Create an eerie entrance. Make your guests pass through a macabre graveyard scene before entering. Create realistic grave markers by using rubbings from real headstones and then transferring them onto foam. A carving knife dipped into hot wax helps make carving easier. Age the faux monuments by spray painting them in weathered-stone colors.
Plan your garden for spooky effect. Choose plants such as sunflowers, cosmos , and other tall wildflowers for a spring garden. When Halloween arrives, these plants will leave behind a spooky silhouette and towering shapes to frame your entryway.
Use architectural salvage for ambience. As part of the yard decor, purchase a menacing black crow atop a vintage wood post from a house demolition sale. Draping the post with rumpled cheesecloth gives it a haunted look. Shop craft stores and Halloween shops for feathered, fake birds.
Encourage guest participation. Party entrances require more than an invitation. Each partygoer must bring a fully carved and lit pumpkin in order to get in. Scatter jack-o’- lanterns around the “graveyard” to help guide latecomers to the front door.
Boost the “Wow!” factor. Add ambience to every room and a thrill around every corner. Make sure every room, even the powder room, is fully decorated with ghoulish delights.
Look for focal points. Each room should have at least one riveting feature to spark conversation.
Include outdoor rooms in the fright fest. Even a sunroom can be transformed into a mad scientists lair. For an easy, quick touch to turn your abode into a haunted house, blow a handful of flour over everything to create ‘haunted-house dust’.
Use lighting to enhance the mood. Increase the air of mystery by turning down the lights and adding strobe lights in strategic gathering spots, such as the dining room. If you don’t have dimmers, purchase 7-watt bulbs, which give enough light to see but help keep the atmosphere scary.
Protect your treasured possessions. Little hands (and sometimes big ones) find sturdy Halloween toys irresistible, so plan ahead. If a piece can be handled without damage, place it within reach for guests to enjoy. Store more valuable pieces in a glass case or out of reach.
Credit: Bruce Elsass / Better Homes & Gardens