Halloween 2013: [How-To] Hellbrier Cemetery and Morgue, LLC

This is our first attempt at a ridiculous and extensive Halloween display, which we have decided we want to do because trick-or-treating is tragically dying out.  With the horrible introduction of “trunk-or-treating,” no kids (well, very few)  go door to door anymore.  Last year I made a pumpkin head man about 8 feet tall and put him out by the front door.  We literally got about 12 kids! We live in a neighborhood with tons of young families too! Because we love Halloween and want the trick-or-treating tradition to continue, we have decided to do our part and step our yard up a notch or five. We have plans to overhaul our front yard next summer, so having stuff all over the place isn’t a problem. It will be next year though…

We aren’t being very original with the theme being a graveyard and morgue, but hopefully we will get lots of kids this time.




Here is where I am starting.  I took some old 1/2″ electrical conduit (galvanized steel pipe) and attached it to the soffit of my house with a few screws.  I then bent it upward about 3′ away from the roof line. I stuck a skull on the end, stapled some fabric around the head, added two wood sticks for his arms, and hung a lantern from his right arm. He’s a ghoul!




I had another skull just like the one on the first ghoul, so I made a second one much in the same fashion.  I put his pole in the ground though, which you can see from this photo.  I’m also just starting up with adding headstones in the cemetery side and tossed together the little sign with a wood pole hammered into the grass and two junk sticks of wood attached to the pole.  Tera had this little sign that I hung from it that she got from the dollar store.




Now I’ve got a few wood crosses added to the cemetery.  The other cool thing happening there now is that I used cinder blocks to make a few more realistic-looking headstones and used craft paint to add names and dates. I also started to build a little “spook alley” walkway over our sidewalk going up to the house. I got all of this wood for $25 at Lowe’s.  They have a cull lumber section at my local Lowe’s where they sell off all of the bent and warped wood in bundles for very cheap.  This bundle was a whole lot of furring strips; way worth the $25!




I finished the spook alley structure, added a fence around both sides of the yard and up the walkway, and made this sign for the cemetery.  It says, “Hellbrier Cemetery.” I’m not sure what that means, but it sounded spooky enough to be an evil cemetery. The letters really were quite easy to make.  I just cut as many of the vertical pieces as I needed at the same length, shot a finish nail through them to attach them to the top and bottom of the sign, then cut out whatever little lengths I needed to make the rest of the letters and finish nailed them in place.  The fence is just a bunch of stakes hammered into the ground with horizontal lengths held up randomly and finish nailed into place.  The whole fence took about 20 minutes to throw together.  I’m learning that one of the nice things about building for Halloween is that I don’t need a tape measure for anything.  The more off-center and off-square I can go, the better and creepier it looks!




Here’s a good shot of the cemetery sign.  I put a skull in between the two words, and his eyes blink! Pretty cool so far.  I also strung up some creepy cloth on the sides.




I’ve just added some more wood to the posts of the sign because it just didn’t look regal enough to be a cemetery sign without thicker posts at the bottom.  If I had the time, know-how, and supplies I would have tried to make these look more like brick columns.




I’m ending here tonight.  I tried to stretch some spider webs over the little spook alley walkway, but it isn’t good enough coverage.  I need to come up with something else to cover this.  Maybe some chopped up black fabric or something.




After work today I went by Home Depot and picked up several cans of black spray paint.  I didn’t realize how expensive spray paint is! Luckily I got pointed towards a very cheap option (about $1 per can) that is basically meant for marking the ground. I sprayed over everything that is wood tonight.




I want a big oversized reaper for the opposite side of the yard from the cemetery.  Again just using the bundle of wood I got for $25, I am starting to put the basic idea together this weekend.   I’m trying to make his stance kind of bent over and creepy looking, so I hope this works out ok and doesn’t look cheesy. I’m going to cover him in a robe or some fabric, so hopefully this will be hidden well anyway.




I’ve got him mostly done now, but I’m not sure how some of the specifics will work out just yet.




I moved him up to the front yard, added a stick of wood for the scythe, and put a plastic dollar store blade on top with a staple.




Mr. Reaper Dude is coming along! I ended up using some old garden bed fabric that I found in the attic space of the garage when we moved in for his robe.  I also painted all of the wood black, screwed in a skull for his head, and stapled on some spider webs for his facial hair.  I like him so far! I think I’m going to add a ribcage so he doesn’t look so angular, but I’m not sure how that will be done yet.  Perhaps some wire or something to that effect.



Here are two more angles of how he looks after today.




The spook alley is starting to look cool!  I put the same yard fabric over the top and around the top of the sides, then randomly and haphazardly cut a bunch of holes in it.  There is also a “MORGUE” sign on the front pard, and I threw together another little gate for the entrance. Tera made the skull totem poles and we put them in the planters that were on either side of our front door.  I love the skull totems!




I need a big coffin so the reaper can show off his latest reap.  Here’s where I started.




I stuck a bunch of scraps of wood over the frame I had and used the same cheap-o spray paint to turn it black-ish.




I’ve got it propped up from the bottom so that people on the sidewalk can see into the coffin.  His hand ends pretty close to the opened lid; I need to make a hand for the reaper so it looks like he’s opening the coffin.




I’m not sure if this method will work yet, but I had a bunch of old brass wiring that I found in our garage.  I’m bending it around and trying to make fingers that would be about right for the scale of his hand.




I wrapped it in some fabric and now I’m going to try attaching it to the reaper’s arm.




That looks about as good as I need it to, so on to the next thing!



I used some scrap fencing wire from the fence in my back yard (that won’t be there for much longer anyway) to build out his ribcage. I also formed a bit of coat hanger wire for his sternum.




Now his ribcage is wrapped in fabric, and I’m fairly happy with how it turned out!




Coat hangers and fabric.  This will be the reaper’s latest victim.



Here’s the whole thing put together on the night before Halloween!

Halloween was so great this year! We had a slew of little kids coming to trick-or-treat, which made us very happy.  We achieved our goal!

I think we had at least 100-150 kids come for candy, plus all their parents.  It was a lot of fun for us to see all of the different costumes the kids came up with, and we had a gigantic number of compliments on the yard.  I the fact that we didn’t just buy a bunch of stuff from Walmart and set it in our yard really set us apart from a lot of other houses and drew a lot of interest from neighbors and people passing by. What a fun thing this was to build, enjoy with kids and neighbors, and break down afterward!




Here is the morning after, plus a slight hangover. I moved my miter saw and a small table out front for easy slicing up of all this wood. We are not trying to keep anything, and everything will be thrown away or burned in my fire pit.



With a bit of help from my brother in law, we had this whole thing torn down in about a half of an hour.  Wow, that was so much faster to take apart!




This is about half of what is left from the whole yard.  This year was so much more fun than last year! I think we are going to make a practice out of this and try building something cooler next year! It is so much more fun to have people knocking on your door on Halloween night. Last year was pathetic, and this year was great.  I’ve got a good feeling that this will be happening next year too!



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