One of the few things I like about the shortening days and chilly weather of winter-on-the-way is the opportunity to decorate for Halloween. Let me welcome you into my haunted house for a look around.
When I was in college, I lived down the road from an abandoned old house that used to be a teachers’ boarding house. It was an elegant old structure that had been neglected for decades. It was a modified Dutch Colonial style that reminded me of Amityville Horror. My friends and I snuck into that house on a handful of occasions, always in awe of the haunted nature of it and of the things that had been left behind. Bookcases still held scattered school books and annuals covered with cobwebs. Old clothes from the 1950’s still hung in some of the closets. Stained old mattresses littered the floors. Their was a large room with a fireplace that felt like a ballroom – mottled mirrors took up the expanse of one entire wall, cloudy with age. When you walked into that room, the deteriorated carpet fibers rose like feathers and blew around your feet. The stairs were so rotten, we were probably at risk of breaking our necks the one time we dared to climb up into the attic. There we found boxes and boxes of old Life magazines and broken furniture. And that creepy Amityville half-fan attic window.
No, the house wasn’t haunted. But the memory of that house still inspires me around Halloween. Now, I’m not littering my rooms with stained mattresses or anything. It’s just an inspiration. I don’t use just a few spiderwebs here and there. Those bags of spiderwebs are cheap. I use LOTS of spiderwebs and stretch them across pictures, photos, lamps, accessories, chandeliers. Cheese cloth works great, too. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s easier to use and looks dramatic.
I found this large, old picture of a woman playing piano 10 years ago at a yard sale at an old Victorian house. It was $10. I bought it immediately, but only to bring out and hang at Halloween. Dark and creepy, I wouldn’t want to see it everyday. But I switch out my mantel painting for one month of the year to creep up the place.
|I also pull out anything lace I can find. There’s something old-lady spooky about that. And they remind me of spiderwebs. I drape it on tables, chairs, sofas, whatever.|
At this time of the year, I clear off anything colorful from my mantel and tabletops. Then I start pulling out things around my house that are black, brown, or dark green. And I try to look at things I have with a fresh eye – what COULD look spooky? It’s all about context. Something not so spooky the rest of the year looks very spooky when grouped appropriately and draped with cobwebs. I’ve always thought these wedding dolls from my mother’s childhood were spooky – their eyes were lost a long ago.
Last year I bought some Martha Stewart paper mice and spider silhouettes. You can make your own, but they are inexpensive and available at Michaels. I stick them all around my haunted rooms.
I like the idea of natural macabre. Meaning things from nature that look creepy. Black crows, owls, mice, spiders, snakes, worms, ants – you get the idea. The kinds of things you imagine might show up if something is rotten or abandoned. I don’t do monster stuff – I do have small children, afterall. But I do have lots of bones and skulls. That’s just nature.
Look around your house for books that lend to the look – based on color, title, or theme.
In a previous post, I’ve spoken about specimen jars and the whole spooky laboratory thing. I’ve got several “dry” versions scattered about the house. Below is a Southern Living Trifle Bowl filled with bones. I’ve also got some chains under glass and some gray mice under a cheese dome. I’ll probably try some “wet” versions this week. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you might want to check out my post on Halloween Specimen Jars.
|This owl window cling is from Martha Stewart’s Halloween collection at Michaels. The black wreath and feather tree is from Michaels, as well.|
|Use both taper and votive candles. This year I used black, white, dark purple, green, and a few red. Candelabras go from elegant to spooky pretty quickly.|
|There’s nothing as dramatic as candlelight – and lots of it – in a spooky setting like this.|
I hope you enjoyed the tour. And I hope you have a frightfully wonderful Halloween!
Click on thumbnails below for more Halloween decorating details.