Whenever I think of Halloween decor, I think of graveyards. It’s funny, because I actually think that graveyards are really interesting places, filled with history and beautiful craftsmanship. They can be awesome inspiration for scavenger hunts (as in, find the tombstone with clasped hands, or the tombstone of a war veteran, etc.) and often a very quiet place to take a walk and reflect.
However, in the great fear lexicon, I think graveyards rank right up there with zombies and demons. Without a doubt, if you want to create a spooky environment for your party, a graveyard entryway is the way to go. And what makes a graveyard a graveyard? Tombstones! The best thing about it is that the basic tombstone is actually pretty easy to make, but the decorating possibilities are endless. In fact, it’s a great family activity for pretty much every age. Start a tradition of making new tombstones every year, and pretty soon you’ll have a graveyard that can rival Cypress Lawn Memorial Park.
EASY TO MAKE TOMBSTONES
- One 4 x 8 sheet of 2-inch thick expanded polystyrene insulated sheathing (found in hardware stores) (This will make at least eight tombstones, depending upon the size you make them)
- One 5-inch piece of 1/2 inch PVC pipe (per tombstone)
- Hand saw (or some way to cut the PVC)
- 3/8 inch dowels, 1 1/2 feet per tombstone
- Drill with ¾ inch paddle bit
- Jigsaw with long blade or an electric serrated knife (my mom used to have one for carving turkeys), or long, standard serrated knife
- Thick white craft glue (or the like)
- Permanent markers
- White and black acrylic paint
- Paint brushes
- Sponges (natural sponges or craft sponges work best)
Draw a standard tombstone shape onto the styrofoam with a permanent marker. I usually make my tombstones 2 feet tall by 18 inches wide, but you can make them whatever size you want, and it’s fun to vary the sizes so your graveyard looks natural.
To make the rounded top, you may want to trace around a large mixing bowl or pot. Center it between the sides and trace around the top.
If you want all your tombstones the same size, you may want to make a template; brown paper shopping bags make perfect templates. Cut off the bottom of the bag and then slit the side, then fold the paper in half longwise. Measure how tall you want your tombstone, trim off the extra. Use a bowl or other circular object to make half a circle on your folded paper along the crease, so that you have a ¼ pie wedge shape going from the folded edge to the open, outer edge. Trim away the excess. Open the paper, and you have a perfect tombstone template.
Using your knife or saw, carefully cut out your shape. This definitely requires an adult to do! Please also note that styrofoam is very messy when being cut, so you’ll want to do this in an area where you can sweep up easily. Little bits of foam love to become charged with static electricity as well, so you may find little pieces adhering to your skin and clothing!
Have someone help you hold the tombstone upside-down, with the bottom facing the ceiling. Using your paddle bit, drill a hole smack dab in the middle of the bottom (we found that our paddle bit made a perfect 5-inch deep hole; if yours doesn’t, adjust your PVC piece to the length of the hole).
Coat the outside of your PVC with thick, tacky glue. Insert PVC tube into the hole. Let dry.
Either use gray paint or mix up some black and white paint together for gray. The color gray you want will determine how much black paint you use. Always start with the white paint (you’ll need 1 to 1 ½ cups of white paint per tombstone base) and then stir in the black paint bit by bit until you reach the desired color. Always keep a little bit extra to create your accent colors, about ¼ cup if you can. Paint the entire tombstone. If you’ve got long dowels, you can mount them in the ground and place the tombstone on top for easy all-around painting. Let dry.
Now it’s time to have fun! Divide the leftover paint into two bowls. In one, add extra white to make a light, “highlight” gray, and in the other add black to create “detailing” gray. Have fun adding details like cracks, images, etc. You can make the stone look old and weathered by using a natural sponge dipped in paint and lightly applied in a stippling method (that is, add a very little bit of paint to the sponge then dab it onto the tombstone). Let dry.
Paint your message on your tombstone. This is my favorite part. You can use one of ours below, make up your own, or research the web for funny tombstone sayings.
Hammer your dowel into the ground, leaving 5 inches sticking out.
Slip the finished tombstone over the dowel. Watch out... it might be so inviting a ghoulie might come to take up residence (but that’s another blog!).
SUGGESTED TOMBSTONE SAYINGS
- Here lies the dentist McGavity, filling up, his last cavity
Gone for good, and a good thing too!
- Here lies an atheist, all dressed up with no place to go.
- Joke's over, let me out now!
- I’ll be back...
- In life, I was Fred, now all I am, is dead
- I told you I was sick!
- Died from not forwarding that chain letter (or e-mail / text) to 10 friends
- Once you’re over the hill, you pick up speed
- Here lies the body of Jonah Drake; stepped on the gas, instead of the brake