I go overboard for Halloween. Its the only holiday I know of where the do it yourself spirit is embraced and encouraged. I see many commercialized American households buy off the shelf displays and call it a day, but in any given town there is at least one house where the display is a true labour (British spelling for emphasis) of love... In St Johnsbury, VT, that house is mine
We have a plethora of young children in our secluded little neighborhood; however, there is a distinct lack of Halloween spirit. If any display is attempted at all, it tends to be either saw-toothed Jack-o-lanterns or a Wal*Mart air-blown decoration. This saddens me deeply.
This year, in addition to the standard pumpkins and ghouls that adorn my porch and front lawn, I wanted to make one undeniably great, totally believable prop that would not so much scare or horrify the neighbors, but through its "Shock and Awe" factor, would coerce them to put up a half-decent display or their own.
I decided that, with the little I know about Stagecraft, I should be able to create a totally realistic ghost, so long as it was non-interactive, and non-examinable. With these caveats in mind, I settled on "haunting" an upstairs bedroom. It was too far away to examine, had a limited viewing angle, and was currently unoccupied.
That lead to the creation of "Pepper's Bride".
I also expanded upon my previous "Bone Phones" instructable, to create a truly frightful Grim Reaper to greet the children.
This instructable will cover the two big props in addition to a few scene-setters that really made this year's display "pop".
oh, and did I mention, I was pretty broke this year, so a lot got reused, and i used a lot of scrap.
Step 1: Plan the Scene
Intricate planning is one of the important first steps of a Halloween display... you don't need to place everything to begin with, but you should know what you need, in a general way.
1) Set Boundaries - decide what area your display will encompass, and stick to it. That way, your display is not a jumble, and people don't get the feeling that it "petered out" at the edges. Common boundaries include: house (duh), sidewalk, hedge/fence, Halloween fence, caution tape, driveway, and road.
I decided to be bounded by the house, the sidewalk, and the driveway on either side.
2) Enhance Boundaries - cemetery-style fences or caution tape need no enhancement, but my driveways did.
I decided that two torches, in addition to the house, would properly emphasize the display's boundaries.
1) Major Props - decide where your major props are going to be. These will be the most eye-catching/scary items (often the most expensive/complicated too). Use these props sparingly, or your guests will become jaded. The majority of your props should be simple, and planned to complement the placement of your Major props.
My Major props were a "Big-Scream TV" display(i keep it by popular demand, even though I personally think the videos are way too cheesy), "Grim" (an interactive talking grim reaper), and "The Bride" (peppers ghost). "The Bride" was limited to the bedroom, and the "Big Scream TV" was limited to the front window. "Grim" needed to be close to the kids, but his base needed a bit of camouflage, as he's based on a music stand, therefore I chose the front lawn, at a 45 degree angle between the street and the front walk. He was set in slightly, so as to place other props, obstructing the view of his base.
3) Minor Props - get a rough Idea of what you need to fill in the display, and how to make it "tell a story". Final placement can wait until Halloween, but the general ideas have to be there. Decide on a theme and stick to it. No aliens mixed with pirates. no 40s style ghosts mixed with gory axe-murderers. You don't need to do this if you can make it work, but I try to choose a theme...
I went with "a classic haunting" I.E. ghosts and ghouls, but no gore, and no "human" element (like a psycho-murderer). I wanted to include a nod to some classic horror "greats", and I wanted only a few "creatures", mostly just thematic elements.
4) Set the scene - be sure that your props don't work in a vacuum... fill in with items that make the props look at home... For example, a vampire does NOT stalk a 1985 ranch style home with a well kept facade, hot tub, and a 1973 Corvette Stingray up on blocks in the front yard. Try to alter your surroundings to match the theme (or change the theme to match the surroundings)
I moved the clutter of the bedroom out of sight of the window and added some classic decor. I added cobwebs and "gas" lamps to my porch. I killed the inside lights completely, and MOST IMPORTANT, I cleared everything off the front porch/lawn before setting up.
5) Be Flexible - over build/buy. Get enough props that if one looks wrong in the final placement, you can replace it with another, or if there is a "dead" spot, you can fill it in. Be prepared to "flex" your design to fit the realities of final placement. NEVER put out all the props you own. Keep a surplus, but don't crowd it onto the lawn at the last minute just because you have it.
I used my "excess" props to set up small scenes around the neighborhood, to improve the general atmosphere.
6) Keep Your Vision - Always be on the lookout for little things to add to the display... browse the aisles of every store you walk into.