By Janine Eduljee

Pumpkins and skeletons have popped up just about everywhere in the Triangle in anticipation of one of the most popular holidays of the year.


Even before they trick-or-treat, kids may be greeted by a variety of decorations – from a simple pumpkin on the front steps to a full-out graveyard covering the lawn.


Halloween is one of the times during the year when you can flex your creative muscles and dress up your house in elaborate adornments. Here are some fun and easy ways to make your four walls extraordinary.


Pumpkin basics


Pumpkins are so prolific now that you would be silly not to invest in a few for outdoor and indoor decoration. Yes, they last for only a few weeks post-carving, but they're 100 percent worth it.


    Here are some suggestions regarding technique:
  • Use a sharp blade if possible, especially when cutting off the top. Employ a kitchen tool like an ice cream scoop to remove the innards so your arm isn't drenched in raw guts.
  • As a cleaner alternative, consider painting the surface of the pumpkin. This is ideal if you want to purchase a couple of small gourds. Kids can help out, and their creativity won't be limited by carving tools, which you might be hesitant to let them handle.
  • Use props! A cute hat, sunglasses or a corncob pipe can turn your pumpkin into a costumed character.


Smoke machines


From "Thriller" to "Night of the Living Dead," fog is often employed as a creepy companion in horror-movie scenes. The ability to create fog isn't limited to film crews. You can pick up a nifty contraption that does just that online or at the local party store. Fog machines cost roughly $40 to own and are fairly easy to maintain.


Complete the effect with cardboard headstones (don't forget to give them goofy names and epitaphs), and you've got quite a setup for your yard.


Cool lanterns


In addition to sticking candles or LED lights into carved pumpkins, consider fashioning homemade lanterns using mason jars as holders.


You can add leaves to the outside of the jar and then put a real or fake candle inside to give it the look of stained glass. It will seem fancy, but it's simple to assemble.


Live characters


Here's a devilish trick, but one that could be otherworldly if your friends are willing. Dress your pals up in mummy wraps or skeleton gear and then hide them in plain sight or behind the bushes.


When trick-or-treaters come to call, your posse can give them a good scare by jumping out. Caution: Do this only with slightly older kids...and quickly pass out the well-earned candy.




This isn't just for Christmas anymore – Halloween has become an equally valid time to bust out the lights and brighten the house.


Customize individual bulbs for Halloween by transforming them into spooky creatures. For example, tie a flame-retardant white cloth around each bulb, draw a pair of eyes and a mouth, and you've got a chilling collection of mini-ghosts guarding your garage.


Of course, this is just a starting point. As you drive through the streets of Raleigh's residential areas on your way to Crabtree Valley Mall, you might get even more inspiration.


Our final word of advice: Don't feel the need to flood your driveway with giant blowup bats and strobe lights.Quantity isn't necessarily better than quality. If your decorations are well thought-out and crafty, neighbors will take notice.