Sponsored by Beloit Auction & Realty
By Meghan M.M. Trimm

What’s the best way to get everything you need for your Halloween style at great prices? You know the answer: Buy it second hand and decorate in DIY style. And where better to get great deals than at the auction. The only tricks to getting what you need are to start early, be patient, do a bit of planning, and use your imagination. Here are some inspirational ideas. It’s the five great DIY Halloween theme ideas you can create second hand.

Warning: Each theme gets more grotesque as you keep reading.

  1. Elegant Pumpkin Harvest

Who says Halloween can’t be an elegant affair? This theme pulls together the bright oranges of fall and the abundance of harvest time with clean golds and whites to pull off the pumpkin celebration.

Color Scheme: White, Gold, Yellow, Orange

Optional: Black or Brown

Ingredients to Find:

  • Clean white table cloths
  • Gold shimmery or burlap table runners or fabrics that could be used as table runners
  • Clean white or white-gold curtains or fabric that could be used for curtains temporarily.
  • Fake pumpkins in a variety of sizes and colors ranging from white to yellow to orange.
  • Fake fall leaves and/or brown vines
  • White candles
  • Wicker furniture
  • Elegant serving accessories and other details

Tips to Pull It Off

Remember the essence of this theme is elegance. That means less is more. Pack away excess knickknacks that don’t fit the theme; just temporarily. Cover your tables, including end tables and coffee tables in white and accessorize with shimmery gold accents such as centerpieces or runners. Add candles or flameless lights. Then drop fake leaves throughout and/or brown vines. Place pumpkins everywhere – one to two pumpkins per surface. You can even place large ones on the floor at corners of tables. Just be careful not to trip on them. Use wicker to complete the look. If you were lucky enough to find wicker furniture, decorate it with a few extra leaves.

Costume to Match

Depending on preference you could go as Harvest Royalty – turning the whole affair into a black tie soiree, or you could go as just you and wear something simple and elegant in matching colors.

  1. Cooky Spooky Monster Mash

Maybe you’re more of a Monster Masher! This theme is all about cuteness and family friendliness. Think mad scientist meets rock and roll, plus all the party guests – friendly versions of Wolf man, Dracula, witches, skeletons, zombies and whatever else you come up with. This theme works well for karaoke parties.

Color Scheme: Orange, Black, Purple, and Green

Ingredients to Look for:

  • Happy or corny looking Halloween character decorations such as jack o’ lanterns, bats, spiders, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, witches, etc.
  • Green, Purple, Black, or Orange table clothes and scraps of fabric.
  • Fake spider webs
  • Motorized or motion sensored decorations
  • As many Witch hats as you can find
  • Musical Instruments and microphones– even if they don’t work or are toys
  • Chemistry set, especially flasks, beakers, and test tubes. You can substitute with Mason jars if need be.
  • Purple, green, or orange food coloring
  • Plasma ball and/or lava lamps
  • Analog AV equipment with lots of knobs and buttons – not working is okay
  • 13 inch (or smaller) analog TV that can power up enough to just show fuzzy snow
  • Plasma globe
  • 6 foot folding table
  • White sheet
  • Mannequin
  • White lab coat
  • Short curly wig

Tips to Pull It Off

More is more. Keep it light-hearted. Happy jack o’ lanterns, motion-sensored bellowing ghosts, spiders that descend when the door opens… you get the idea. You can go a little crazy with the décor and it always adds to the fun. Think of a Frank Fiorello book come to life.

Mix and match colors from the color scheme for table cloths and runners. Use witch hats as lamp ornaments (as long as you have LED bulbs in), pumpkin ornaments, center pieces, drape accessories, and wall hangings. Hang fake spider webs everywhere.

Third, set up a Monster Mash Music Lab by displaying the chemistry set, plasma balls and lava lamps, and analog equipment along a wall. In front of that place your folding table. Lay the mannequin on the table and cover with sheet. Use food coloring and water to make your chemistry set look like someone has just been working in the lab. If your TV and AV equipment work you could play classic horror movies on VHS. Leave the sound turned off while you are not watching. After all, the Monster Mash is one big movie reference list.

This is the back drop of your stage. Next, set up microphones and musical instruments as if a band is about to play. If you have a drum set, tag it with the name “The Crypt Kicker 5.” Around the stage and throughout the house decorate with music notes and pumpkins.

Finally, set up all your Halloween character décor throughout the house. You’ll be having a Monster Mash Bash all season long.

Costume to Match

There are obviously plenty of choices. Dr. Frankenstein or a generic mad scientist take the cake this time. And the best part is, they are pretty ease to pull off. All you need is a white lab coat and crazy wig.

