive Halloween Decorations

Frugal Ways to Haunt Your Home
(ktaylorg/iStockphoto.com)

Make it look like animals or monsters tried to claw their way in.

— Leigh-Anne Dennison, Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts' senior social media specialist, on creepy window treatments.

For all the frightful and fear-inducing festivities of Halloween, a haunted house might not be the scariest part of the fall holiday. What is? The cost, at least the way the National Retail Federation crunches the numbers. In 2009, the NRF figured that Americans spent nearly £3 billion dollars on Halloween, with estimates reaching £3.8 billion for the 2010 season. Of the latter appraisal, more than £1.0 billion would be spent on decorations. But trick-or-treaters' shrieks don't rely on your bank account-balancing goose bumps. There are plenty of economical ways to create eerie effects, too. From recycling materials to great finds at craft and party stores, low-cost can still create high horror at your ghoulish Halloween manor.

Building a Graveyard

From where better to raise the spirits than a graveyard? Leaving tomb raiding aside, pick up a can of textured spray paint -- the key to a grungy graveyard setting, according to Leigh-Anne Dennison, senior social media specialist at Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts.

"To get the old etched look, engrave lettering into styrofoam or wood shapes, or write in hot glue and let it dry, then use spray paint with a stone finish," she said, adding that directional lighting on some of the headstones while others remain dark creates a veil of mystery to the scene. But for summoning ghosts, you need more than headstones. You need, well, ghosts.

For life-size apparitions, drape affordable muslin fabric or cheesecloth over broom handles stuck into the ground. "Use stiffening products from craft stores to help you manipulate the fabric into shapes," Dennison said. Embellish shapes with glow-in-the-dark paints or place a battery-operated flameless candle under the sheer fabric, she added.

Spend less than £19 on a compact fog machine, put it in a homemade pine casket and plug it in. Jo Pearson, creative expert for Michaels Stores, suggested pointing a spot light on it, and you've put the final nail in your graveyard design.

Crafting Creepy Creatures

Frugal Ways to Haunt Your Home
(daboost/iStockphoto.com)

Of graveyards and ghosts, Halloween is just as often bepopulate with critters, creatures, goblins and ghouls, and so should be your home. Start with the pumpkin.

Lynn Rossini, a Connecticut-based interior designer and mother of three, knows how to bring the haunted Jack-o'-lantern to life. "Make faces by hot gluing inexpensive rhinestones onto pumpkins," Rossini said. "At night, trick-or-treaters stop in their tracks when their flashlights shine on the rhinestone faces, and in the sunshine, the stones sparkle." For a devilish look, spray paint pumpkins black and glue on red crystal eyes.

It doesn't end with pumpkins, though. You can make a quick and oversized spider with 10 simple black garbage bags. Stuff one for the body, another smaller one for the head, and the other eight for legs. Packaging tape should hold the pieces in place. Add cardboard eyes, and you have a low-cost, durable outdoor Halloween monster. The indoor variety, though, is of another creation.

For indoor spiders, wrap styrofoam balls with boas, and poke chenille stems into the body for legs, Dennison suggested. "Manipulate the stems to hang spiders off of curtain rods."

The bare-bones cost can include skeletons, too. But don't just leave them hanging in their birthday suits, Pearson insisted. Pearson collects oddball clothing for pennies throughout the year, then dresses up a dozen or so skeletons that she hangs from the eaves of her porch -- just to give her house a little personality.

"Abandoning" Your House

Abandoned rooms offer a desolate look of desertion -- possibly by a family moved on, possibly by the dead departed -- where suspense lingers in unoccupied corners. While moving furniture around and emptying space is an option, save yourself the time and the elbow grease.

"White sheets, white powder, cobwebs, and cheesecloth create the heavy, dusty haze of an abandoned space," said Samantha Goldberg, celebrations expert with Party City. Drape white sheets over every piece of furniture -- including tables and cabinets -- to give your house that creepy "does-anyone-live-here?" look.

Dennison noted that window treatments can actually enhance the empty aura.

"Take inexpensive fabric, and tatter it by ripping and snipping it, then hang it on tension rods or over existing rods," she said, adding that this technique makes use of the bargain remnant bins. "Fray the ends of fabric or cut five tears in strategic places to make it look like animals or monsters tried to claw their way in."

Dennison suggests using tension rods to hang tattered cloth over windows. To make new material look old and worn, snip it with scissors and then rip it with your hands. Ratchet up your design by cutting five tears in strategic places to make it seem that animals or monsters tried to claw their way in, Dennison said.

Cheesecloth is a go-to item for many holiday decoration professionals. "Cheesecloth is cheap [and] you can make it appear dusty with powder or bloody with spray paint. It hides things, looks creepy, and it unfolds large for draping over everything from furniture to bushes," Michaels' Pearson said.

Going Gothic Inside

Though emptiness can lead to frightfulness, vampire and Gothic fans can go batty on Halloween. Keep that in mind when you greet your trick-or-treaters with Gothic gore. Drape black fabric over a table and group black candles together to transform a front hallway into a frightening foyer.

"Black lace screams Gothic," Dennison said.

Another of her favourite tricks is to dye white lace black. "But," she added, "do a bad job dyeing the lace, so it will look old and dusty, then hang it everywhere."

Use plenty of plastic spiders and bats in a Gothic interior, Dennison said, suggesting that you attached them to surfaces with tiny removable adhesive hooks so it looks like they are climbing up the walls.

But what would Gothic decor be without a little gore? Pearson sets up a "chop shop" with a baker's rack on her front porch, welcoming guests with clear canning jars filled with chopped fingers, spiders, eyeballs and even a bag of mice. "Put a fake mouse on top of the milk container, and you'll scare everyone who dares open your fridge."

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure that all wiring is safely secured and cannot trip guests.

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