Introduction: The Pickup Bed Graveyard

About: I’m a Health Coach that likes to work from home and spend most of my time with family and community.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of year... to go a bit overboard! Growing up in Staten Island in the 70s made it easy to go door to door, block to block, gather up tons of goodies, and deck out your house.

I moved out to western New Jersey in the mid 80s. A very different experience with no sidewalks, street lights, and a lot fewer houses per mile.

Now I have a family including a nine year old daughter. Her trick or treat experience is either driving to a small local town or a school event called ‘Trunk or Treat’... something I knew nothing about six years ago.

I really enjoyed the first one when Mia was about three years old. The kids and parents were having a great time. I did a basic hatchback setup as a crime scene. It was a good way to start but I wanted to do something bigger.

The pickup was the solution, and graveyard was the instant answer. I’ve added components over the years but sadly, this will probably be my last time at Trunk or Treat. So, although I’m not sure if this truly is Instructables worthy (there’s a lot of serious talent on this site), I want to share my idea. Hopefully this Trunk will live on and brighten up someone else’s children and community event! :)

Step 1: The Pieces

I’ll go through all the components I use but as I've said, this project has been building and improving for five years.

  1. Green rug, 5x7 or what fits your bed (not pictured)
  2. Foam graveyard tombstones (11 varying sizes)
  3. Two small strobe lights (battery powered)
  4. One Whirl-A-Motion projection light (I used ghosts version)
  5. One rotating projection shadow light (battery operated, graveyard scene)
  6. Fog machine and water-based fog solution
  7. LED Strip Light Kit (16.4 ft tape light, power pack supply, controller, remote)
  8. LED WiFi Controller and App (Magic Home)
  9. Portable Air Compressor/Power Pack (used to power LED Strip)
  10. 400+ watt power converter
  11. Three coffin shaped candy dishes
  12. Brown felt material (to simulate dirt around coffins)
  13. Black skull strobe light (found at thrift store)
  14. Decorations including cat skeleton, small skull, raven, and owl,
  15. Weighted bases like mic stands for branch tree holders (not pictured)
  16. Extension cord and three way plug (long enough to reach fog machine from truck battery)
  17. Two tension rods to fit inside back window (top was about 48", bottom around 60")
  18. White sheet for inside window (to project shadow light).
  19. Two dead branches, about 3-4' (to simulate graveyard trees)
  20. Caution: Zombies warning tape
  21. Bluetooth outdoor speaker (I used an Ion Tailgator Flash)

Step 2: Tools and Clamps

There’s not much needed in this department. A small screwdriver for those small screw battery compartments. A blade/scissors for Zombie banner and tape, if needed. Shipping tape to hold down the tombstone spike stands, small clips for LED strip, and larger clamps for strobe lights.

Step 3: Lights and Sound

I originally just used a couple of battery operated strobe lights and then sometimes turned on the pick up bed light. When I discovered LED tape lights, that really improved the look. But I really wanted to take it one step further and find something that I could use to actually sync the lights to sound. After searching several websites including Amazon, I found a Magic Home WiFi controller that would take the tape lights to another level. Now I can control the lights from an app, and a playlist, on my iPad. I then purchased a Halloween Hits album from iTunes, along with some other favorites.

I attached the LED strip lights all around the bed on the inside rail with small to medium sized binder clips. I also attached two strobe lights with larger clamps that will actually be facing the pick up bed tailgate. They clamp nicely to the hand rail holes and lawn spike for the moving ghost projector light drops right in.

As far as sound, I originally used the truck stereo and just swung the back doors open on my extended cab. A couple of disadvantages... you might need a wider parking space, and if it was a cold night, the family would have no where warmer to sit. I then upgraded to a Bluetooth speaker (Ion Tailgater Flash) that also adds to the light show. I put that on top of the cab.

Step 4: Graveyard

Of course the first step is to clean out the back of your pick up truck... I normally keep a lot of crap back there! :) I found a green 5x7 carpet at Walmart and I use that as grass. You can cut out the wheel wells but it seems to work fine and if I ever want to use the carpet for another reason, it’ll be intact.

I found these foam tombstones at Walmart. I break them down into three sizes... the tall ones are mainly used in the back, medium size In middle, and the smallest up front. The plastic spike stands make it easy to tape down, front and back, on carpet using shipping tape. It also easily removes for tear down.

Before I start taping down the tombstones I place the fog machine and power pack (not shown in photo) in the back of the bed underneath the tri-fold cover. I also run the extension cord and splitter. Make sure the fog machine is placed in the opening between two of the large tombstones (please read all safety instructions for proper use and placement) and of course don'r forget to fill with solution and plug in. I use three-way splitter for fog machine, black skull strobe, and rotating ghost projector. The other end of extension cord runs in front of bed, down below passenger side running board and up to inverter under hood (you'll probably need to leave hood slightly open). Please make sure you at least match wattage necessary for fog machine and lights. Also read all instructions for proper usage and safety precautions). And last but not least, keep an eye on your battery, You'll probably need to start your truck for a minute or two, every 30-60 min. That also helps to warm up the family during breaks on those cold nights!

I also like to add a couple of dead graveyard trees. I just look around for some dead branches and hold them up with mic stands, or any weighted base to can find.

Now comes the decorating. You can start staggering your tombstones, trees, skulls including strobe, raven, and owl. I save one of the large tombstones for my skeleton. I lay them both down against a wheel well and add cat nearby.

The final touches... Zombie tape, coffin candy dishes wrapped in brown felt (to simulate dug up dirt), and strobes aimed at candy. You can also re-aim rotating ghost projector for maximum viewing on graves.

Step 5: Rear Window Projection

The last section goes up pretty quickly. I use two tension rods. The thinner one on top. I took the rubber end caps off and added some duct tape so it wouldn't scratch or tear interior. I remove rear headrests. I cut a white sheet roughly to size and cut wide hem open so I have a loop to feed tension rod. Once bed sheet is on, I gently wedge it above molding on both sides, stretch sides out, and add thicker tension rod on bottom to hold material tight against window and as wrinkle free as possible (gets better with time). The shadow projector then sits on a small cardboard box placed in middle of back seat. Move it around until it shows maximum shadow frame.

Step 6: Final Thoughts

Several things I've learned over the years... get to event early and think about where you're going to park. The LEDs and strobes work well even directly under a pole light, but the rear window and rotating ghost projector practically disappear. So the darker the better. Also, if you plan on playing music, if the event is supplying music or a DJ, and they don't mind you having music as well, park as far away as possible from their source. And once and a while, you will find a spot with power. That will save you from have to run an inverter from your truck battery, and having to start your pickup about every 30-60 min.

This has been a lot of fun for me, my family, and my community. I hope this trunk or treat project lives on for many years to come. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions.

Halloween Contest 2018

Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2018