  1. Haunted Mansion

The Victorian look is currently out of style in the antique world. That means you can buy authentic Victorian home décor at record low prices, and you’ll create a Halloween look with all the drama and romance of a real Victorian mansion without the ghosts… hopefully.

Color Scheme: Black, dark red, dark purple.

Ingredients to Find

  • Large (9 x 12 or larger) Victorian-style painted portraits in ornate frames. These paintings will be damaged.
  • Victorian candle sticks
  • Place settings
  • A vase
  • Oriental rug
  • Victorian Furniture
  • Tons and tons of fake spider webs
  • Black and white Victorian photographs
  • Mannequin in a Victorian style dress (A back dress is preferable).
  • Lace fabric
  • Lace doilies
  • Black dye or spray paint
  • A globe, player piano or phonograph machine, Victorian typewriter, and/or other Victorian tools and instruments
  • Lots of old books
  • Red, purple, or black candles
  • Red or Purple table cloth
  • Red, purple, or black curtains or fabrics to serve as curtains temporarily
  • Black fake flowers or fake flowers that can be dyed black

Tips to Pull It Off

The key to the perfect haunted mansion look is intelligent clutter, lace, and the right chairs. Place chairs on the oriental rug with piano or phonograph nearby. Temporarily replace curtains with the color scheme fabric.

In one of your Victorian chairs, sit the mannequin in the Victorian dress. Lay large swath of black lace over her, so that her face and neck are obscured.  She is now a widow in morning.

Dye lace fabric black and lay it over lamp tables. Do the same with the doilies and fake flowers. Arrange stacks of old books, the globe, and other Victorian tools around the room and place a black doily under each of them. Place at least one Victorian photograph in each display. Lay black flowers near these items to create a dramatic look.

Use a table cloth from you color scheme, then cover it with black lace as well. Fill the vase with black fake flowers and set as the center piece. Surround this piece with the Victorian candle sticks and candles. Set the place settings.

Next, burn or cut out the eyes of the portrait paintings, and hang them on the walls. If at all possible hang or display one of the paintings in a place where a person could hide behind it and see the mannequin through the missing eye holes.

Finally, cover EVERYTHING in fake spider webs.

Costume to Match

Consider Victorian inspired attire. Both men and women’s fashions of the time are worth revisiting. Also consider the ghost option – a white sheet is a simple fix.  You can be the resident spirit of your own haunted mansion. But if you are feeling creative, combine your Victorian clothes with some white or gray face paint and be a Victorian ghost.

  1. Mid-century Murder

All things mid-century modern have made it back en vogue and therefore back to the American living room. Smart shoppers know how to get great deals on in-demand items second hand. The great thing about this theme is that it is an excuse to buy the furniture you want.

Putting together a mid-century backdrop for Halloween can go two ways. The iconic Bewitched TV show displayed a well-groomed midcentury family with some witchy quirks. If this is your theme, check out the show for more ideas.

However, if you want more scare factor, mid-century America also harkens back to some grizzly history. Death Cults such as the Manson Family and the People’s Temple give this theme a based-on-true-events feeling that can cross the line for some. Still, if you are into history, mid-century modern style, and like an edgy finish to your Halloween, this might be the theme for you.

Color Scheme: Burnt yellow, royal blue, red (blood), and brown (wood)

Ingredients to Find:

  • Mid-century furniture including a wooden bar and color-schemed chairs if possible, preferably 1950 – 1970
  • Mid-century style lamp
  • Burnt yellow, blue, or brown table cloth and napkins (not necessarily matching) in solid color, paisley, or monochromatic large-print floral patterns. Vinyl is a bonus.
  • Color schemed candles
  • Mid-century place settings and silverware.
  • Mid-century kitchen knives.
  • A pumpkin or knife display block that you don’t mind destroying
  • Ready to hang or display pieces of modern or psychedelic art and mid-century art glass
  • A record player
  • A vinyl album collection
  • Mid-century highball or lowball tumblers
  • Liquor decanter
  • Your favorite brown beverage (does not have to contain alcohol)
  • Fake bloody weapons
  • Fake blood
  • A rug that can be destroyed
  • Mannequin in go-go style clothes that can be destroyed

Tips to Pull It Off

The first thing to do is take that rug outside and pour fake blood on it. Work the red liquid into the fibers in a sloppy way so it looks like a struggle happened there. Be sure not to use too much. Then, let the rug dry completely before bringing it back in the house. (The drying process could take a few days so start early). Do the same to the mannequin, sprinkling and smearing fake blood on its body and clothes.

Then set up your home like a regular house …but from sixty years ago. Put the rug on the floor in front of the bar and set chairs and tables accordingly. Fill the decanter with your choice brown liquid, and place it and the tumblers on display in or on the bar. Next set up your record player and find a way to display your album collection nearby.

