Every Halloween, we host a party for family and close friends. This tradition was actually started by my mother-in-law many years ago; when we inherited her house a few years ago after her passing, we inherited the annual party too.
As the man of the house, it became my responsibility to setup the Haunted Graveyard in the backyard. 2010 is my third attempt. The first, in 2008, was an unmitigated disaster, although in my defense I only learned that I was responsible for it a few hours before the party, and since I had never done it before I had no supplies. I was spared utter humiliation only because the audience at the time was only 3-5 years old. Last year was much better and received many compliments, although in my opinion it still left much to be desired.
Here are some pictures of the construction of my 2010 Haunted Graveyard.
The grassy area in the backyard is about 15 feet wide and 30 feet long. This year I decided to use some 2 foot tall fencing I have to mark out an inverted U-shaped pathway through the graveyard, with the characters and decorations inside the U, on the sides, and on the opposite side of the path past the end of the U. This worked better than the open area I had last year, because it kept people moving along, so more people could experience the graveyard more quickly, and it helped keep the kids from hitting the characters in the graveyard.
I bought the fencing at the hardware store a few years ago and store it in the side yard, so it has a great weathered, run-down look, with some of the fenceposts missing. It really helps set the tone.
With the fencing all laid out it was time to bring in the decorations. First was a hanging ghost guy. He’s supposed to light up and make weird noises, but after a year in storage he had stopped working. He still looks good though, so I decided to use him.
Next was a standing mummy with light-up eyes that makes creepy noises. I got him cheap the day after Halloween last year, but I hadn’t tried him out until now. I think he worked pretty well. He didn’t stay in that position though, as you can see in later pictures. I also brought out our collection of tombstones. These are great because they fill a lot of space, and with appropriate lighting on them they actually look pretty spooky at night. They’re just made of styrofoam, so I used tent stakes behind them, with the hook actually digging into the foam, to hold them up.
Then I put in an animated ghost guy with light-up eyes and, of course, creepy noises. He’s sitting down in this picture, between the mummy and the tombstones. Behind the far fence, past the mummy, you can just make out the yellow eyes of a giant inflatable spider that I borrow from my sister-in-law for the event.
My 16-year-old daughter helps me set up the graveyard. Here we’ve put some cobwebs on the fence, for ambiance.
We also put some plain white masks in the bushes on the left side. Those turned out really well, since they are just featureless, eyeless faces. With a blacklight behind them they glow in a very eerie way too. And, they were the cheapest item out there, at just a couple bucks each.
The next addition was a pop-up zombie character, on the right hand side. Hard to see since he’s laying down in this picture. You can see the mummy in a new position further back too. That’s still not his final resting place (ha!) though.
Everything’s in place here. The mummy has been moved, again, to the right side of the graveyard. The animated ghost is standing up in this picture so he’s easier to see.
Here’s a picture of the graveyard after dark. There’s a fog machine in the back, making the smoke you see. The yellow glow in back is from the giant spider. The blue glow on the left is from the masks in the bushes.
A couple details are hard to see in those pictures, but I was really pleased with how they turned out so I got close-up shots of them. First is a collection of zombie Barbies. I got the idea here, which I must have found via Reddit. It’s really easy to make zombie Barbies — just grab a bunch of old Barbie dolls (my 7 year old had about 50, so she was happy to sacrifice a few for the cause), spray paint them white, then use a Sharpie to blacken the eyes and make scars. Everybody agreed that the Barbies were super creepy:
Next are these little skulls. These were just some cheap styrofoam skulls that came in a multi-pack of “graveyard stuff” from the Halloween super store. Last year I just arranged them around the tombstones, but this time I got a little more creative.
I also really liked this flying ghost. He’s attached to a cord that’s stretched taut between a tree and our house. He moves back-and-forth along the cord, making weird noises as he goes.
Finally, here’s a shot of one of the creepy masks I mentioned. Remember, this is just a $3 mask and a black light. Hard to beat that bang-to-buck ratio!
Here’s the obligatory “action shot” of the graveyard from the party. You can just make out my daughter in the back. She likes to watch the kids go through the graveyard, and she makes loud noises now and then to trigger the sound-activated characters, if the kids aren’t noisy enough themselves.
If success is measured by the number of kids that are too scared to finish walking through the graveyard, or who refuse to go into the backyard afterwards, then this year’s graveyard was a smashing success. But there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Next year I need more lights, to better highlight some of the characters. And I need some kind of curtain or partition down the middle of the central area, so that you can’t see what’s on the right side of the graveyard as you’re walking on the left side, maybe something like this wall of fog. Last, I think I can do more with the zombie Barbies — perhaps a zombie Barbie mansion, complete with a partially eaten Ken?
Good thing I have a year to plan!