Whether you're preparing for Halloween, making a movie or play set, or just preparing for a themed party, there are few things that spell doom and gloom quite like a dungeon atmosphere. Though good dungeon decorating and scene-setting requires full coverage of a room and convincing decorating, many good dungeon decorating accessories can be made with minimal fuss, cost and experience.
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Heads on Spikes
Make simple, but gruesome-looking heads on spikes by painting styrofoam wig dummies with acrylic paint, then gluing on costume wigs. Stake the heads by running them through with thick wooden craft dowels (about an inch in diameter and at least four feet high) before painting the wood with silver or black paint. Make three or more spiked heads using dowels of the same size, but place the heads at different heights.
Purchase or borrow a prop skeleton and lay it in the corner to suggest the remains of a prisoner long since left for dead. For added effect, dress the skeleton in raggedy clothes and cover it with Halloween prop cob webs. If you can't get a full skeleton, just tossing a few novelty bone pieces (especially a skull) in the corner will have a similar effect.
Every dungeon needs some barred cells and/or windows, or it's not a proper dungeon. Use wooden craft dowels to build lightweight, but sturdy, window or door prison bars and frames to hold them. Attach the wood using wood glue or screws (depending on the size), then paint using black spray paint to look like iron, followed by a light, incomplete dusting of brown-red paint to look like rust.
Give an ordinary room a coating of temporary "brick" wall using thin sheet polystyrene (about a quarter inch thick) and cut brick-sized rectangles (about two inches by four inches). Paint these grey (or use a craft stone texture spray) and arrange them temporarily on a wall using office tack or glue them to large sheets of cardboard or paper before hanging. Arrange the "bricks" in a staggered configuration; they will look like the edges of full bricks protruding from mortar work.
Good dungeon lighting isn't just another feature of your dungeon, it's a way to give the proper mood and appearance to the rest of your decorating. Create authentic-looking wall torches using miniature, battery operated special-effects lights (sold around Halloween, or by Halloween novelty suppliers for use in jack-o-lanterns). These lights are safe and produce little heat, but flicker in a manner that suggests real fire. Make the "torches" by taping tag board into cones, wrapping them with rag leather scraps, then taping the battery lights inside.
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