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How To Make Your Own Spooky
Halloween Yard Displays

By Jim Shutes

Saturday, September 25, 2004


It’s that time of year again… Time to scare the neighbors and trick-or-treaters! There are a lot of fun ideas for Halloween yard displays. One of the spookiest places to be at Halloween is in a cemetery. Just thinking about it gives me the chills! And making your trick-or-treaters walk through your own cemetery to get some candy, will give your Halloween-decorated front yard a chilling atmosphere!

So how do you create this eerie cemetery in your yard? Well, what does a graveyard have the most of? Tombstones, headstones, gravestones, or whatever you want to call them. They are easy to make out of plywood. Just cut them out, paint them, write or paint an epitaph on them, and stake them into the ground.

You will need several shapes and sizes. There is the common rectangular shape with the curved top. Of course, rectangles are always nice. A stacked tombstone, with a large base or two, and a tall rectangle shape on top (for the wealthy), is a nice touch. A basic cross or a small headstone can be used for the poor dead guy.

You are going to need a few different darker colors of paint. Black can be nice, but you will also need a few shades of brown, and some dark and medium grays. These colors will be used for the stones, themselves. You will also want to have some lighter colors on hand, for the R.I.P and epitaphs. These might be colors like oranges, lighter grays, yellows, light greens, etc.

For the wood, you will want to use a good, ½ inch plywood. You can use a thinner board, but you risk the possibility of warping, or it falling over in the wind. Also, the thick wood looks a lot nicer as tombstones. You can also double the wood to give your stones a thicker look. The thicker look is much nicer.

A good, outdoor wood sealer is also needed. Use a varnish that resists yellowing. By sealing your wood (after painting), you will keep the paint from running and protect the wood from warping. Plus, this way, you can use your tombstones year after year.

Cut out your tombstone designs as one shape each (don’t try to connect pieces together, as this will weaken the display and it won’t look as nice). Cut your stones anywhere from 16” H x 24” W to as big as, say, 35” H x 20” W. You can obviously vary them in size, from very small to very large. Just remember, the smaller ones are hard to see or read from the road, and the very large ones can cover up other displays and will cost quite a bit for the wood. So, use your own judgment here.

To make the stones look old and broken, cut various v-shaped cuts on the outside edges of the stones. They don’t need to be big, or many. Cut about 2 or 3 per side. To add the crack to the v-shaped cut, when painting, continue a line from the point of the “v” for a few inches into the stone. Use a darker paint (such as a black or dark gray) for this. Once they are all cut, sand them smooth (you don’t want any trick-or-treaters to get splinters!).

Randomly paint each stone a different color and let dry. Now, using a thin brush (or a colored marker or paint pen), write “R.I.P.” or your own clever epitaphs, such as “Here Lies A Man Who Zigged, When He Should Have Zagged.” Use different colors for each stone. For an added touch, make it look like the paint has eerie drips hanging from the words. Use different style lettering for each tombstone.

Now we have to make them stand up in the yard. This can be accomplished a couple of ways. Either use a staking kit (which attaches to the back of the project and stakes into the ground), or cut out a board (larger than the tombstone) to use it as a flat base to keep it from tipping over. Either nail or screw up through the flat board and into the bottom of the tombstone. Use waterproof wood glue between the boards, for added strength. Remember, the taller the tombstone, the deeper the base will have to be. Test one before cutting all of the bases.

After your tombstones are built, use the outdoor varnish to seal them. Again, this protects the wood and the paint, so it will last from year to year.

For added effect, you can use a smoke machine in your cemetery. Hide it behind one of the tombstones, and turn it on at dusk. A smoke machine can really give your cemetery that spooky feeling you get when strolling through a graveyard at night. Another added touch would be to install orange and green lights around, or poked through, the tombstones. The lights, added to the smoke, will create an eerie glow that is sure to scare the bravest trick-or-treater!

Have a Fun and Safe Halloween!

If you would like detailed instructions and a full-size pattern for this project (Create A Graveyard #1070 – 8 tombstone designs and dozens of sayings, in 2 alphabet sizes! Also, see our Light-Up Scary Tree #1754 for $10.95), send a copy of this article and $10.95 (plus $5.25 S&H), check or money order, to Dept. 101, Sherwood Creations, Inc., 1459 N. Leroy St., Fenton, MI 48430. If you would like to pay by credit card, please call toll-free (800) 843-2571 or go to www.SherwoodOnline.com.

Click HERE if you would like to download this article as a Microsoft Word Document, including the photos.


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