By Sam McDonald
RISMEDIA, Oct. 27, 2008-(MCT)-Before you know it, trick-or-treating monsters will be lumbering through your neighborhood, hungry for a sugar fix-the only salve for their dark, tormented souls.
If you know what’s good for you, you’ll greet those pint-sized goblins, ghouls and Hannah Montanas with touches of the fantastic, the macabre the freaky.
Thankfully, creating a spooky mood on your front porch or front yard doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming nightmare. We’ve done some of the leg work for you.
Here are tips to help you scarify your dwelling:
1. Start with the Basics. Pumpkins and cornstalks conjure an instant Halloween vibe. Best of all, they’re readily available and relatively inexpensive. If you have extra cash to spend, many garden centers offer a kit containing a host of elements: two pumpkins, a bale of wheat straw, mums, a scarecrow on a stick and some Indian corn for around $40.
2. Grow a Scarecrow. This one won’t cost you a dime. Stuff old clothes with newspaper. For the head, a plastic milk jug covered with papier-mache will do the trick. If you insist on spending money, Michaels arts and crafts stores sell scarecrows for $5 to $10.
3. Make a Jack-O’-Lantern Jr. Here’s an easy decoration the young ones can help create. Buy small plastic orange party favor bags and stuff them with newspaper. Tie off the tops with green or black ribbon. Let the kids draw faces on the orange “heads” with black Sharpies. The miniature jack-o’-lanterns will look good dangling from tree branches or on the rail of your porch.
4. Shine an Eerie Light. “You can do nice effects with lighting-black lights, blues or purple,” said Lenny Williams, visual merchandiser at McDonald Garden Center in Hampton, Va. “Those are great and inexpensive.” Colored bulbs are available at many drug and discount stores. Look around the house for a lamp that’s easy to reposition and redirect and consider splashing the weird light against a wall or doorway.
5. Carve Your Own Gravestone. Plenty of stores sell fake, plastic or foam grave makers, making it easy to turn your front yard into a bone orchard. But you can craft your own monuments by purchasing, carving and decorating pieces of Styrofoam, which cost $1.99 to $10.99 a sheet at Michaels. “But don’t use spray paint, it will eat the Styrofoam,” warned Michaels assistant manager Barbara Bennett. “They’ll have to hand paint it with acrylic paint.”
6. Summon the Fog. The boiling caldron effect is timeless-but not easy to pull off. The cheapest way to produce spooky fog is to buy a hunk of dry ice, also known as solidified carbon dioxide, and drop it in a pan of hot water. But handling dry ice requires care and close adult supervision. Regardless, Bob Hall of Dr. Bob’s Theatricity in Virginia Beach, Va., doesn’t think much of this method. “The fog won’t move around, you’ll have to use fans.” His solutions are more expensive, though: renting or buying a fog machine. “I have machines that two of them will fog out Hampton Coliseum in five minutes. If you want that graveyard fog, you need a dry ice machine.”
7. Play Monstrous Music. Unsettling music, scary riffs or strange sounds can help you complete your Halloween ambience. The frightening organ music of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor is the standard, but you could also thrill and chill youngsters by spinning John Williams’ score to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Rather rock out a bit? Try “Boris the Spider” by The Who, “N.I.B.” by Black Sabbath, “Black Juju” by Alice Cooper.”
© 2008, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.