This post features a project several years in the making. For the past five years, every time I visited a Michaels craft store around Halloween, I would follow the sounds of screams and dark music to plaster my face against the Lemax Spooky Town display case and watch, enchanted, as the twisted, gruesome and monstrous vignettes ran. The designers have the same sick sense of humor that I do, and every year they come up with something delightfully warped. Three years ago, I broke down and started buying a few pieces.
I have visions of grandeur of a sprawling village of Spooky inhabitants complete with dwellings, shops and mortuaries. But at $50-$80 for most of the big, animated buildings, an entire Spooky Town has remained out of my price range. At this point the only animated buildings I have are the Phantom Station and the Witch’s Brew Haus (I could make a list of all the animated pieces I want, but this post would be so long you wouldn’t finish it until Halloween). But tabletop accessories are usually much more reasonable, between $3 and $20, and with the help of my family, who inexplicably feed my obsessions by sending me lots of gifts all Halloween season long, I’ve amassed a respectable collection of graveyard figures.
But I never had a good display, and around Halloween time I always got too busy to make one. This year I’m proud to say that I started early, and with the help of an excellent guide by friend to the blog, Rikki Little, actually built a display worthy of the creepy pieces. Is it the best display ever? No, I’ve never built anything like this before and it was a lot of trial and error. I think the hillsides ended up a little too angular. But now that it’s done I smile every time I walk past it.
Rikki recommends using styrofoam for the landscape, covering it with aluminum foil, then paper mache, Drylock, paint and flocking. Her guide gave me the foundation and confidence that I needed to get started, but I did modify it a little.
- I started with a base of foam core board in a standard size of about 20″x30″ from Michaels.
- Like Rikki, I used big pieces of styrofoam to build up the landscape (available at Michaels, but I’ve actually been saving pieces from furniture/electronic purchases for a couple years) which I shaped using a styrofoam wire cutter (obtained at Michaels with a coupon for like $8).
- I skipped the aluminum foil and went straight to the paper mache. For the glue, I just mixed one part flour to two parts water. (anecdote, if you’re doing the paper mache step and you have a dog that likes to get into things, don’t do this step on the floor like I did. My pekingese Audrey kept sticking her face in the glue when I had my back turned and would lick it off the pieces already draped over the display. It was not helpful.)
- Rikki recommends using Drylock over the paper mache, but Lowes didn’t have Drylock. An employee who said he did construction assured me that Sheetrock Lightweight Joint Setting Type Compound is the same thing. I still don’t know if it is, but it’s similar to plaster of paris and I think it got the job done. I did two coats of this, waiting about an hour between each coat.
- Unfortunately, the Sheetrock wasn’t tinted like the Drylock Ricki used, so I had to add a coat of Gray paint. I used a color sample size of Behr Creek Bend, 790F-4 in Flat Matte and I think it gave a nice natural rock color to the foundation. I did two coats of grey, with four hours between each coat.
- Next I dry-brushed green acrylic paint from Michaels (it was a small jar of Grass Green color which was like $1.79) all over the flat areas of the display where I wanted it to look grassy.
- Rikki used flocking, which you can get at Model Train or Hobby stores, for grass. I wanted a wilder look so I bought two different kinds of mosses from Michaels. One was yellow-y brown and called Graveyard Moss in the Halloween aisle and it was about $2.50 for a square foot. The other was greener moss in the garden supply area and I think it was $6 for about a square foot. I only needed one of each bag. I glued the moss on in clumps with regular white Elmers Glue.
- Finally I placed all the pieces on the board.
The process wasn’t hard, but it did take about five days. Each step requires patience as you often wait for things to dry for awhile (in the case of the paper mache, overnight) before you can move on to the next step.
I want to thank Rikki Little for her comprehensive guide on building a spooky village display. To read the complete guide on Halloween Forum, click here.
What do you think of my Spooky cemetery display? Do you collect Spooky Town and if so, how do you display your pieces?