Halloween – The day of the Dead


Anyone who has seen the James Bond film Spectre will recall the amazing scenes of the Day of the Dead festival, (Dia de los Muertos) which is a holiday that originated in Mexico  and normally takes place around the 1st & 2nd November, it is a festival of life and Death and started many years ago with the Aztec, Toltec and Nahuas.  These people thought that mourning the dead was disrespectful and that death was just a normal part of life’s journey, the dead were still there to them and were kept alive in memory and spirit – during “la Dia de los Muertos” however they returned to Earth.  The reason the festival takes place around the 1st and 2nd November is because the Catholic church labelled these days all Saints Day and All Souls Day.  In each home or cemetery, the Mexican people will set up an Altar where they welcome the people back to the realm of the living.

However Halloween is more a festival of terror and scary stuff.  It started with the Celtic festival of Samhain.  In this festival people would light bonfires and wear costumes to scare away spirits, the complete opposite of Day of the Dead where they are welcome.  Around the 700s Pope Gregory 3rd made Nov 1st the day to honour all Saints, hence “All Saints Day” and took some of the traditions of Samhain into this festival.  The evening before is actually All Hallows Eve, hence Halloween, 31st October. 

So that’s the history, now lets get decorating our houses and gardens ready for THAT day.


Halloween gardens need to look “Spooky”, I’m sorry but spray cobweb doesn’t really cut it, you need so much more like Gravestones, dead flowers etc. Preparation is the key and it all starts here.

Lets start with Gravestones – these are really simple to make you will need:-

  1. some metal spikes, 2 for each gravestone (concrete reinforcing rods work a treat and can be bought at most building suppliers, ask for “Re-Bars” and explain what you need them for, 4-6mm diameter will work well)

  2. Some Polystyrene Sheets – again available from most building suppliers, Wickes, B & Q etc. – ask for polystyrene 60mm insulating sheets they normally come in 2.4 X 1.2 metre sheets which will be perfect for making 4 gravestones.

  3. Electric imitation Candles like these from “Lights4fun

  4. Lots of dry leaves – send the children out with bags to go and collect lots of big dry leaves to scatter around the gravestones.

  5. Some Spray Paint and a spray bottle.

CA13500 Outdoor Candle Trio LED Iberian Summer Table

Credit Lights4fun


  • Take your sheet of Polystyrene and mark it out into 4 sections each 1.0 metres tall X 600mm wide (you can have less width if you so desire.)

  • Cut out your 4 gravestones, either using a small bladed wood saw or a sharp serrated bread knife.

  • Taking one gravestone draw a horizontal line across the stone 120mm from the top or 400mm from the top if you want a more Gothic look.

  • At the top of the gravestone mark the centre of the width. Draw a gentle curve from the centre of the top to the right hand edge of the line and do the same to the left so you have a curved line drawn. With your blade cut along the curved line so you have a curved top to your gravestone.


  1. Now its time to paint. I could go into great detail on how to do this, but DapperCadaver has done a better job than I ever could, so click on his name above and follow his link on how to paint the gravestone, but note stage 2. below before you go to far.

  2. Painting a message. Once you have put the BASE coat on its time to put on the graphics. You can paint whatever you like, for example a Spooky RIP or a name. This can be done with a stencil, sponge and black paint. Make a Stencil of what you want to say out of a piece of card.

    • Take a piece of card and draw the letters and then cut them out of the card.

    • Put the message over the base coated gravestone and with the black paint and the sponge stipple the card with the black paint so the message appears on the gravestone.

    • once the message is dry continue with the other painting sections in DapperCadavers instructions

  3. Note you don’t need a base for your gravestones that’s what our metal spikes are for! Push two into the ground about 200mm from the edge of each gravestone, one on each side (left and right) then gently push the gravestones onto them.

  4. Scatter leaves around the base of the gravestone and place candles in front with a wreath of dead flowers.

  5. and it should end up looking something like this

DP18 141625 NPC HT DIYFun Halloween Tombstones AH

Credit Lowes.com

Now of course a gravestone is only the start, what about a Skeleton or two or even a Skull coming out of the ground. If you scatter enough leaves around you and put the skull surrounded by leaves it will look as though it is coming out of the ground. Skulls and Skeletons can be bought from Amazon like this bendy one made by Prextex:-


Prextex Skeleton from Amazon

So we have the gravestones, the skeletons, the leaves, the candles, why not make it really spookey with a smoke machine, and some cobwebs. Smoke machines can be hired from all good Theatre hire companies, just search the Internet for “Smoke machine hire” or alternatively Party Delights have them for sale.

