A little creativity can put ordinary objects into creepy perspective this Halloween. Sometimes the necessary effect isn't best achieved with one more rubber mask on a broomstick, but with some creatively placed party supplies or even re-purposed office equipment. Scaring the beans out of kids has never been more fun, or a better way to showcase your inner designer.
THE CASTLE EFFECT
What it is: Massive stone blocks, creepy ambience, or perhaps even a drawbridge are all classic Halloween themes. Hogwarts? Frankenstein's castle? The home of Count Dracula? Nothing's scarier than a haunted castle with mystery on the other side of the entrance.
How to do it: A fog machine pouring into your eavestrough can 'overflow' and create a curtain of fog on the front of your house. An office projector hiding on the lawn (hay bales with a grey sheet over them work well as a low-tech concealer), can then project whatever you like onto the screen. Try out a pattern of stonework for a castle wall, or even an animated Dark Mark for Harry Potter fans.
A drawbridge effect can be created by tying linked streamers from your eavestrough (hey, you're climbing up there anyway to put the fog machine in place) down to planters on your front walk. In the dark, they'll look like massive chain links.
For extra effect, post a guard in a knight's costume at the front of the drawbridge (handing out candy, of course).
THE CLASSIC GRAVEYARD
What it is: Halloween is the day of the undead, so graveyards are an obvious and eternal motif. A well-done homemade graveyard provides ample opportunity to spook young trick-or-treaters.
How to do it: Headstones are an important part of any graveyard, and YouTube has no shortage of suggestions on the best way to make a good tombstone. Plywood and Styrofoam from your local hardware store are the most common suggestions. Placement, though, is equally important. Forcing visitors to wander through the cemetery opens up opportunities for scares.
Use tall corn stalks or wheat bundles to add some vertical variety to the setup, and also to create ominous shadows when you set up two floodlights near your house, pointed at opposing angles into the graveyard. Link spider webs from the corn/wheat to the tombstones for the age effect.
For bonus points, your candy-giver can wear a Grim Reaper costume and approach trick-or-treaters on the path mid-cemetery.
THE HAUNTED HOUSE
What it is: From R.L. Stine to horror flicks, haunted houses are classic residences of the ghoulish and ghastly. As such, they are the must-see attraction on any trick-or-treat route.
How to do it: Haunted houses are, more than anything, about ambience and atmosphere. Sound effects - not the overbearing and irritating kind - are essentials. Go with natural effects, ones that are activated by the wind, like wind flutes or chimes.
A bubbling cauldron, over-flowing with dry ice, is always a hit. One costumed witch can use an old canoe paddle to stir the mixture. For added effect, grab some spare rubber gloves from under the sink the night before, fill them with water and red food dye and freeze them. Floating in the cauldron, they'll look ominously similar to a severed hand. For the cauldron itself, papier-mâché around a large beachball, using paper towel tubes for feet. Spray-painted black, it'll look like a witch's best cooking tool.
Bonus points can be obtained by using windows wisely. A fan pointing outward can float drapes out into the night, while pumpkins and light displays in other windows can add effects, or a simply create a silhouette of someone in a rocking chair.
For added creepiness, tie a foam head decorated with a painted silicone mask to the end of the witch's stirring paddle. As trick-or-treaters approach, stop stirring and extend the severed head to them. Ask them if they think it's done, and cackle as they run away screaming.