Halloween do-it-yourself tricks and treats

By Ellie Rulon-Miller

During the long weekend, I took a trip to my hometown of Beverly, Massachusetts. When I got off the highway at my exit, I passed one house that is, regardless of whether or not there is a holiday coming up, always extravagantly decorated with what must be hundreds of dollars worth of tacky Walgreens purchases. This weekend the house was covered in plastic skeletons, phony spider webs, giant felt spiders and the like.

On Monday, my brother Sam and I drove to his friend’s house in Marblehead so I could sit in on their band practice. Driving through Salem, famous for its Halloween celebrations, I saw another house decorated much like the one just off the highway, only much more carelessly. There were ropes hanging loosely over the driveway, giant felt bats hanging from them, and even more fake, cottony spider webs. I was amazed that in a place that goes all-out in every way for Halloween, the people who live there would take the easy way out with CVS décor – they even had a Frankenstein “wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man.“

I started searching the Internet and other retail locations for cool-looking, cheap decorations that I could make myself for my dorm. Walking around campus, it’s always nice to see the little things students have put in their windows for passer-by to see. The only bummer is that candles are not allowed in residence halls, so I couldn’t carve a pumpkin in the traditional way (and keeping one in my dorm room would be problematic because they rot and I never throw anything away). But who needs traditional, right?

One of my favorite ideas that I found in my search for DIY inspiration was the 13-hour clock. The project is easy; find a cheap clock (Target has a nice selection), unscrew, or otherwise unfasten, its face, take off the piece of paper that has the numbers of hours on it, and draw the new numbers on its opposite side, using a giant number 13 instead of the usual 12. After creating your new, hopefully spooky-looking letters (this is Halloween you’re decorating for), screw the cover back on and hang it up.

The easiest decoration I found was a spider web weaved on a porch using white yarn. I decided to create my own in the window in my dorm room, using black yarn so it would be more visible. All you need to do is tape two pieces of yarn to whatever frame you’re working with – one horizontally and one vertically. Then, tie a new piece to one of the first and connect it to another with a knot. As you go along, add more support strings (attached to both the frame, in my case a window frame, and the web) and continue to tie yarn to those as well. You can also use clothespins and paperclips to attach photos and other lightweight things to the web, effectively turning it into a much cooler (and spookier!) bulletin board.

You can also go the “alien in a jar” route if you’re into sculpting, using Crayola modeling clay. Just mold the clay into your desired alien shape leaving small indentations for eyes, should you choose to give your creation any. Allow the creature to dry, then bake it in a 375o oven until it’s an even shade of light brown. Then paint it, allow it to dry, and put it in a jar filled with water. To make the water look more like formaldehyde, dye it with food coloring.

Halloween décor is easy to make. It’s fun to show your festivity and excitement for (arguably) the best holiday there is, whether it be through decorations, costumes, or the funky-looking foods you put out at your Halloween party (whatever it is, throw in some doll limbs for an extra creepy effect). You can find a plethora of easy-to-follow tutorials like these at instructables.com. But for everyone’s sake, don’t be generic with your celebration like the-house-off-the-highway. Six-foot-tall plastic skeletons get less scary with each passing year.

Ellie Rulon-Miller can be reached at [email protected]