Every Halloween, Lisa Thornbury and her family transform their home into a haunted house worthy of the title ‘Scariest Digs in the ’Hood’. “My kids don’t actually care if decorations come from Martha Stewart or the Dollar Store,” says Thornbury, the Toronto-based mother of two and blogger for the Yummy Mummy Club. “They just like it good and creepy.” As Thornbury discovered, creepy doesn’t have to come at a cost. She creates her own haunted house with a combination of DIY and store-bought decorations to create an all-over spook-appeal. So how does she do it?
She starts by creating a creepy ambience. This involves picking up a few Halloween-themed CDs to play over outdoor speakers and replacing the light bulbs in her front entryway with red or black bulbs.
Create a haunted maze
To really rev up the fear factor, Thornbury turns her garage into a haunted maze with just a few simple steps:
Raise your garage door about ¾ of the way up and hang bed sheets down the middle to divide the space in half. Set up a cardboard tunnel (filled with spider webbing, rubber spiders and other creepy crawlies) that trick-or-treaters must crawl through to get into the garage. Decorate the inside of your garage with hanging bats, spider webs, motion activated decorations (bought at end-of-season sales) or even real people! Once they make it out of the haunted space (IF they make it out, bwahahaha!), kids can pick up their Halloween candy at the exit.
As Thornbury says, “We’re pretty simple folk who just want to scare children the old fashioned way… by jumping out at them.”
Trick out your yard
For Scottie Wildman, a mother of four living in North Toronto, Halloween is always a horrifying affair. Her family’s love of the holiday started with the birth of her twins on October 31. From then on, it has been a very special occasion at her family’s home. Her whole yard, decked out in extravagant decorations (including many motion-sensor ones), has become a destination for plenty of Halloween thrill-seekers.
While the majority of her decorations are store-bought, she does have a few DIY tips, especially when it comes to creating an all-around spooky spectacle. Tatter garbage bags and hang them in the trees, place electric candles in the windows of your home for an eerie glow and get corn stalks from a local farm to place around the doorway.
Make it yourself
If you’re looking for more decor ideas, take a cue from Amy McElroy. Every year, her London, Ont., house is decked out with all things creepy. Because the majority of her decorations have a DIY element, McElroy is always looking for inspiration.
She does everything from painting Styrofoam boards to make gravestones and scattering plastic bones (bought at the Dollar Store) throughout the yard, to putting up caution tape across the doors and windows to mimic a crime scene.
“My favourite decoration is the curtains,” says McElroy. “They are easy to make and always make things look spookier.” The process, she explains, is simple: “Just soak a long piece of cheesecloth in a strong pot of black tea. Then wring out excess and hang to dry,” she explains. “Create random holes throughout and shred the bottom, sides and top. The key is to make them look really worn!”
Hang them up in windows with electric candles and a jack-o-lantern (with a light bulb inside, of course!) to top it all off.
Regardless of their spook-style, all three Halloween queens agree that when it comes to maximizing the mayhem, the scariest decoration is a real person!
“For the past two years, I’ve taken the kids out trick-or-treating while my husband, dressed as a scarecrow, sat in a rocking chair on our front porch holding the candy bowl,” explains Thornbury. “As unsuspecting (older) treat seekers approached, he would suddenly “come alive” and scare the bejesus out of them.”
She got the idea from a neighbour who had a similar scheme wherein he’d jump out of a giant cardboard box on the driveway to scare passers-by.
“Not gonna lie,” says Lisa. “The first time he did it, it scared me to death.”
And that’s precisely the point. Happy haunting!