Cindra Schor knows what it’s like to be a witch in Salem, Mass.
Schor, who now lives in Beaverdale, formerly lived in Salem, where each Halloween she would decorate her house and front yard for the holiday and wear her witch costume to hand out candy to neighborhood kids. In fact, the cape she wore as part of her costume was custom made in Salem.
Then Schor and her husband, Miguel, moved to Des Moines. They lived in a different neighborhood and did not decorate for a couple of years. Once they settled into their Beaverdale home this summer, Cindra decided she wanted to resume decorating for Halloween given that the couple moved onto Ashby Avenue, an area of the neighborhood that is known for decorating.
“I decorate for the kids who come by,” she says, adding that she wanted to do something to become part of the neighborhood community. “It’s fun to be at it again.”
The Schors’ display takes several days to put up, but the initial work took much longer. Cindra created a half-dozen gravestones from a foam-like material. She cut them into gravestone shapes and painted them to look like stones. Each has a different phrase and date. A white pumpkin, which Cindra painted, sits in front of each gravestone. As it gets closer to Halloween, she’ll carve each one and put lights inside of it.
She has also taken butternut squash and painted them white and added black eyes and a mouth. Each one is hung from a tree to look like a ghost. Orange lights drape the trees and bushes in the yard. She also has made black crows and bats that hang from the trees under a black netting.
As the holiday approaches, she’ll make a 6-foot-tall ghost that has a carved pumpkin for a head. It is then draped in muslin and lit up.
Cindra’s daughter, Sierra Larsen, helps with the display. They’ve also added a skeleton, which sits in a chair in the front yard. Halloween-themed music plays during Beggars’ Night.
“I like scary because I think that’s what’s most fun for the kids because they like the thrill of being scared. I also like it to be really festive. That’s why I have so many orange lights,” she says.
Cindra and Sierra dress up in their witch costumes and have long, black velvet capes along with big, velvet witch hats. Cindra does lots of dark face makeup.
“I love the holiday for a lot of different reasons,” Cindra says. “I like it because the kids just love it so much.”
She says on the day she started decorating, a little boy and his mom stopped by the house and started walking in the graveyard and looking at the decorations, which Cindra says made her happy to see.
Different and creative
Around the corner from the Schors, Aaron and Karen Kennedy’s house also is decked out in the Halloween spirit.
They’ve decorated for the holiday since they moved into their house in 2000. It’s something the couple’s four children: Olivia, 15; Juliette, 14; Davis, 11; and Charlotte, 8, love to help with.
“The kids beg me to start (decorating) Oct. 1,” Karen says.
Decorating begins the first Saturday of the month and lasts most of the day. They bring out spiders and spider webs; gravestones, skeletons and body parts that make up a graveyard; motion-censored decorations that go off when someone walks by; a fog machine and music that is played on Beggars’ Night; and much more.
In the past, the Kennedys have created a body and hung it from one of the upstairs bedroom windows to make it look as though someone is trying to get into the house. One of Karen’s favorite decorations is the yellow trashbag-like window hanging that, when lit up from inside, make it look as though there is a black cat in the window. She says the windows can be seen all the way to Beaver Avenue.
Karen says she plans this year to buy some cornstalks to create an archway leading up to the front door. As it gets closer to Halloween, she’ll paint them black.
Each year, the Kennedys try to add a few more things to their display by buying some discounted decorations at the end of the season.
Sometimes on Halloween, the older children will dress as mummies and lie in the graveyard. Aaron Kennedy made their mummy costumes by attaching strips of a sheet to white long underwear.
“It’s one of the kids’ favorite holidays. Many times they won’t trick or treat because they like to hand out candy,” Karen says.
For the past couple of years, the Kennedys have made their children’s costumes. They go to thrift stores and use items from around the house to make something that is “different and creative,” Karen says.
Last year, Charlotte was a Coca-Cola can. They used cardboard to form the can and then used PVC pipe to make the straw. Juliette has been a ketchup bottle. A soccer cone was used to create the tip of the bottle. Last year, Davis was a blob. They family took a trash bag and spray painted it purple and stuffed it with newspaper.
Make your own costume ideas
You can create your own Halloween costumes using a little creativity and items you have on hand. Costumes are getting easier to make and more creative with the help of the Internet and idea-generating sites like Pinterest.com.
Some people buy their costumes because it can be cheaper, while others don’t like the selection at the local party store and prefer to be more creative on their own. Whatever the reason may be, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of do-it-yourself ideas for costumes, some of which are so simple one can pull the items out of his or her closet to achieve the effect.
Among the most popular do-it-yourself costume ideas for 2011 were a zombie; the characters from the “Twilight” movies; singers Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Amy Winehouse; and pirates.
Easy ideas, pulled from a variety of Internet sources, that require little work or purchase of items include:
Going as smarty pants: Take a belt and attached Smarties candy to it. If you want to go the extra mile, wear one of your old mortarboards — if you don’t have one, borrow one from a friend — and grab a pair of old glasses and stick a piece of tape on the nosepiece.
Using balloons: Get purple or green balloons and pin them to a similar-colored outfit to go as a cluster of grapes. For a boy, put on a pair of swim trunks, pin white balloons to the trunks to use as bubbles. Add a bath towel and a scrubber, and the child can go as a kid in a bathtub.
Where’s Waldo: Find a red and white striped sweater or turtleneck with a matching stocking cap, if possible. Add a pair of glasses and blue jeans, and you can become the guy everyone is looking for.
Got Milk? Take a white T-shirt and a black marker and write “Got Milk?” on it. Then use corn starch and cold cream to create a milk mustache. Carry a milk carton for added effect.
Serial killer: Take a plain-colored shirt and attach the front panels of cereal boxes. Tape plastic knives to the boxes and add fake blood or ketchup.
Owl: For a child or adult, cut owl “feathers” from shades of gray or brown fabrics. Sew them in overlapping rows onto an old dress or long-sleeved shirt. Make an owl mask from construction paper or cardstock, and attach to a string. Or use face paint to create an owl look.
Static cling: Wear mismatched clothes, pin a pant leg or sleeve up and then pin dryer sheets, socks, washcloths and other clothing items to your outfit. Use gel to make your hair stand up as if it had static.
Spelling bee: Use a black leotard or long-sleeve shirt and make stripes using yellow tape. Add adhesive letters that spell out different words. Use wire hangers and shape into wings. Cover them with plastic bags and secure with glue. Glue two black pipe cleaners onto a black headband.
It’s raining cats and dogs: Dress your child in his or her rain jacket and rain boots. Take an umbrella and attach stuffed cats and dogs to it.
Whatever you decide to do this Halloween, get into “spirit” of this spooky, October night and have some fun.