Halloween is here again and it’s time to turn our houses into a backdrop for our spook-filled celebrations — but you don’t want to turn your casa into one of those super-cliché haunted houses.
The key to scare is subtle mystery and terror-inducing details. Here are seven ways to get your home spooky enough to haunt your guests’ dreams.
Step 1: Make it dark
Rather than filling every corner of your house with fake cobwebs, green-faced witches and orange pumpkins, try toning it down. Put away all removable pops of color, leaving only dark decor. Go to a fabric store and invest in black or gray fabric or couch covers to drape over living room and bedroom furniture. For your Halloween lighting, aim for dim. Start by taking a few light bulbs out of all spaces. Pick a few common spaces (e.g., bathroom, living room, patio) and replace the regular light bulbs with red or black lights. It will surprise and spook guests (and even yourself) when they go to use the restroom and all they see is red.
Step 2: Windows to scare
Go to your local Ikea or lighting store and buy two or three portable spot or strobe lights. Put the lights in the rooms with windows most visible to neighbors; place them so the light is directly facing the window. Then create or purchase a hanging dummy, fake skeleton or whatever you deem creepy and suspend it from the ceiling or prop it against the window. A simple DIY cardboard cutout of a person looking out the window will do. Turn on those lights at night and what people from the outside will see is a mysterious human form hanging from your ceiling or looking out the window — not being able to see the details adds an air of mystery.
Step 3: Jars of scare
Invest in about 15 to 20 Mason jars and fill with water. Leave the water clear or put a few drops of red food dye in them. Go to your local Halloween store and purchase cheap mini-decor (plastic spiders, skulls, hands, etc.) and place in the jars. Thoughtfully place them throughout the house in places your family and guests will see every day.
Step 4: Get bloody
Go to your local discount department store and purchase a couple pints of fake and washable blood (or make your own). Splash the liquid across any part of your home at your discretion. Before a party you might want to splash some in bathroom sinks, place a few puddles around your doorstep and make handprints on your window. To keep your neighbors scared all season long, create bloody footprints up to your doorway.
Step 5: Creepy candles
Invest in a few gaudy candlesticks; if you like, add your own creepy touch. Light large black or white candles of varying lengths and widths in your main living spaces, especially for Halloween parties. This will encourage you to keep lights dim all season, and the ambiance of candles paired with other spooky elements — red lights, scary mysterious jars and dark furniture — might leave even you, the decorator, with the chills.
Step 6: Unfamiliar faces
The comforting familiarity of our homes makes it difficult to fool ourselves, let alone guests. Go to a local antique or thrift store and invest in a few old portraits of people you don’t know — think Disney’s Haunted Mansion. Hang these near your candles and let the eyes of these mysterious people haunt your family and guests all night long.
Step 7: Scary sounds
Create your own soundtrack to play on your home stereo, with a mix of terrifying screams, audacious thuds and mysterious whispers. If you’re feeling extra-adventurous, play them without announcement. Get creative in how you can terrify those who dare enter your home and they’ll have a Halloween to remember.