Halloween Decorating Ideas for the Yard

Scott Stoll

Article Posted By: Scott Stoll

of Stolloween

Spooky halloween display with purple lights, fog, and a grim reaper

In our Style Challenge series, we ask some of our favorite bloggers from around the web to surprise us with their ideas for creating a stylish and functional space using Home Depot products as a starting point. 

Scott Stoll is an award-winning papier-mâché artist who specializes in Halloween decorations. With his Halloween Style Challenge, he pulled out all the stops with his outdoor Halloween decorating ideas. He shares with us some of his techniques, too, with links to tutorials for some of the papier-mâché creations he used in his amazing Halloween display. Take a look to be impressed and inspired…

Halloween has always been a big deal at our house, for many years we have transformed our yard into a fun and creepy experience suitable for both kids and adults.

The sights and sounds of Halloween always make an appearance every October, and with the help of The Home Depot, our backyard was transformed into a magical Halloween experience that can be enjoyed while sitting around a roaring fire on a cool autumn evening.

Halloween Decorating Ideas: Purple lights, fog, and a grim reaper

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember.

As a child the thing that really struck me besides the obvious sights, sounds and smells of the holiday was the way the adults acted during the very last day of October.

On Halloween it seemed that they laughed a little longer, smiled a little brighter and were downright creative. That feeling of joyful creativity I experienced in my childhood is one of the driving forces behind my passion for all things Halloween.

When The Home Depot invited me to participate in the Halloween Style Challenge, I didn’t hesitate for a second because any day you get to play Halloween is a very good day in my book.

Mystery boxes for the Halloween Style Challenge

On Friday, July 26th, UPS delivered four large boxes to our front porch, two of the boxes featured the familiar orange Home Depot logo, which meant the challenge was on, and it was time to get creative.

Feeling like a little kid on Christmas morning, I opened each box to find a total of 31 assorted Halloween goodies, including two 21-inch-high resin tombstones, a nine-foot-tall hanging skull decoration, a foam pumpkin, two pumpkin carving kits, two very large inflatable decorations and 23 boxes of 50-count purple lights.

Mystery products for the Halloween Style Challenge

The large hanging skull and two inflatable decorations dictated that I design an outdoor space, and as luck would have it we happened to have the perfect location in our backyard.

We live in the city, but are fortunate to have a very large backyard filled with an assortment of trees and lilac bushes. They provide us not only with a comfortable area to enjoy a roaring fire on a cool fall night, but also ample privacy.

One of my favorite things about our back yard is a huge black walnut tree that grows in the back corner. In the summer it provides much needed shade and in the winter it is beautiful covered with snow. In my mind this tree would be the perfect setting for a magical Halloween scene complete with a menagerie of sinister creatures and creepy tombstones all shrouded in a haze of glowing purple fog.

Setting up a large grim reaper from The Home Depot for Halloween

The story of 1313 Walnut Hollow

The first decision I made was that the scene needed more tombstones, so to compliment the two tombstones sent by Home Depot, I built eleven more for a grand total of thirteen tombstones.

The number seemed appropriate.

To get the process started I took a trip to my local Home Depot store and stocked up on supplies such as glue, drywall joint compound, cellulose fiber insulation, tape, paint and brushes.

Shopping for supplies for the Home Depot Halloween Style Challenge

Using the Home Depot shipping boxes and foam packaging materials I built chunky, fully three dimensional tombstones shapes using the foam to fill the space inside each cardboard tombstone.

Mystery boxes for the Halloween Style Challenge

The cardboard surface was covered with several different papier-mâché techniques allowing me to achieve engraved lettering, embossed designs and a stone-like texture.

 Using cardboard from the shipping boxes, Scott created extra tombstones for his Halloween display

Every home should have an atmospheric cemetery on display in their yard during Halloween, and building them from recycled materials and papier-mâché is a fun way to do it. Take a look at the detailed instructions for making tombstones on my blog.

Sketching the goblins to be built for his Halloween yard display

Next I decided to create two new characters that would lurk behind the 13 tombstones. The design of these new characters was very important because I wanted them to bridge the gap between the scary Home Depot hanging skull decoration and the very cartoon-like inflatable tree and spider.

I did a quick concept sketch of the new characters which I would eventually be known as Goblins and got to work.

The Goblin heads were created by covering a 20- inch inflated beach ball with papier mache strips.

