Halloween How-To: DIY Haunted House Tips!

Easy instructions for Halloween decorations that will wow a crowd.

Oct. 14, 2010— -- You don't have to break the bank to create a spooky Halloween home that your family and trick or treaters will love! Check out these easy instructions from DIY expert Michele Beschen for making your own scary decorations this year.

DIY Haunted House: Black Birds, Ravens and Crows, Oh My!

Black birds, ravens and crows get a lot of love during Halloween season, as they should, because you can have a lot of fun decorating with these dark-feathered friends.

Step 1: Vintage Owls

Hit the thrift stores and score as many bird knickknacks as you can find. Owls were popular in the 1960s and 70s so there are always some for sale. To transform the birds for Halloween night, break out the black spray paint. Create definition by taping off certain areas so they are not solid black. Cover in spray paint. Don't worry about coating it solid black because having it sparse in areas adds to the creepiness. Scatter and display around the house.

Step 2: Making Ratty Blackbirds, Ravens or Crows

Visit dollar discount stores to stock up on ravens, black birds or crows. Or you can use birds left over from ornaments or floral arrangements and spray paint them black. Rough them up by taking scraps of black and grey fabric, and gluing them to the bird over the feathers. Glue buttons over the eyes.

Step 3: Displaying Your Birds

Take inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock and "The Birds" for your displays. Score a few mannequin heads from hairdressing schools. Tease the hair to create a ratty look and put a few of your birds in it. Display the head on a candleholder. Visit a tailor for old mannequin stand. Dress in black clothing and wrap a black scarf around the neck. Spray paint a bird's nest black and sticky-tack to the top of the neck. Take one of your birds and perch it on the shoulder. You could also score bird cages and fill them with a few of your birds and place them around the house. Or put some tree branches into a vase or a Christmas tree holder, cover it in fake spider webbing, and perch some of your birds around the limbs.

DIY Haunted House: Disembodied Parts

Severed feet, hands, and heads help put the horror in Halloween. But you don't need to go down a bloody gory road with your decorating efforts to add some tricks and treats.

Step 1: Disembodied Parts Inside the House

Celebrate the season with vintage body parts. You can start a nice collection of glass hands and heads that you can acquire at thrift stores and flea markets. Old dolls are also a great place to score different body parts. An effortless way for you to up the creep factor of all these parts is to simply put them under glass – like a cheese platter, glass jars, or a glass cloche.

Step 2: Disembodied Parts in the Front Yard

Start with cheap plastic hands and feet and customize them so they look like they're just coming out of the ground. Take a few pieces of gauzy fabric, like cheesecloth and dip them in stiffening liquid or white glue. Drape them right over your body parts, covering everything except for the fingers or toes. Paint wood stain on top of the fabric to create a dirty, decaying look. Paint the fingers or toes yellow. Acrylic paint is best because it lasts outdoors. Next, paint the nails black. To display, go out and plant them around the yard.

Step 3: Bringing Body Parts to Life

A fun and unexpected surprise for your Halloween trick or treaters is to have a disembodied hand pop out of the candy bowl:

To make a trick table, you need to start with a wooden or metal table base, big enough for someone to fit underneath.

For the makeshift top, get a 4' x 4' piece of 2 inch foam insulation or plywood. Cut down into a 36" round.

Find the center of your top by drawing 2 lines from corner to corner. The intersection is your center. Next, insert a nail in the center of a yardstick at half the measurement that you would like to have for a top size (for a 36" top, place nail at 18" mark), to create a working compass.

Place a nail in the center mark of the foam, then use a Sharpie at the edge of the yardstick to create a circle. Cut the circle out using a small hand saw.

To create a place for your hand to pop through, drill a hole through the center of the table top using a 3 1/2" hole saw bit. You'll also use the 3 1/2" hole saw bit to put a hole through the center of the candy bowl. A thin plastic bowl will be the easiest to cut through.

To make sure that none of the candy falls out of the bowl, you'll need a piece of sturdy material -- like vinyl, rubber, or leather. Flip the bowl upside down, put contact adhesive on the edges of the fabric as well as the bowl itself, and stick them together. Cut a small X in the center of the fabric to create a cross section flap.

You are now ready to attach the makeshift top to your table base. The type of base you are using will determine how you attach it. We drilled three holes through the foam insulation and used 3" machine screws with washers to run through pre-drilled holes in our metal table base, then secured the screws with nuts. If you are using a wood base you could screw directly into the wood frame using longer wood screws. The use of washers helps prevent the screws from pulling through the foam.

Cover your table with a tablecloth or two -- ensuring that they are long enough on all sides to hide the person underneath the table. Cut a hole out of the center of the table cloth, in line with the hole in the foam insulation. Line up the hole in your bowl with the hole in your tabletop and use machine screws, washers, and nuts to secure the bowl to your tabletop.

