Ghostly Garden: DIY Tricks for an Outdoor Haunted House

A front yard turned into a graveyard.

The outside of the home is highly visible on Halloween night, when parents turn their children out into the streets to beg for candy door-to-door. Put your DIY skills to good use this October by creating easy but effective outdoor decorations that will chill, thrill and scare trick-or-treaters… and even visitors to your home who are a little bit older.

Creepy Remains

Go to the local thrift store, or dig through the attic, to find old dolls that you won’t mind disassembling. Tear them limb from limb (that should get you in the Halloween mood) and suddenly they’re amazing outdoor props for any Halloween scene.

Bury arms halfway in landscaping, hang legs from tree branches with fishing wire, place heads on upright sticks or fence posts. In the darkness, those body parts will look completely creepy. Turn up the “eek” factor on them with a little fake blood. Red hummingbird syrup looks very realistic, and it’s easier to work with than ketchup or strawberry jelly. If you can’t get your hands on bird food, try mixing some cherry juice with a little baking soda. The powder will thicken up the juice and tone down the very bright red color.

Condemned Home

Your windows are the perfect frame for creepy DIY Halloween decorations. Measure the windows in front of the house, and get 1x4 and 1x6 boards to span the width. Measurements don’t need to be exact, and if you have ragged scrap wood of the proper size, so much the better. Fasten these boards horizontally to two vertical boards, long enough to cover the height of the window. If you have bolt on storm windows, use the same bolts to attach the vertical boards. If you don’t, attaching the decoration depends on the type of windows, the siding and your level of dedication. If it’s all wood, you can screw the boards in place, and fill the holes with caulk when Halloween is over. If that’s not an option, you can hang the boards with C-clamps or baling wire or whatever else will fit your situation. (Please note: in case of a real zombie attack, the boards should be on the inside of your windows.)

Fence It In

You can’t build an outdoor graveyard without a proper fence – or at least, some sort of fence. Instead of paying big bucks to have wrought iron installed, get some garden trellis (you need at least four pieces of trellis) and metal garden stakes (two for each piece of trellis).

Get affordable trellis. You don’t need the sturdiest or most expensive stuff, because you aren’t building a lasting fence. Remove any pieces of the trellis that you don’t want in order to make it look more fence-like (some of the middle bars might need to go to get the right look). Spray paint everything black. Wait at least 2 hours for it to dry thoroughly.

Lay the trellis on its edge (horizontally) and hold it in place with the garden stakes. Put the pieces together to fence in a large square or rectangular area of the yard. Inside the fence, set up fake tombstones. You can purchase these ready-made, or you can cut them out of foam and spray paint them gray. Add lettering with a black marker, and suddenly you’ve got a cemetery right in the middle of the yard. Save money on fake fencing by using an existing home or garage wall, and create a three-sided cemetery fence instead.

A Ghostly Garden

Finish off outdoor Halloween decorations with crows and cobwebs. A single cotton ball can be pulled apart and spread out to become a gnarly cobweb. Drape it over trees, planters, fencing and anywhere else it will up the creepy factor of the yard. Fake birds can be found at thrift stores, hobby stores and craft stores. Spray paint just about any avian creature black to make it look like a crow, and perch them anywhere in the garden where they can be seen.

Put your DIY skills to good use this Halloween, and build a display that will bring lots of scary fun to the neighborhood.

Photo by Anita Hart