Put simply, a yard haunt refers to the assemblage of Halloween decorations on one’s front lawn. Media attention focuses on those who go all-out, with thousands of dollars’ worth of spooky scenery. In truth, you could put two plastic skulls on your stoop and call it a “yard haunt.” That’s the beauty of it!
Yard haunts are quietly one of the best things about this season. Who hasn’t driven around their neighborhood on some October evening, marveling at everyone’s macabre creations? It’s Halloween in its purest form.
I’m impressed when a family takes their decorating to theme park levels, but I’m even more charmed by the “simpler” yard haunts, which utilize found or homemade items, and nail a certain “crude charm” better than anything else on the goddamned planet.
You should know the type, because so many of us grew up making them. Between the slapdash scarecrows and the cardboard tombstones, they were testaments to our creativity… and to our general unwillingness to spend more than a half hour doing anything.
Those sorts of yard haunts looked — and still look — something like this:
Granted, that’s staged from my back deck, but had I assembled it on the front lawn, it’d look no different. My spread includes all of the major yard haunt bullet points, and best of all, I couldn’t have spent more than five bucks on it.
Mileages vary, but as I see it, the classic, screwy, cheapo yard haunt primarily consists of five items. If you’d like to make your own, start with this junk:
First you’ll need a scarecrow. Keep in mind, the low-rent yard haunt versions of scarecrows are a bit different from the usual kinds. Hell, I’m not even using any hay!
To make him, I just gathered some of my least favorite clothes, sealed the sleeves and cuffs with rubber bands, and filled them with crumpled newspapers. Turning a trick-or-treat bucket into the head was a cinch, especially with the addition of a 77 gallon sun hat.
Of course, you should feel free to put more effort into yours. Gloves? Shoes? A wig? The world is your oyster, and also your canvas.
Next we’ll need some homemade ghosts. There are a million ways to make them, using everything from garbage bags to white balloons. My favorite is the classic paper towel ghost, in which you simply crumple up one paper towel — as the “head” — and wrap another around it as the “body.”
Add marker dots for eyes and a rubber band to keep everything together, and voilà! You’ve given your yard haunt something that is GUARANTEED to blow away at the first sign of wind.
NOTE: Don’t use Scotch tape to keep them in place, like I did. Basically, use anything except Scotch tape.
Then you should toss in a pumpkin leaf bag. They’re pretty easy to find at this time of year, and rarely cost more than two bucks.
You’re supposed to fill them with dead leaves, but I refuse to be tricked into raking… even by something as adorable as a 36” plastic bag with jack-o’-lantern facial features. Besides, it’s still quite summery here, and I could hardly fill a Ziploc bag with those.
Instead, mine is stuffed with blankets and cardboard, affording it an odd shape that’s since led me to learn the word “icosahedron.” I don’t care.
Then — and in my view, most importantly — you’ll need some homemade tombstones. I won’t throw shade at anyone who prefers a mostly store-bought yard haunt, but DON’T skip this step. Even if you have perfectly acceptable plastic tombstones purchased for way too much money at Walmart, add a few that you made at home.
They’re traditionally made from cardboard, though a thicker, hardier material will make you cry less after a rainstorm. Paint your mock tombstones gray, write some silly memorial messages on them, and that’s it!
(Well, that’s not really it. You’ll still have to figure out how to stake them into place. That’s the annoying part, which is why I skipped it.)
Last but not least: FAKE SPIDER WEBS! You can currently find huge bags of them at dollar stores, so this isn’t some major expense.
Just stick them wherever they’re capable of being stuck. You might want to put a little more time into this than I did, lest you end up with a similarly curtain-shaped spider web.
Bonus points if you’re able to find those green spider webs, which look less realistic but glow in the dark. (And really, who cares about realism? It’s a yard haunt! Subtly suggesting the presence of radioactive spiders is a GOOD thing.)
From start to finish, I guess I spent around 30 minutes on this. Yeah, I got a lot of Halloween spirit out of 30 minutes and five bucks. You can, too!
Now, not everyone has a front lawn, or even an outside area where they could conceivably build a yard haunt. The good news? With the possible exception of the pumpkin leaf bag, everything shown above would work just as nicely indoors. You have NO excuses.
Want to take things a few steps further? Check out these image search results for a mile’s worth of inspiration.
Personally? I like mine just the way it is — like something I’d have made when I was 8. That’s what Halloween is all about, right? A two-month excuse to be 8.