For many adults, seeing munchkins run around in costume is the best part of Halloween. One way to attract more trick-or-treaters to your door is to decorate your home in a seasonally appropriate way – and nothing says “Halloween” quite like a graveyard.
By substituting inexpensive trellising, salvaged fence materials or PVC pipe for wrought-iron fencing materials, Portland homeowners can create a spooky cemetery scene right in their front yards. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Cemetery Tips & Tricks
With a little creativity and energy, a brown patch of lawn can become a convincingly creepy cemetery. First, decide if you want to buy tombstones or make them yourself. If, like many Portlanders, you’re interested in being unique and quirky, you’ll probably want to create your tombstones yourself. That way, you can decide what kind of obituary each should have. Most store-bought tombstones say things like “RIP” and “Happy Halloween.” Your homemade tombstones can say whatever you like. You can make up the names of the dead and invent their final messages to the living.
Tombstones can be made of Styrofoam or plywood; wood is the more environmentally friendly option, but it can also be difficult to work with unless you have a jig saw. Heck, you could even use old fence materials. (Portland fence and deck suppliers may even have old, torn-up fence materials from some of their recent jobs available for free.) Sketch out your tombstones first; will they have a simple rounded shape, a rectangular form, or more ornate curves? As for measurements, 18 inches wide by 24-30 inches tall is a good size for tombstones.
Begin by tracing your design onto the material you’ve chosen. Next, cut out the form using a jigsaw (for plywood) or a drywall/keyhole saw (for Styrofoam). To create the right stone-like texture, paint each tombstone. For plywood stones, begin with a layer of primer in gray or off-white. Stone texture paint comes next; it can be directly applied to Styrofoam. Finally, once the stone texture paint is entirely dry, paint on the epitaphs and any symbols you’d like to include, such as skulls.
Finally, design a method for propping up or staking down the tombstones. Some people simply balance the tombstones by placing one mini pumpkin in front and another behind; others choose to attach a stake to each tombstone using shelf brackets (for plywood) or pressed directly into the bottom (for Styrofoam). Finally, arrange your tombstones in your yard, pump up the creepy Halloween music, and watch the trick-or-treaters stream to your door.
Frightful Fence Designs
Complete your Gothic graveyard by erecting a small wrought-iron fence around it. This task doesn’t require you to go out and buy a bunch of brand-new fencing materials; Portland homeowners who zealously decorate for Halloween know that a little paint can go a long way toward ratcheting up the scare factor. When creating a fence for your front-yard cemetery, consider using one of the following temporary Portland fencing materials.
Trellises. Trellises are inexpensive and can be purchased from a Portland fencing materials supplier. Purchase enough to surround your graveyard, and remove any cross slats you don’t want. For instance, if there are four horizontal slats across each trellis, you might choose to remove one row; removing the second row from the top creates a good fence-like impression. Paint each trellis black to make it look more like wrought iron. To secure this fence, use garden stakes hammered into the ground and attached to each trellis with plastic zip ties – the kind that are used to keep computer cords together. You can then decorate you new fence with skulls, spider webbing and more. Trellises are not the longest-lasting Portland fencing materials, but they will serve this purpose nicely.
PVC pipe. More experienced DIY types can use PVC pipe as their main fence materials. Portland DIY-ers who choose to go this route will need to first decide how tall the fence should be, then cut all of the PVC pipe to the same length. Wood slats make great cross bars for this project. Again, you can use garden stakes to secure the fence to the ground. For particularly creepy temporary Portland fencing materials, stick a miniature plastic skull into the end of each PVC pipe. These “finials” may be adapted from plastic skull-shaped whistles.
If you already have Portland fencing materials around your yard, think about adding strings of orange lights and fake spider webbing to add a touch of Halloween. You can also top each fence post with mini-pumpkins or plastic skulls.
[Photo by: Elizabeth Albert]