halloween in july: crafting my own tombstone


Some people love Halloween so much, they make it a year-round affair. That’s how I created my first Halloween tombstone. On Saturday, I got the chance to do a little bit of crafting with the first “haunter” I’ve ever known in real life, our friend Shelley. She has been trying to get her neighborhood block friends to join in on her Halloween decorating fest (these are just a few photos of her house last year), so she hosted a weekend workshop (you can find her tutorial videos HERE!) and also invited her friends from the CalHaunts NorCal haunters society. Never one to pass up a chance to learn an awesome new crafting technique, I excitedly showed up to make my very first outdoor “semi-pro” Halloween prop.

It all started with pretty much this…


Just some pink installation foam cut to 2.5 ft x 2 ft. And a nice take-home instruction packet – you know, for Tombstone #2 and beyond.


First, we fashioned the tombstones into the desired shape we wanted, using saws and sanders. I didn’t go for anything crazy… just the normal rounded headstone.


Then we added a nice little addition to the inside base of the tombstone – a hole w/pvc pipe to stand it up on a tent stake! (This is truly something I wouldn’t ever think of… and I’d have my tombstone flying away night after night I’m sure)

Now before we showed up, we all needed to have had designed our epitaphs. I decided that if I was ever going to have a gravestone placed in my yard, it would be a friendly familiar one, not a scary/spooky/creepy one. Let’s face it, I’m not the scary movie watcher and I prefer the cute over the creepy… so I sought out a familiar source of material: the Haunted Mansion.


I created a layout with similar fonts in Illustrator, sized it out appropriately, then printed it in overlapping sheets so I could tape it together again.


Then came the painful process of cutting out each letter from the template using an exacto knife. This is where I realized how silly I was in picking a LARGE epitaph, but luckily I’ve had lots of stencil-making practice so it didn’t seem like an overwhelming task.


The next part of the process involved more power tools and the fear that, at any minute, you could seriously mess up this entire thing. Everyone around me assured me that mistakes just make haunted stuff look more authentic, but I was truly wary of this. We used Dremel tools and various bits to carefully eat away at the foam inside of each carefully outlined letter.


Black spray paint was applied to the foam … and it literally EATS the foam away. Pretty nifty, huh?


All of that establishes the base for the tombstone design, and then you need to build it up. We used gray DryLock and applied a few coats using paint rollers and paintbrushes to get in every nook and cranny.


And all of that got us here: a gray stone-looking piece of foam.


But was that enough? Oh no…. we added all sorts of shading and painting and fake lichen and rust with spray bottles and house paint and acrylics oh my! (Check out the videos Shelley made here for more info on each of the techniques!) And what did we end up with…

Well here is the gravestone joining in on “the neighbor’s” front lawn…


… and here’s mine.


I’m guessing that I’ll need to add a few more friendly stones for my lawn to not look too vacant, but I’m not sure when I’ll get the 5 hours to craft each additional one. Well at least there’s one that’s completely done though and waiting for October 31st.

What do you think? Should I make more?


  • Audrey

    This is amazing. When you combine this, and your big fabric bows, you are well on your way to bringing a ton of Disney holiday magic into your home. Can’t wait to see what your house looks like on Halloween!

  • ShellHawk

    Kim, it was so great having you by for a little Hallowe’en cheer!You completely rocked that tombstone, and I think if we put our heads together, we could do some more complex shapes, too. It’s always great to have a little variation in your graveyard, and there are LOTS of haunters who do light-hearted, comic-style haunts. I’m hoping you drink the Kool-Aid and do one yourself! :oD

  • Sean

    Welcome to the joy of haunting lol. Yes you need to make more. Just pick a weekend and get some friends together and have a tombstone party. You may find it cathartic.

  • Kate

    We used to do these every year when I was growing up. We even had a similar epitaph – “Here lies good ole Fred. Was alive, but now he’s dead.”

  • KIm@newlywoodwards

    This is so cool! It tuned out do neat and I love the wording and design you chose. I’m not usually much for decorating at Halloween but now I’m kind of wanting a tombstone for my house.

  • Estelle

    Absolutely love this! I’m not much of a Halloween fan but I could definitely find some fun in coming up with my own tombstone rhymes!

  • anonygrazer

    Thank you so much for the idea about the pvc inserted in the foam to hold the stakes! I have giant 8 pc. styro columns held together with wood stakes but the pvc will help preserve the styro much better. Thanks again.

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  • Brad

    Holy Smokes! These really come off looking authentic. I really liked the idea of using the pvc “stakes” to enter the ultra lightweight foam tombstones. Thanks for sharing these great yard accents.