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Posted on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 : noon

Homemade Halloween decoration ideas, from local special effects guru Dave Hettmer

By Jenn McKee


Hettmer's gargoyle, with light-up eyes

Photo provided by Dave Hettmer

Local special effects guru Dave Hettmer - who’s worked on movies like “Army of Darkness,” and is now helping bring Dexter Community Players’ production of “Evil Dead: The Musical” to, um, life - has a couple of suggestions for those looking for homemade Halloween decoration ideas.

“I'm a big fan of making one's own decorations,” Hettmer said. “There's something much more satisfying about putting something up that was your own idea and your own handiwork, rather than buying something that's professionally made by someone else and doesn't really reflect who you are, but what some designer thought would sell. It may not be as finessed as something you buy, but it will be more personal.”

Hettmer’s first suggestion involves making your own gravestones for the front yard.

“Gravestones are easy,” said Hettmer. “You can buy those, but they tend to be small and have fairly bland sayings. With a jigsaw, gray and black paint, and some thin wood, you can make a gravestone of whatever size you like, with whatever phrases you like.” (Gravestones can also be created from cardboard, of course, but then you need to be mindful of rain.)

And while you are welcome to stop there, Hettmer noted that you can take the prop in an even creepier direction.

“You can put arms or legs reaching out of the ground in front of the gravestone," Hettmer said. "Take an old shirt, a stick and a glove. Put the stick in the sleeve and either cut off the sleeve or stuff the rest of the shirt inside the sleeve. Make sure there's some stick poking out of the bottom and the top. Push the stick into the ground and then slip the glove on the top. Finally, spread some dirt or leaves around the base of the sleeve so that it looks like dirt being forced up from underneath.”

Hettmer also noted that a colored light can add dimension and interest to a decoration.

“You can make glowing eyes, words on a gravestone, and other things simply, safely, and inexpensively. An example is something I put out on my lawn each year - a gargoyle with glowing eyes.” (For the more artistically challenged, a ghost will also work.)

Hettmer paints a basic gargoyle on a thin piece of wood (you can also use cardboard) and cuts out the eyes, then tapes colored transparent report folder covers onto the back, where the eyeholes are.

Next, you buy two cheap nightlights (with a 7 volt battery, which won’t get very hot), with clear plastic over the bulb (“A Mickey Mouse nightlight isn’t going to do you any good,” Hettmer noted); and buy two small plastic bowls, duct taping one nightlight into each; and then you plug the lights in with extension cords.

“You can paint the inside of the bowl white to make a nice, even light tone,” Hettmer added.

More on Halloween:

• Check out's complete guide to Halloween events and activities.

The search for Michigan's best haunted house visits Brandywine Cemetery

The search for Michigan's best haunted house explores Night Terrors at Wiard's Orchards

Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for Reach her at or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.


music to my ear

Mon, Oct 22, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

very talented ,Halloween is a favorite ,lucky for dexter comm players that they have you on board .gould luck and happy haunting.