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Trippin’ Among the Tombstones

Part of the joy of being footloose is that I can scribble about any place I want, even if it’s my own front yard.

Most of my outdoor Halloween decor is handmade, or maybe I should say, hand-constructed. Taking a few store bought props, I’ll change and build them into something original. I often add new decorations each year and I work way too hard setting it all up. What can I say – I’m really into Halloween. Luckily, the neighborhood kids (and a few adults) really love it.

This year it started with a witch.

I bought the styrofoam head from Michaels’ Craft Store, painted a face, added a wig, built a pvc pipe body frame and added some clothing. The main pole for her body fit perfectly into our flag pole holder. The broom is actually a palm frond I found in a park. I thought it looked like a wild broom so I spray painted it some fiery colors. It is hanging from hooks underneath her.

This witch was made the same way. I took a Harry Potter plastic wand and wrapped tiny battery powered lights around the tip. They can flash on and off.

The next step was the running skeleton. I saw this idea on Pinterest but those skeletons were actually two dimensional yard art. I hung mine from an iron plant stake and used wooden plant stakes to help hold the dogs in position.

Notice how the manufacturer reversed the poor skeleton’s hands?

I have two pairs of small skeletons I dressed up years ago. Most of their clothing is artfully torn from second hand baby clothes. I bought bridal dress and veil fabrics and sewed and pinned them together. They are not well made but they stay on and work the illusion! I also painted and made-up the words for the pre-cut sign (again from Michaels’). The groom’s hat is made from foam.

My skeletons like to party! The plastic champagne glasses are decorated with green glitter paint and held in place with cable ties.

The graveyard provided the setting for this spooky but fun Halloween party. My husband cut out some tombstones from plywood and nailed on a stout stake for each one. I painted a base coat of white, then spray painted a gray-granite paint from Michaels’. Using a stencil, I drew and then hand-painted the epitaphs – which is why they are a little messy. I also nailed in a couple of decorations onto the tombstones and painted them as well. For the graves, we spread half of a garbage bag on the lawn and covered it with mulch. We will move the mulch to the yard when Halloween is over. Can anyone guess what the epitaphs mean?

The epitaphs are all titles of Noir Films! Film Noir (for the uninitiated) are American crime films from the 1940s and 50s that share the common characteristics of darkness, pessimism, anti-heroes and femme fatales. The action usually takes place at night or in day time but with lots of shadows or rain.

I happen to be a big fan of this genre. In fact, I wrote a short-story that was published in an anthology called Black Coffee – Stories from the Noir Side of Town. My story is titled, “The Cat.” Here is the first sentence: “It wasn’t till after I bludgeoned her that I noticed the cat.” If you would like to read more, it is available on Amazon. All the stories in the collection are good!

The frame of this witch is constructed from pvc pipe. The mask is fit over an upside down, half-gallon plastic milk container. I use lots of rubber bands and safety pins to make the clothing stay together.

Last but not least are the aliens. They come down to trick-or-treat every year. To make them, I took styrofoam heads, cut off the nose and lips and carved out bigger eyes. I added layers of clay and paper-mache to the top of the head, then painted the whole thing. I always spray a protective coat over the finished product. The weather takes a toll as you can see.

I love creating a fun Halloween. I never use gory props and I usually play fun music – swinging jazz is a favorite. Listening to the kids exclaim over the decorations and watching the families take photos makes it all worth it.

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