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Haunts and Crafts: How to dress your pumpkin to petrifying perfection

All three pumpkin designs displayed. (Ellen Newton)

If your approach to “pumpkin season” is anything like mine, you recognize Halloween as America’s unofficial arts and crafts holiday; a time of friends, ghosts and paint. To get those ambitious dead souls up from the grave and running, I’ve taken a few spins on traditional Halloween pumpkins for a tour of decor possibilities that will make you the coolest kid in the pumpkin patch.

The Snow Leopard Pumpkin. (Ellen Newton)

The Snow Leopard Pumpkin

This is the prettiest pumpkin and the easiest. Start with a small white pumpkin or paint an orange pumpkin in white acrylic. (Don’t worry, it will look real.) Using black acrylic paint and a thin, flat brush, paint the leopard spots on in uneven, broken “rings” with the occasional splotch in between them to give the pattern a convincing look. The devil is in the details, so paint as many spots as you can, trying not to make it too uniform. Add a giraffe and zebra pumpkin to make a crazier display.

For extra cool kids points, hand out bottles of PBR to trick-or-treaters – or maybe just their parents.

The Stained Glass Pumpkin. (Ellen Newton)

The Stained Glass Pumpkin

Visually speaking, this pumpkin is eerily becoming. Start with a bigger pumpkin, as you’ll need spacious “windows.” Empty the pumpkin of seeds and then carve out windows – squares, circles, you name it, just make them unique. Using colorful transparent fabric or paper – like wax paper – cut out shapes aligning to the window sizes, and then pin them inside the pumpkin. I used blue and green paper with ‘veins’ from Blick’s Art Supply to give the windows texture. You can get more creative by drawing stained-glass patterns on the material.

Be careful to avoid loose paper, or the whole pumpkin could go up in smoke! Place a small tea candle inside and turn off the lights for a flickering night that harkens to the Dark Ages.

The Voodoo Pumpkin. (Ellen Newton)

The Voodoo Pumpkin

For a pumpkin with a real twist, you’ll need to get creative. Bright neon feathers, glow-in-the-dark paint, beads – you can find them all at an arts and crafts shop. Start with a big pumpkin. If you can’t find a dark one, paint its surface green, purple or black. After emptying the pumpkin of seeds and making a lid from the stem, start carving. Make big circle eyes and a long, round mouth with sharp teeth at the bottom. Using a thin brush and white acrylic or glow-in-the-dark paint, draw lines and dots that emphasize the eyes and mouth in crowded, geometric patterns.

Finally, add some of those feathers by punching small holes at the top or on the sides, so that the feathers span out from the pumpkin. Put a row of beads at the neck or around the eyes. Put a candle inside and dim the lights. This pumpkin is guaranteed to scare small children.