Just thinking about spending Halloween night in a graveyard is enough to send shivers down a person’s spine. All those ghostly tombstones, scary shadows, and wisps of fogs tease us into thinking that something or someone is lurking around in the dark, ready to snatch us by the legs and drag us under. It should be no surprise why front yard graveyards continue to be a popular Halloween tradition, year after year!
Creating your own cemetery is not difficult at all. It will require lots and lots of cardboard boxes, some spray paint, hot glue, utility knife and felt markers.
Carving the tombstones
If you’ve ever walked through a cemetery in the daytime, you’ve probably noticed that not all tombstones are alike. Some are tall, and some are small, some are quite elaborate while others are plain. A few even cover the entire grave with a slab of concrete. (Makes you wonder if someone tried to make an escape there….)
To make a front yard graveyard looks realistic, it will need an assortment of headstones just like a real cemetery.
Lots of people prefer to make headstones out of styrofoam. While styrofoam is about the right thickness, I don’t like the material because a) it’s difficult to work with and b) it’s not recyclable. For a more eco friendly alternative, the headstones can be made from two sheets of cardboard that have been glued together. It doesn’t have the thickness of a real headstone ~ but in the dark and with strategically placed lamps, no one will be able to tell.
Using ideas from a real cemetery, cut out headstones in realistic shapes. Urns, crosses, and books are common tombstone toppers and quite easy to carve with a utility knife. Once the headstones have been cut, they can be sprayed using white or gray paint. For the headstones closer to the front sidewalk or front door, try granite paint for a more realistic effect. After the paint has dried, it’s time to letter into the inscriptions.
RIP means “rest in peace” and is about the most popular inscription in all. Some of my friends use silly names, while others like to write in silly inscriptions. Our family also enjoys silly inscriptions, and over the years have collected some zany but true epitaphs found on cemetery markers. One of our favorites comes from a headstone of an old horse rustler’s grave:
Here lies Tom McHarty
the guest of honor
at a necktie party
For more true but silly epitaphs, visit the link at the end of this article.
To create an atmosphere of spine tingling creepiness, special effects will bring a cardboard cemetery to life.
Strategically placed lighting will be important. To make wonderful old fashioned grave robber lanterns, luminaries can be made from milk cartons spray painted black. Carve “glass panes” on all four sides of the lantern, set a small votive candle inside, and watch the flickering flame cast an eerie glow on the tombstones.
Having some creepy mood music will also set the stage. Spooky Halloween sound tracks are available in most stores and can be set to play a continuous loop of shrieking spirits and howling wolves.
For a total thrill, hang some cheese cloth or gauze in the trees or in places where it may be caught by the breeze through the evening. If the wind is not cooperating, have one of the children don a white sheet and flit through the corners of the yard, almost, but not quite out of the view of Trick or Treaters. The unexpected movement of white fabric will have your guests howling in fear and wondering who might be lurking under foot, ready to grab a foot and pull them under.