By Faith Teel
Special to Relocation.com
Halloween isn’t just a time for people to dress up… houses like costumes, too! This year, why not try a few spooky decorating  ideas that will scare your friends and flex your crafty muscles, without putting too many holes in your pocketbook.
Carved pumpkins are the classic Halloween decoration, but who has the time and really, who wants to clean up that mess? Luckily, there are lots of easy alternatives that won’t require you to threaten an innocent pumpkin with a huge, serial-killer-style knife.
Painted Pumpkins – All you need is a little bit of black paint to make silly or spooky faces… or get a can of glittery spray paint and paint the whole pumpkin to make the ultimate statement in Halloween glam. This is great for small kids, too, who can use as much paint or as little as possible and go wild with their Halloween pumpkin.
Squash – Next time you’re in the supermarket, look for a few pumpkin alternatives. Painted butternut squashes make fantastic ghosts and goblins… and if you keep them in a cool, dry place, they could last until it’s time to make squash casserole for Thanksgiving.
Lumpkins – Many supermarkets offer pumpkins and squashes that are so strange that they don’t need carving. Look for “peanut pumpkins,” which are covered in funny “warts” resembling peanut hulls.
Balloons – Your local card store, gift shop or florist probably sells helium balloons. Skip the pricey, shiny Mylar balloons and opt for inexpensive orange, white or green rubber balloons instead. Take them home and draw faces on them: jack-o-lantern faces for the orange ones, mummies or ghosts for the white ones and witches for the green ones.
Scarecrows – Creating a crafty scarecrow is a great way to showcase your decor skills, while also enhancing your front lawn.
One of the best kinds of Halloween decorations  are the subtle ones that take a minute to notice, but really creep your friends out when they finally see them.
Things Under Glass – Save your old spaghetti jars, wash them out and remove the labels. Now fill them with mysterious-looking things and add a stick-on label with a scary name on it. For example, you could put an old rubber mask in a large jar and label it “Granny’s Pickled Heads.” Or try spiny chestnuts labeled “Poison Urchins” or dried leaves labeled “Deadly Nightshade.”
Are You Going to Eat That? – Try the same trick with jars still full of food. Tomato pesto, black olives and pickled garlic take on new meanings when labeled “Frog Hearts,” “Eye of Newt” and “Werewolf Teeth.”
Apple Crones – Peel a few apples and carve them to look like an old woman, with slits for eyes, a big nose, and a straight line for a mouth. Let the apples wither for a few days, and soon you’ll have a row of little witch faces.
Weird Family Photos – Scour the internet for old film stills of Dracula, the Mummy or Frankenstein. (Try to get high-resolution pictures.) Print them out in black and white and slip them in with other family photos. You can even make a game out of this where the first person to notice will receive a Halloween treat.
Mysterious Bloodstains – Fake blood aren’t just for costumes anymore. Squirt it on old pillowcase and then pull the pillowcase over a throw pillow. Put it on your couch for a scary touch. Just be sure to use fabric that you don’t mind putting a few stains onto!
Graveyard Trees – Now that your container garden is dying back, why not pull out a few dead annual plants and replace them with bare branches stuck into the soil like trees? You can use them as-is or drape them with cobwebs and plastic spiders.
Subtle can be fun, but if you’re hosting a party , you’ll want to make big changes that affect the whole atmosphere of your home. Here are a few ways to make the whole room look delightfully spooky.
Paint It Black – Need to make a major statement? Raid your attic, closet, garage or local yard sale  for anything that you can spray paint black. Old chandeliers are great for this, and so are candlesticks and artificial flowers.
Black Bed Sheets – Are you planning to buy more bed linens soon? Why not get black or red bed sheets? They can double as quick covers for chairs and small sofas whose floral prints or bright colors might otherwise distract from your scary décor.
Cheesecloth, Cheesecloth, Cheesecloth – Cheesecloth is another inexpensive alternative for covering large furniture. It has a white, ghostlike color and an open weave that makes it look like a shroud. It’s also good for covering a Halloween table, wrapping over a mop head for an improvised ghost, or bandaging over an old hat form to make a mummy head.
Silhouettes – Black paper is your friend! Your local craft store may offer it in sheets or even big rolls. Use it to make silhouettes of mice, bats and cats, or cut larger shapes such as witches, werewolves, vampires or ghouls. Don’t limit yourself to the wall; try putting them in your baseboards, climbing up your steps or peering out of the windows.
In the Bathroom – Why not write something scary on the mirror in red lipstick, or use your spooky silhouettes or fake blood to make a great effect behind a translucent shower curtain?
Invitations – For inexpensive (yet scary) invitations, pick up some parchment paper from the same craft store and use a scary font to make your invite. (Or try a handwriting font and make your invitations look like a letter from Dracula!) Seal them up with the stick-on red wax seals used for wedding invitations.
Food Centerpieces – Halloween food is another subject entirely, but we couldn’t resist mentioning a few of our favorites. For a great centerpiece on the food table, try a mysterious green punch labeled “Love Potion.” If you’ve got a little time on your hands, adapt the classic gingerbread house with black frosting, licorice, candy corn, pumpkin candies and gummy worms to make a “haunted house.”
There’s no holiday like Halloween to bring out your inner decorator. Give a few of these tips a try… you’re sure to have a screaming good time!