Spiders webs are available from just about any good Supermarket, and spread thinly between the grave stones and bushes will complete the effect. This bag of cobwebs from Party delights would fit the bill nicely. For the perfect touch how about a Ghoul standing between the gravestones or even in your house to “welcome” the guests, we love this one from Party Delights at 1.9m tall it really is life sized and has scary eyes!


Credit Party Delights

Inside the House

Now if you are having a Halloween party, then the decoration inside your house is key. It is very easy to make your house super spooky with a little preparation. Torn aged net curtains, coffins, spiders webs, plastics spiders hanging from the ceiling, stained dirty sheets over furniture as “dust covers” with Skulls heads poking through. Let us help you by telling you how its done.

  • Curtains – Net curtains are cheap to buy, hang them with drawing pins in the windows and as sagging bits of fabric hung from ceilings. Then with a spray bottle spray them lightly with cold tea, this will “age” them with brown stains. NB Take care to protect your existing curtains from the tea. Then with a sharp Stanley knife (available from Screwfix) slash them (do not gently cut, but go for the full slash) like a mad murderer would in vertical slashes here and there. For the final touch, with some fake blood (available on the internet from Amazon), flick fake blood in streaks down the net curtains. (again protect your existing curtains from the fake blood) Do this as though you are flicking ink to the bottom of a pen, this will create the “splash” look as though the blood has come off an Axe blade as it was swung.

  • Coffins – These are so simple to make it is untrue. At your friendly Builders yard again, buy some 12mm OSB or Chipboard, OSB is normally cheaper and lighter. Using the template below and an electric jigsaw markout the shape on the OSB and cut it out. You now have your coffin lid. At the Supermarket buy 6-7 four pack / six pack of 2 litre water bottles (or other light refreshment) these are your base that your coffin lid rests on. In a fabric shop buy 4 X 2 metres wide of black cotton blackout fabric. Place the water packs evenly down a 2 metre length and place the coffin lid on top. Drape the black out fabric over the lid so that the fabric hangs evenly around the edge with creases. You now have an authentic looking covered Coffin.


  • Dead Roses – Two weeks before Halloween buy some white roses. Put some black food dye into some water o its REALLY black and place the roses in the water, after a week the dye will have gone up the roses and made them black (its nature so don’t expect perfect black roses). After a week take the roses out of the water tie them at the bottom and leave them somewhere warm to dry. On the day of Halloween place them about shoulder point on the Coffin.

  • Plastic Spiders etc – Spooky things hanging from the ceiling by little bits of thread are the perfect way to make people freak a little bit. Small plastic spiders that you can buy from most supermarkets are ideal.

  • Spiders Webs – Fake spiders webs pulled so they are very fine, just like the real thing, placed across the corners of doorways and hanging from the ceiling so they just touch peoples faces add to the look.

  • Stained Sheets – The best dust sheets are plain cotton white. Buy many metres of cotton white cotton twill sheets or sheet fabric, lightly spray with tea, splash with blood as per the net curtains. Place over the furniture and cut to size. If you want that spooky effect cut a slit in the sheet and underneath the sheet place a flexible skeleton like the Prextex one above with just his head and arm sticking through.

  • Smoke – As with the Garden, if you want the full effect, hire a smoke machine and let it drift smoke across the floor.

  • Lighting – the key to any horror movie is lighting, get it right and every thing will work. So no overhead lights or very dim ones if you must. Put lights behind furniture so it can’t be seen but just uplights from behind casting everyone in shadow.

  • Table Coverings – Cover all tables in black out fabric or stained dust sheets, sprinkle with dead rose petals, plastic spiders, orange table sprinkles and other ghouls. Get some small pumpkins of different colours and use them as ad hoc decorations also. These little light up pumpkins from lights4fun would make things spooky but nice at the same time.

And there you have it, your perfect spooky house – have a great time

LL20038 Mini LED Glass Pumpkins Light Up Halloween

Credit Lights4fun