Outdoor Halloween Decorations

Ideas for Scarecrows, Pumpkins and More

Four jack-o-lanterns lit up at night.
David Flisher / EyeEm/Getty Images

All things considered, I believe folks have more fun displaying outdoor Halloween decorations than they do the ornaments for any other celebration, at least where I live (New England, U.S.). For one thing, the conditions are just right for decorating outside: the weather is crisp enough to have forced the mosquitoes into retirement, but still warm enough that you can work without gloves. Then there's the fact that you get to pick between two entirely different styles:

  1. You can festoon your...MORE yard with spooky figures
  2. Or you can decorate more broadly for the harvest season

Below I offer ideas -- and inspiration through pictures -- for both kinds of outdoor Halloween decorations. My Halloween pictures have been selected with an eye to representing this wonderously colorful season of fall foliage trees and apple trees laden with produce from as many angles as possible, ranging from the gruesome to the humorous. Meanwhile, my tutorials will give you ideas for such projects as creating scarecrows and sculpting jack-o'-lanterns in ways you had never imagined -- using not only pumpkins, but also gourds.

  • 01 of 13
    Picture of Halloween scarecrow. This Halloween scarecrow is a fisherman!
    Picture of Halloween scarecrow. This Halloween scarecrow is a fisherman!. David Beaulieu

    If you can't have a good time setting up and/or admiring outdoor Halloween decorations, then you must be lacking the sense-of-humor gene. This is the fun holiday par excellence, a celebration in which we partake for one reason, and one reason alone: it's enjoyable. The decorating done at this time is not done in the name of religion, nor in the name of country -- not even remotely (as in the case of Saint Patrick's Day, which ostensibly honors a religious figure, even though we all...MORE know it's really about the beer).

    Perhaps you're thinking, "Yeah, I agree with all that, but I'm plum out of fresh decorating ideas for this holiday. What fun tips do you have to offer?" Well, you're in luck, because browsing this photo gallery should give you plenty of fun ideas. As with all the segments in this article, simply click on the photo to access the featured content.

  • 02 of 13
    Halloween image showing a witch silhouette.
    Halloween image showing a witch silhouette. David Beaulieu

    Or maybe your idea of fun is to scare the bejeezus out of all the children in the neighborhood. In that case, you'll be more interested in my examples of scary outdoor Halloween decorations. Witches, devils, ghouls, skeletons and the just-plain-dead grace this gallery. The flying ghoul would be my top pick among these pictures, but perhaps you'll find your own favorite as you browse -- and use it as an idea for your own fall landscaping.

  • 03 of 13
    Picture: female scarecrow. This scarecrow woman is surrounded by flowers.
    Picture: female scarecrow. David Beaulieu

    Don't think that, just because scarecrows typically wear old clothes, putting one together is necessarily a project that calls for nothing more than haphazardly throwing together a few items, stuffing them, tying them up, and dumping this mélange somewhere out in the yard for display. Remember, there are good scarecrows and bad scarecrows. And a good one will not only exude creativity but also be supported properly.

    In this tutorial, I instruct you on the entire process of making scarecrows,...MORE but I pay special attention to how my sample straw figure is supported. I believe in giving my figures a little "spine."

  • 04 of 13
    Image: family of scarecrows. Image shows daddy, mommy and kid scarecrows.
    Image: family of scarecrows. David Beaulieu
    Despite their name, scarecrows aren't necessarily scary. In fact, most are not, and many fall more into the "funny" category of outdoor Halloween decorations than the scary. This photo gallery of scarecrows offers a mix -- something for every taste. Treat it as a design source to mine for making your own scarecrow.
    Continue to 5 of 13 below.
  • 05 of 13
    Scarecrow picture: "Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater...." Photo shows scarecrow, pumpkin cut-out.
    Scarecrow picture: "Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater....". David Beaulieu

    Yes, to gain a full appreciation for all the possibilities in scarecrow making, we can't take the "scare" in "scarecrow" too literally. I offer a few moderately creepy specimens in this photo gallery, but more space is devoted to just the opposite scarecrow style: namely, tame, friendly-looking scarecrows.

    It doesn't get any tamer than Mother Goose nursery rhymes, and several of the scarecrows here draw on themes right out of Mother Goose. Just don't equate...MORE "tame" with "uninteresting." These scarecrows are novel: if you assemble one for your own yard, I can almost guarantee that your display of outdoor Halloween decorations will be the envy of the neighborhood.

  • 06 of 13
    Grim Reaper (image) makes a scary Halloween decoration. The hay-pile background adds to effect.
    "Your time is up, and you will now be harvested," growled the Grim Reaper. David Beaulieu

    Learn how to make an inexpensive, life-sized Grim Reaper to welcome the guests for your Halloween party. Since background is critical for an effective display, part of the project consists in setting up an ideal, autumn-themed backdrop on your lawn.