Next, find a spot for the mannequin. Will she be hiding in the guest bedroom shower or laying face-down on the red-smeared rug? There is real opportunity here to spook your family and friends.

If your art is not precious sprinkle it with some fake blood too. Whether or not you choose to decorate your décor, it is time to put it on display around the house.

Cover the table with your color schemed table cloth. Then set out napkins and place settings. Soak the blades of your Mid-century knives in fake blood and display them in their holder. Make sure the red liquid is visible on the holder as well. This will become part of your center piece. Sprinkle candles with fake blood and arrange them on the table with the fake weapons.

Costume to Match

You can go as murder victim in mid-century vintage style clothing with fake blood and a fake knife sticking out of your chest, or you could go as the murder in mid-century vintage style clothing with fake blood spatters on your face and fake blood on your hands, OR you can go as the detective. Think Nancy Drew or the Hardy boys. You’ll need some plaid and a magnifying glass.

And then of course if it’s all too gory for you, you can skip the red liquid entirely and go as Samantha or Darron Stephens. Samantha will need a short apron and good practice wiggling her nose.

  1. Mannequin Nightmare

We saved the most revolting idea for last; nothing is scarier than mannequins. You’ve had that dream, right? The one where you’re lost in a dark department store or warehouse, and you can’t find your way out and closing in on you is an army of mannequins. You never see them move, but somehow you can’t escape them! They surround you, pressing in on you. Sharing your air until you feel you’ll suffocate. Unseeing, untouching, and something about them seems …alive!

Well, if you haven’t had that dream, maybe you will now. This theme is all about tricking the eye and confusing the senses. And don’t worry. If you think you can’t get your hands on a whole menagerie of mannequins, you’re wrong!

Color Scheme: Clinical white, black, tan, and red, as well as miscellaneous colors. What ties this theme together goes beyond color to common texture, appearance, and experience.

Ingredients to Find

  • Five or more mannequins with clothing
  • Assorted fake human body parts including heads, hands, and feet. Broken mannequin parts will work perfectly.
  • One or more life size skeletons
  • Large mason jars
  • Large swaths of cheese cloth in white or black
  • Fake blood, if desired
  • Two or more creepy baby dolls, preferably porcelain with a cracked face
  • Thin rope, about 3 feet long
  • Fake rose petals
  • Black candles
  • Doilies
  • Sound of a heartbeat. You can either get a sound track or look for one of those motion sensored Halloween sound machines that plays this sound.

Tips to Pull It Off

From the first moment this theme plays with your mind. You feel watched and uneasy. To maximize these effects, place mannequins in areas where people will see them when they come around the corner or in front of the right or left boarders of windows. Sprinkle fake rose petals on the floor around the mannequins’ feet.

Their appearance is creepy no matter what. A horde of naked mannequins missing pieces is sure to be spine tingling. But dressing them in normal clothes will add to the confusion about whether they are real or not. Another choice is to dress them in formal gowns with unkempt hair and distorted makeup. These details make the dummies seem a little more desperate and hopeless.

Set a crowd of mannequins just inside your front door so that everyone has to pass through their body language to get to the other side.

Shroud a pack of mannequins in their own semi-see-through cloth such as cheese cloth. Wrap the cloth close to their bodies to give an eerie mummified visage. Or let it hang loose and turn on the ceiling fans; the cloth will blow in the wind giving the impression of movement out of the corner of your eye. Mix life-size skeletons into these groupings just for good measure. Apply fake blood at your discretion.

Set up the table with a black or tan tablecloth, and cover with cheese cloth. Set the two dolls in the middle of the table. Tie them together with the rope. This is your centerpiece. Arrange candles around it and sprinkle rose petals on the table.

Set other dolls around the house on doilies on lamp tables and bookshelves. Sprinkle fake rose petals around them. Place assorted body parts into mason jars and add water. These jars can be displayed on tables and bookshelves throughout the house.

Turn on the heartbeat sound machine when your guests arrive.

Costume to Match:

Whatever you do, don’t be a mannequin. But if you can’t help yourself, wear a formal gown or suit that is too big and hangs from your body incorrectly. Paint your face with pounds of foundation and accentuate your cheek bones. Use heavy eye shadow, and draw on eyebrows. Add a matted wig and elbow length gloves to complete the look. Get into character at parties by standing still and pretending you have no soul.

Each of these Halloween themes has its own personality and perks. Every do-it-yourselfer should feel free to make them his or her own. If one of these themes doesn’t work for you, no doubt you can still find the object of your DIY creativity at the auction. Don’t forget you can pull together children’s character themes, gore galore, and plenty of others because sooner or later, auctions sell everything. Happy Halloween!

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