Fill the bowl with candy. Then on Halloween night, have someone get under the table to give the kids more than a handful of treats!

DIY Haunted House: Eerie Exteriors

Looking to haunt the outside of your house this year? Create an abandoned condemned building look, with some eerie exteriors.

Step 1: Create Boards for Windows and Doors:

Measure the size of the window or door you want to cover.

Lay two (or more) pieces of light-weight wood, such as plywood, together so that they match the size of your window or door.

Take scrap piece of lumber and lay it out atop plywood pieces. Screw into place using a hammer and nail, or a power drill and screws, to connect the pieces of plywood.

Step 2: Decorate Boards

Be creative with embellishment -- some fun ideas:

Graffiti/Spray Paint

Attach "Caution" or "Keep Out" signs

Distress signs by puncturing with hammer and nail

Attach old rusty objects – like license plates or XXX

yellow caution tape

Step 3: Attach Boards to Home Exteriors

Cut industrial strength Velcro into 4 squares, and attach one to each corner of the back of your boards.

Note: The Velcro will leave a little residue behind on your doors. Use citrus cleaner to easily remove.

Take the backing off the Velcro and stick to the door or window frame.

Step 4: Create Tattered Curtains for Windows

Staple gauzy material, such as cheesecloth, to your newly created, boarded up windows. Or you can just trap the material in a closed window.

Rip material into shreds or put some holes in itFill a bowl with coffee or tea – dip a rag into it and stain the gauzy material to make it look dirty.

Step 5: Finish off the Look

Some other ideas to make it look like your home is abandoned:

Scatter dead potted plants, dried leaves, branches or dead wood around the yard.

Set out broken or old pieces of furniture, like rocking chairs.

Strategically place skulls or old dog bones around.

DIY Haunted House: Creepy Portrait Wall

You know how when you're in a haunted house and you always feel like someone is watching you? Create that same spooky feeling in your own home with a creepy portrait wall.

Step 1: Find Artwork

It all starts with what you have hanging on the wall. Start building a collection of faces -- including framed family photos, vintage portraits, or paintings from thrift stores and flea markets. If you want your wall to have more dimension, find a mounted animal head.

Step 2: Embellish the Eyes

Dress up the eyes with dramatic costume lashes. They have enough adhesive on them that you don't need to add anything else. You can also use buttons, sequins, or stuffed animal eyes to creepify the eyes. Stick to the portrait with removable adhesive, like sticky-tack.

Step 3: Finishing DetailsCreate shapes with black construction paper or Halloween decorative paper. Some fun ideas include making masks, hats, bats or spiders, and adhering with sticky-tack or double-sided tape. To add dimension, spray paint fake flowers a dark ominous color, and stick to the portrait. You could also hang fake spider webbing along the frame.

Step 4: Hanging on the Wall

How you group and arrange the pictures can be just as important as the decorating and embellishing. On one wall, group together the animals, on another, the people. Leave a few pictures unaltered and then scatter them amidst the creepy portrait wall so the spooky ones are like little hidden surprises. To make them seem like they've been on the wall for years, hang a few of them crooked.

DIY Haunted House: Tombstones

Halloween celebrates all things deadly and creatures of the night. Why not capture all that creepiness by turning your front yard into a grave yard?

Step 1: Create the Body of the Tombstones

For easy construction, create tombstones out of salvaged lumber. No need to make a lot of cuts to the wood, let the natural shape of the wood create the shape of the tombstone. Connect pieces of wood. Using a hammer and nail or a power drill and screws, attach slats to the backside to hold it all together. Step 2: Embellish the Tombstones

Have some fun creating different styles/looks for each Tombstone. Some ideas:

Frame with architectural details, such as table legs or staircase spindles.

Adorn with fake spider webbing

Put doll heads/hands/feet on tombstone

Step 3: Paint on Tombstone

You can use spray paint or artist acrylics. Create lettering with stencils or paint freehand. Paint on epitaphs, such as "R.I.P" or "I Told You I Was Sick"Paint on names of the deceased, such as "Ima Goner" or "Ben Dismembered"

Step 4: Installing in Front Yard

To create a base, so your tombstone can stand on its own: add another board to the bottom of your tombstone using a power drill and screws.To plant your tombstone into the ground: using a power drill, attach two stakes to the outside of your tombstone.Or, just hammer a stake into the lawn and lean your tombstone against it.

Happy Halloween!

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DIY expert Michele Beschen is the host and creator of how-to television programs with an eco-friendly focus, including her newest series, "B. Organic," currently airing on public broadcasting stations. Her unique approach to the do it yourself life can also be seen in her monthly columns with Scripps Howard News Service, contributions to "Do It Yourself Magazine," and her DVD collection.

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