My parents took me through my first walk through Halloween haunted house at the ripe old age of 7 and I’ve been in love with them ever since. As an adult with my own home I now get to recreate those horrifying haunts in my own yard and this is how I set up my Halloween haunted graveyard without going bankrupt.
No ghoulish graveyard is complete without tombstones and before you head off to the Halloween Store to buy pre-made plastic tombstones make a pit stop in your garage and see what kind of scrap wood you have. Tombstones are beyond easy to make. I’m going to share two different methods with you. One method is for those who have almost no resources available to them and one for those who have a few power tools hidden behind the junk in the garage.
No cut tombstones – No cut tombstones are tombstones that don’t require the use of table saws. They don’t look as good as those made of wood but they serve the purpose and the kids couldn’t care less on Halloween night.
Several large pieces of cardboard, the more you have the better.
Glue(or other adhesive)
1 can of gray spray paint
1 bottle of black finger paint
Artists paint brush
1 wooden stake per tombstone (a bundle can be purchased at Lowes for around $7
Cut the pieces of cardboard into the shape of tombstones. For each tombstone cut 2 identical pieces. It’s best to make each tombstone a different shape and size to give your graveyard some variety.
Cover the backs of each tombstone with glue and stick two identically shaped pieces to each other. Spray adhesive is the best but in a pinch plain old Elmer’s Glue will work fine. Leave to dry overnight.
While the glue is drying, use this time to paint your stakes. Lay them out on newspaper and spray both sides of each stake with the gray and leave to dry overnight as well.
The following day (or whenever you get around to it) glue the stakes to one side of the tombstone. To reinforce this use the staple gun to staple the tombstone to the stake.
Spread a whole ton of newspaper out on the ground. You will need grass or dirt for this part. Stake each tombstone into the ground so that it is standing upright. Don’t worry about the newspaper just shove the stake right through it. Now spray paint all the standing tombstones gray.
This is where you run off to eat pumpkin pie or something and let the tombstones dry.
When the stones are completely dry use your artists paint brush and black paint to paint epitaphs on them. Get creative. Go find out when Shakespeare died and what’s on his tombstone. Look up Bram Stoker and Elizabeth Bathory and copy their epitaphs.
That’s it, you’re all done. You now should have a whole graveyard’s worth of tombstones. You can’t put these out until Halloween night though because any moisture will cause the cardboard to get soft and soggy.
If you happen to have a few dollars left over you can purchase a can of clear waterproof glaze at Michaels so that you can put them out a few days before Halloween.
Wooden Tombstones – Wooden tombstones are easier to make in my opinion but they still require work. All you need as far as supplies is a bunch of scrap wood, gray paint, black paint, small thin nails, artist paint brush and a few lawn stakes.
To make the tombstones use a pencil and draw the outline of tombstones in different sizes and shapes on your scrap wood. Use your table saw, jig saw, router or whatever kind of saw you have and cut out the tombstones.
Nail a stake to each tombstone.
Spread newspaper over your lawn and stand tombstones upright by shoving the stake through the paper and into the ground.
When you have a graveyard standing on newspaper in your yard, paint them gray and allow to dry overnight.
The next day paint epitaphs on your tombstones the same way you would with the cardboard tomstones.
Viola! Light and add fog and your haunted graveyard is complete.
Creepy Eyes in the Shrubbery
It’s not that complicated to achieve this special effect and it looks really cool.
A whole bunch of black 35mm film cases
Strand of red, white orange blinking Christmas lights
Something to punch a hold into the canister with
Make holes in the top of the canister lid. Cut two small slits in the top of the lid of the film canisters in the shape of an X.
Punch two holes in the side of each film canister. I like to use a leather punch but any tool sharp enough to cut through the thickness of the plastic will work including a small drill. To make it even funkier you can cut the holes in different shapes since these will be the actual eyes, if not simple holes will work fine. Make sure the holes are side by side on the side of the canister so that they will look like eyes. (think snake eyes)
Put a piece of scotch tape over the holes to help soften the light somewhat and color over it with the red marker.
Shove one of the bulbs on the strand of Christmas lights through the slits you cut in the top of the canister lid. Do this for each lid and then put the lids on all the canisters.
When you are done you should have a strand of Christmas lights with film canisters dangling from it. Simply drape inside a bush and plug in. The flashing effect, fade and chasing effects work best for this project because they make the light appear to blink but stationary lights will do if that’s all you have. If you have several bushes make several sets of these for added effect.
Other low cost special effects
There are a few things you can add to your graveyard to give it extra spook. Dollar stores around the country sell stretchable spider webs and they are ok but I prefer the 3 dollar ones at Wal-mart because they stretch better and are more like a netting of web. Buy as many as you can afford and spread them everywhere. The key to spider webs is more is best. Spread them across trees, over the tombstones, around windows and across bushes. Anywhere you can get them to stick put them.
Fog is a necessity for any graveyard and it can be hard to achieve. The cheapest way to make fog is warm water and dry ice but forewarned it is very hard to make a lot of fog that way and even harder to get it to float low to the ground. There are tutorials online for making fog boxes fairly cheaply but I recommend the iron and glycerin project. I’ve personally made several of those and they work perfectly in conjunction with a fog box.
Sound effects are crucial for a good haunting. Gather your friends and family for dinner or whatever excuse you want to use and ask them to all make scary sounds. Record screaming, moaning, crying, stomping feet, slamming doors, chainsaws and any other freaky thing you can find.
You can’t go wrong with these techniques. If you don’t get a satisfyingly spooky graveyard out of this then you never will without spending lots of cash. Good luck and happy haunting.