As I mentioned earlier, most of the store bought stuff for Halloween is crap. It's cheaply made and overpriced. What's a guy to do? Well, in my case, you make your own! Some things are completly made from scratch (tombstones, cemetery gates and fencing) while others use store bought stuff as a base that I build on (corpses, lantern wraiths). Inspiration comes from all over. Sometimes I see a neat prop and think, "I can do that better and cheaper" and other times I have an idea and create that using whatever is necessary. I enjoy the mental part of coming up with the ideas, as well as the process of determining the best way to create the effect I want. I also really enjoy the actual making of the props. Although I really wish most of it didn't happen in the garage in mid August...

Quick Nav (click to jump to a specific prop or just scroll down):
Decorative Props Costume Props
Coming soon!

Wolverine's Claws (X-Men)

Lead Pipe (Silent Hill Nurse)

Chainsaw Prop (Evil Dead / Army of Darkness)

Shotgun Prop (Evil Dead / Army of Darkness)

Ring Wraith Sword (Lord of the Rings)

Headless Horseman Sword (Sleepy Hollow)

Lara Croft Holsters (Tomb Raider)


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We spend waaaaayyyyyyy too much time on these....

Most of these are original designs, using classic elements found on old tombstones. The exception is the stone for "Gwendolyn Lumiere". Gwen's stone is based on a photo of a stone that I found online and just loved the design. I duplicated it for Gwen (our resident ghost, btw).

All of the stones are made of foam board. We cut the rough shape and glue pieces together until we get the thickness we want. Final shapes were originally cut by hand with a knife until I made a hot-wire foam cutter to make the job easier. The epitaphs and designs are carved with a Dremel tool with a router base. Things are smoothed out with files and sandpaper. Then I weather the stones using a spray mister and a propane torch. Then the stones are painted and then weathered with paint. Needless to say, a lot of work goes into these. Gwen's is my favorite. The memorial to the S.S. Wraith and her crew is pretty cool, too. The copper plaque you see was carved from a single piece of foam. It took a long time and a lot of patience. We get a lot of great responses to the cemetery. The real looking fence and tombstones really set the mood. Needless to say, I've very proud of them!

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Above are some shots of some of the stones at various stages of their construction.

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We started with the cemetery in the dining room. Four tombstones (three home-made, one store-bought) and one section of fence. The next year we made three more stones and enough fence to enclose it. The year after that we added a little more fence and two new stones. Two years after that we made the gate and the sign. I named our cemetery "Mourningwood Cemetery". At the party that the sign debuted, I think David Adams was the only one to get the joke. C'mon, think about it. It's funny ;-)

The fence is made of PVC pipe and cheap wood ferring strips. I tried making finials for the tops, but wasn't happy with the results. So I buy real iron finials from King Architectural Metals and affix them to the PVC. They're ony $.54 each and since they only go on every 6 inches, it comes out to just over a dollar a linear foot. Not bad. The wood is $1 per 8ft. section and the PVC is cheap. Heck, the hammered metal spray paint is the most expensive part of the project! I figured out that each 8 foot section only costs me about $13~$15 to make. And it looks real. Feels real too, thanks to the finials...

I moved the wraiths to the gate posts when I made the gate, and I like them there. So I think they'll stay. There's not much left to do here. I may add a few more tombstones to fill it out more, but I'm pretty happy with the overall size. Which is good, because it's pretty big at this point...

Oh, I guess I should mention the the lightning. In addition to the blue, moon-like lighting we normally throw on the graveyard, I've also added a thunderstorm. I hide floodlights all around the cemetery and hook them up to a "Lightning Machine" I have a thunderstorm soundtrack that plays on a PA. When a clap of thunder booms, the lights flash in sync with the sound. Very cool effect on the cemetery.

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Our Flying Crank Ghost and Most Popular Prop Ever

There is no more popular prop than Gwen! People marvel over her. They wonder how she floats. Kids who are barely old enough to talk point to her and say... well, I'm not quite sute exactly what they say, but they like her! The neighbors ask when we're putting her up. She's cool!!

She's made of cheesecloth that I've treated so it glows under black light. I've wired up red LED's for eyes. Oh yeah, she floats and moves. Really. She's wispy and wavers in the wind. One of these days I'll take some video of her.