The Goblin heads were created by covering a 20- inch inflated beach ball with papier-mâché strips.

Once the papier-mâché was dry the beach ball was deflated and removed and the Goblin’s faces were sculpted using homemade paper clay.

Additional elements such as the jaws, ears and eyes were added to complete the Goblin heads.

All Goblins need arms, hands and a body so these parts were also created using papier-mâché.

All Goblins need arms, hands and a body so these parts were also created using papier mache.

After spending about three weeks building 11 tombstones and two goblins it was time to set up the scene under the big walnut tree.

In addition to using the newly built props, I also opted to incorporate 12 previously built papier-mâché pumpkins, two large papier-mâché bats and 24 feet of faux wrought iron fence.

The set up started with hanging the large plastic skull, the skull had a long black fabric body which made it the tallest piece in the display, so due to its size it got center stage in the display.

The hanging skull decoration also featured sound activated lights and audio effects which made it an entertaining focal point.

Next the 13 tombstones, 13 pumpkins and faux wrought iron fence were used to fill in the scene around the big hanging skull, and the two Goblins took their spots on either side of the skull character.

The two large bats were then hung from the walnut tree to fill the empty space on the right and left side of the skull.

Two large bats were then hung from the walnut tree for the Halloween display

In my mind the bats were the skull creature’s minions, patiently waiting to do his bidding.

Every time I design a Halloween display I formulate a little story in mind which helps maintain a uniform theme.

My youngest son cut the Home Depot foam pumpkin into ragged halves. The two pieces were placed in the dead center with the idea that the two Goblins shattered the pumpkin in a fit of mischievous rage.

Halloween yard display

The next piece of the puzzle was incorporating the large inflatable decorations.

Home Depot supplied me with a seven-foot-tall haunted tree and nine foot animated spider.

Both inflatable props were colorful, fun and friendly, as well as being very simple to set up.

When these two pieces were inflated they were rather large, so I decided to use them in the background. Not only did they fill the negative space in the back of the display, but they provided a great feeling of whimsy to what was turning out to be a very colorful spooky scene.

Inflatable Halloween decorations

Inflatable Halloween decorations

The final decision was how to use the 23 boxes of purple lights.

My first thought was to hang the lights in the walnut tree, creating a creepy purple canopy over the display. But instead, I went with the unconventional idea of placing the lights on the ground, placed in front and around the tombstones and pumpkins.

Halloween decorating ideas: Purple lights give the ground a spooky glow

The idea was that when the scene was filled with fog the lights would cause the fog to glow an otherworldly purple color.

The idea worked beautifully. But to keep the fog at ground level, we had to build a simple fog chiller. It basically consisted of a small plastic storage container fitted with two PVC couplings and filled with ice resting on top of a screen.

My wife built the fog chiller based on instructions found on the internet. When the fog machine pumped fog into one end of the plastic container, the fog was cooled enough so that when it exited the opposite end, it was heavier than the warmer air and kept close to ground level.

A fog machine gives this Halloween display extra creep factor

There you have it, the story of 1313 Walnut Hollow.

Thirteen tombstones, 13 pumpkins, some creepy characters and lots of magical glowing purple fog all situated under my favorite tree in our backyard creating a fun and colorful Halloween experience for all ages.

This Home Depot Style Challenge was a lot of fun to work on. I send a very sincere thank you for the opportunity to participate because any day you get to play Halloween is a good day in my book!

Spooky, Halloween display from Scott of Stolloween studio

Spooky, Halloween display from Scott of Stolloween studio

Spooky, Halloween display from Scott of Stolloween studio

Spooky, Halloween display from Scott of Stolloween studio

Scott lives in Midland, Michigan with his wife and two sons. See more of Scott’s amazing papier-mâché creations and tutorials, and sign up for his classes on his blog STOLLOWEEN

To create his Halloween yard display, Scott used the following products from The Home Depot:

For more Halloween decorating ideas, see other articles in our Halloween Style Challenge series, and follow our our Halloween Halloween Style Challenge pinboard on Pinterest.

Visit our online Holiday Decorations Department for everything you need to decorate your home for Halloween. 

Style Challenge is a series of posts from guest contributors who aim to bring you fresh inspiration and ideas for your home and garden using Home Depot products as a starting point. Scott received the Halloween decorations for his space from The Home Depot and a Home Depot gift card, but The Home Depot provided no other compensation. The opinions and ideas Scott expressed are his own.