Most early Halloween decorations tended to be homemade, carving faces into pumpkins to make jack-o-lanterns and using hay and corn to add an autumnal ambiance to the scene. A scarecrow might have been added to the mix and later orange and black crepe paper might have been seen streaming from wall to wall.
The 1960s witnessed the first real explosion of Halloween decorations beyond the traditional. The availability of plastics meant you could find plastic skeletons hanging in many homes.
Today's Halloween decorations can be scary, cute or based on pop culture. Some people choose to decorate for Halloween in a non-threatening manner, using cartoon characters.
In recent years, sophisticated life-sized animatronic figures have become popular. These figures tend to react to movement. The shock comes when what you think is a static figure suddenly moves and "speaks."
Inflatable displays are also gaining popularity. They range from kid-friendly to scary, and can include silly representations of Frankenstein's creature or Dracula, as well as enormous grim reapers.
Until the past decade or so, getting the kind of high-quality decorations needed to put together a quality haunted house meant having to rent things such as operation tables, chainsaws, strobe lights, coffins and the various costumes and props. The Internet now makes these top-notch Halloween decorations available at reasonable prices, and you can also get movie-quality decorations for a premium price.
Halloween has become a celebration that is observed throughout the month of October, so it's not unusual to see Halloween decorations adorning homes and businesses starting the first day of the month.
In order to become "that cool Halloween house," you should start planning as early as possible to get a head start on finding the latest decorations.
Bigger than Christmas
CHAD WHITCRAFT of Shrewsbury Township writes that Halloween and "scary stuff" is bigger than Christmas at his house, and that he has Edgar Allan Poe's portrait tattooed on his back with a graveyard scene.
"For the last 13 years I've spent Halloween in Salem, Mass., and love it," he writes.
He said he makes most of his Halloween decorations himself.
"I have had a lot of enjoyment making these things," Whitcraft wrote. "There is a personally customized satisfaction about it."
Whitcraft owns a 1970 Cadillac Fleetwood hearse, which he uses in his Halloween displays. There is a coffin in the back, the pull-out for the lights is a silver skull, the shifter is a skeleton hand, the license plate bolts are skulls and the air-cleaner wing nut also is a skull.
Born on Halloween
CAROL DANIELS of Olde Field Drive in West Manchester Township said her husband, Mark, was born on Halloween and it's a special occasion in their household.
The couple's children and grandchildren get in on the act, too. Daughter Sabrina Murphy, 33, and her husband, J.D., as well as the Daniels' 30-year-old son, Christopher, and his wife, Jess, help with setting up the many Halloween attractions and taking them down after the holiday is over.
Everyone dresses in costumes and greets visitors to the display in the evenings, including the Daniels' 3-year-old grandsons, Nicholas and Bray den, and 7-year-old granddaughter, Kaylee.
"Last year, we had 300 visitors - children and adults," Daniels said.
Even the Daniels' Yorkshire terrier takes part in the festivities. Last year's costume theme was The Wizard of Oz, and the Yorkie was Toto. This year's costume theme is Alice in Wonderland. Mark will be the Mad Hatter, Carol plans to dress up as the Queen of Hearts and granddaughter Kaylee will dress up as Alice.
The transformation from yard to spooky graveyard takes place over several weekends in October, and each year the Daniels family makes some changes and additions to the display.
The props include a mausoleum with a glowing, ethereal figure in the doorway, stuffed "men" robbing graves, a gate made from PVC pipe to look like an iron gate at the end of the driveway, a skeleton playing a pipe organ, tombstones, torches, spiderwebs and skulls.
Do it yourself TO MAKE A LARGE SPIDER with red eyes to set in your yard, you'll need 18 large black trash bags. Fill the first bag with as much crumpled paper or leaves as you can, and tie the bag tightly.
After laying the bag top-side down, fill a second bag with slightly less material, and tape it to the first bag. This will form the spider's head and body.
Put two trash bags together, and roll them up lengthwise. Wrap black electrical tape around each end to create a point, and then wrap again around two other sections of the legs to make the joints.
Repeat this step until you have eight legs, then attach them to the spider by cutting small slits in the body and pushing a bit of the legs inside. Wrap the area with more electrical tape to hold the legs in place.
To make the eyes, cut the top part off two red plastic cups, and tape the bottom sections to the spider's head. For the fangs, cut large triangles from another cup, and tape them to the head with the white side facing out. Place the spider atop a pile of dry autumn leaves to greet trick-or-treaters.
- Source: eHow.com
FIND VIDEOS and instructions on making moving
Halloween props and other decorations at www.ehow.com.
By the numbers
THE NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION'S 2012 Halloween consumer spending survey conducted by BIGinsight found:
· Americans will spend an estimated $8 billion on Halloween decorations, costumes, candy and greeting cards.
· A record 170 million people plan to celebrate Halloween this year. Seven in 10 Americans (71.5 percent) will celebrate the holiday, up from 68.6 percent last year and the most in NRF's 10-year survey history.
· The average person will spend $79.82 on decorations, costumes and candy, up from $72.31 last year.
· Of the people celebrating Halloween this year, more than half (51.4 percent) will decorate their home or yard, up from 49.5 percent last year.
· 45 percent of those celebrating Halloween plan to dress in costume, also up from last year (43.9 percent.)
· More than one-third of those celebrating (36.2 percent) will throw or attend a party and 33.2 percent will take children trick-or-treating.
· 15.1 percent will dress their pets in costume.
- Source: www.NRF.com