  • 07 of 13
    Halloween Jack-o-Lantern Pumpkins
    Daniel Troutman Photography/E+/Getty Images

    Displaying jack-o'-lanterns is every bit as important an autumnal ritual as is erecting scarecrows. This and the following resources treat just that subject, as does my separate article showing pumpkin pictures for carving ideas. Click on the photo to learn how to carve a pumpkin.

    This is not your average how-to on carving pumpkins, because I don't stop with telling you how to wield the carving knife to best effect. Yard safety should always be a concern in your landscaping endeavors,...MORE whether you're setting up outdoor Halloween decorations, mowing the lawn, or transplanting trees and shrubs. So I also tell you how to keep your yard and yourself safe while carving, displaying and illuminating jack-o'-lanterns.

  • 08 of 13
    Picture showing example of how you can decorate pumpkins without carving.
    Picture showing example of how you can decorate pumpkins without carving. David Beaulieu
    Now that you have the basics of carving down pat (see article above), it's time to turn to sources for design inspiration. After all, you don't want to display the same, tired, old jack-o'-lantern every fall, do you? In addition to carved pumpkins, you'll see examples where pumpkins have been decorated using any of a variety of materials, including ornamental gourds.
    Continue to 9 of 13 below.
  • 09 of 13
    Picture of pumpkin face carved in profile.
    Picture of pumpkin face carved in profile. David Beaulieu
    The pictures of jack-o'-lanterns in this photo gallery and the prior one come from the famed Keene Pumpkin Festival in New Hampshire. In fact, if you'd like to take your quest for outdoor Halloween decoration ideas a step further, my advice would be to attend such a festival, yourself. There are many such pumpkin shows, distributed across North America. Be sure to bring a camera, because you'll never remember all the ideas that you encounter at such gatherings.
  • 10 of 13
    What does a hardshell gourd look like? This picture shows a penguin type.
    Picture of a hardshell gourd still on the vine. David Beaulieu

    But don't restrict your jack-o'-lantern creations to pumpkins. Another great medium for carving is the hard-shell gourd. In fact, in this article, I begin by explaining why carved hard-shell gourds make for superior jack-o'-lanterns to pumpkins. After briefly delivering said explanation, I move on to telling you how to make a gourd jack-o'-lantern.

    Initially, this type of gourd may not look all that promising for a craft project. You have to dry them before you can use them; once...MORE dried, their appearance changes considerably. Even then, beginners will be skeptical, as the drying gourds typically become covered with fungi. The first step for a beginner to take is to learn how to clean hard-shell gourds.

  • 11 of 13
    Use this pumpkin face as a stencil for Halloween crafts.
    Use this pumpkin face as a stencil for Halloween crafts. David Beaulieu
    Maybe your primary challenge in carving jack-o'-lanterns is that you simply don't have a steady hand. So you start out with the best of intentions, having a terrific design in mind, only to have your hand slip during the carving. The result? That well-defined little jack-o'-lantern nose you had conceived becomes a huge gash in the middle of the pumpkin's face. What is one to do? Well, one way to minimize carving errors is to use a template. Here's a collection I put together...MORE for the sake of any reader who doesn't exactly have the steady hand of a surgeon. These templates (and those referred to in the next entry) work well for small-sized pumpkins.
  • 12 of 13
    Skull and crossbones jack o'lantern pattern.
    Skull and crossbones jack o'lantern pattern. David Beaulieu
    As with the immediately preceding resource, this one consists of a gallery of templates that you can print out for your jack-o'-lantern carving. But in this collection, I've focused on scary faces. Among my devilish creations are carving patterns for a werewolf, a skull, bats and the mask from the infamous Jason, star of the Friday the 13th movies.
    Continue to 13 of 13 below.
  • 13 of 13
    Picture of gourds.
    Picture of gourds providing fall color. David Beaulieu

    After clicking the accompanying links for the entries above and digesting my decorating material, your head may be full of outdoor Halloween decoration ideas. Perhaps you don't know precisely where to begin. When I hit such a roadblock, sometimes I gather some general supplies that I know will come in handy (regardless of exactly how I end up using them), lay them out in front of me, and then let the creative juices start working. Often, you don't get a full sense of the artistic...MORE possibilities latent in a particular item until you hold it in your own hands and/or see what statement it makes when juxtaposed to another item. For example, ornamental gourds (photo at left), as I've already noted, can be used in jack-o'-lantern art, but an idea for such art may not register in your mind until you've actually picked up a particular gourd and observed its qualities.

    My list is obviously not exhaustive. Its purpose is to point you in the right direction. As you gather these supplies for outdoor Halloween decorations, you will, no doubt, supplement your purchases with others, based on where your inspiration takes you. Click on the picture to access my list.