Halloween decorations should be creepy (and cheap)

18 Oct

Store displayHalloween is my favorite holiday (after the ones with presents and the ones where I get to eat cake all day). Judging from the cutesy, neutered Halloween decorations I’ve seen, it appears that America wants to forget that Halloween is supposed to be scary. If an October passes without me fearing for my life during a horror flick or at least worrying about skeletal hands creeping out from beneath the couch, then the year gets chalked up as a personal failure. (watching The Orphanage guaranteed that I would succeed this year). Thankfully, the wife and I have a deal: in October, we watch horror movies; in February, we watch romance movies.

October is also when I get to break out the Halloween decorations. I’ve assembled my own batch of Halloween icons over the years, and I try to add something new every year. Today, I’m going to go through some ways to bring the true, creepy spirit of Halloween into your house with minimal expense and effort. My specialties include creepy creatures in jars and horrifically-labeled bottles.

First and foremost, remove some existing decorations. If your holiday decorations are just added on top of your existing posters, photos, and decorative objects, your home will feel crowded all month. Taking a few items out of the lineup will draw more attention to your new decorations and keep things from getting cluttered.

Bottles with creepy labels

For actual decoration materials, start at the Dollar Tree or a similar crap-vendor in your area. Dollar stores have a mixture of incredible finds (be they rare, unusual, or just cheap) and overpriced junk. For holiday crap, they are the most economical game in town. Sure, you can buy fancier skulls, Satans, and Santas, but why pay more than a dollar? Just be picky and patient, and the Dollar Tree will provide.

Unnerving bottles: You can find spooky bottle labels at the Dollar Tree or Target some years (they can be found on the web for significantly more than $1). You can also make your own with self-adhesive labels, which can look good when produced by hand or on a computer. A few drops of food coloring can give a bottle full of water a creepy look. For cocktail parties, consider dyeing your liquors different colors and keeping them in creepy bottles.

Awful jar 1Awful jar 2Jar of skulls and hands

Skeleton in jar - faceSkeleton in jar - label

Jars of awfulness: I made these labels using white shipping labels in a typewriter (and some liberal dyeing with coffee), but you could do the same with a good font on a computer. Effective labels should hint at some grander awfulness that the jar is just a small part of. The contents can be anything if you write a good label. Plastic skeletal parts are surprisingly realistic when put under glass. You should also look for the hard, foam toys that (supposedly) grow 600% in water. Once soaked, they look like they’re trying to burst out of the jars. Colored liquid can also add to the mystique. The more opaque your jar and liquid are, the more people will overlook the fact that it’s just a toy in an empty spaghetti sauce jar.

Eyes for couch pillowsEyeball pillows on chaise

Eyes everywhere: I made these simple, circular pillows from white fabric and used fabric paint to put pupils on. It makes for a good Pee Wee’s Playhouse effect. I have made small and large versions; I’d suggest using a non-white fabric on the back so they can reverse for year-round use.

Three Halloween bustsGargoyle in cage

Creepy busts and statues: These were $1 apiece at the Dollar Tree, as were ceramic tombstones. No modification needed. Great for shelves, small spaces, or decorative bookends. I put one gargoyle statue inside an empty lamp to make it look caged and much more dangerous.

Skull dishSkull dish - inside

Pests and body parts: One skull-shaped candy dish, one pack of stretchy body parts, one packet of crawly critters, and one pack of plastic insects. Mix thoroughly and leave on display. They’re much creepier than real candies and they don’t make you fat.

Keep checking the stores for bargains and you’ll end up with an awesome stash of creepy goodies to bring out year after year.


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  1. marybeth.fedor

    10/21/2010 at 12:46 pm

    Can’t wait to come over tonight and see all the creepy while watching Gymkata!!!!!!!!
    It will be amazing, see ya tonight!