Her movement is a gear motor with an armature pulling wires. But you probably don't want to read about that. If you do, do an online search for "Flying Crank Ghost" and you'll find out everything you need to know.

When I decided that I wanted to make Gwen, Melanie went along with it. She didn't quite get what I was doing, but trusted me. Halfway into it, she still didn't get it and it was taking a lot of work. And money. Gwen is (well, can be) an expensive prop. Aluminium stock, pulleys, hardware and a gear motor add up. I figured she was an investment that would last for years, so I got the least expensive, quality gear motor I could find. All told, Gwen ran about $70~$80 total. But when I was done and fired her up, Melanie just stood in awed silence, watching. She is our favorite prop and worth every penny. You could probably make her cheaper, but by using better material we've made her stable and reliable. I just pull her out of her box, hook 'er up and go. Every year. And every year, Melanie and I stand in our front yard and just watch her float. I never get tired of that!

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Jumpin' Joe

Our Over-Caffienated Dungeon Dweller

I built Joe to greet our guest one year. Joe is a corpsed skeleton that was in shackles, sitting on a bench by the front door, illuminated by a red light. I put my devious mind to work and created one of our best scares ever. I took a windshield wiper motor and made Joe come alive! I'll spare you the details, but when guests walked up to the house, Joe was waiting. To get to Joe, you have to pass all of the other static (non-moving) props in the yard. When you get to Joe, he looks like just another decoration. But, he's wired to a motion sensor! When people stepped up to the door, the red light went out, a strobe light kicked on and Joe started lunging towards them, thrashing against his chains! He worked GREAT! I don't think a single group of guests had to use the doorbell since everyone inside could hear the startled screams that Joe brought out! I LOVE this prop! And by the photo in the center, you can see that Sampson, our cat, loves Joe, too. It took a lot of willpower, and the implied wrath of my wife, to not activate Joe while Sampson was napping on his lap...

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Lantern Wraiths

The Wraiths were one of my first props and they've been around for a while. They add a nice effect and a certain ambiance. They started with stylized, gothic type lanterns. Those lanterns had fan that blew a silk 'flame' that was illuminated by a small halogen bulb. Nice effect. We've used them inside and out.

This past year, we moved the Wraiths to the cemetery gate posts, and I think that will be their home from now on. Unless I come up with something else for the gate. I did change the lanterns for cemetery use, though. The electric lanterns aren't great when they're out, unprotected in the yard (getting rained on). Plus they need power, which is at a premium in the front yard. So I got a couple of cheap, but real, hurricane lanterns from Big Lots and weathered them up so they looked old. I filled them with oil and swapped them out with the electric ones. The picture on the far right shows the new lantern. It worked really well and looked great!

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What's Halloween without a couple (dozen) dead things hangin' around?

We buy the cheap ($8) plastic skeletons from Big Lots. They're the exact same ones the party stores sell for $20. Anyway, we cut them up and 'flesh' them out. We use latex carpet adhesive and paper towels to create the rotting flesh effect. When they dry (and it takes a loooooonnnnnngggggg time), we stain and paint them. They look pretty good. I'd love to use 'factory second' med school plactic skeletons, but even at a discount they're $70 a pop!! Yeah, they'd look better than these, but I can make 7~8 of these guys for the price of one of them. Which means I wouldn't have very many of the others. And corpses are best in large numbers!

In any case, you can see that we're always coming up with new ways to use them.

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"What Would a Zombie Do?" Spinner

New from Milton-Bradley! Not really....

Games of the afterlife! I got the inspiration for this prop from a cheap toy I saw. The more I thought about it, the more it cracked me up! I wrote all the text myself and created the entire thing in Illustrator. The sign, too. Lawrence, my ever-patient brother-in-law printed them out and cut the spinner into a perfect circle for me. I mounted it on the hardware for a lazy susan so it would spin freely. I used a skeleton hand for the 'pointer' so you would know what you landed on. Lots of stupid, mindless fun!

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Spider Web Shooter

A very effective, fast and easy way to get realistic spider webs. Everywhere...

These are examples where we covered the front of the house. The web shooter is a modified hot glue gun that I have fitted to my air compresser. I can adjust the air flow to get the desired results. Much more realistic, and easier, than those store bought webs in bags. Very durable and flame resistant, too! I use the web shooter all over. The above shots are just a few examples.