Craft & Design Paper Crafts
How To: Haunted House Silhouettes

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By Jeffery Rudell

With some jobs, when you’re burned out it’s best to take a break, to get away from the office and focus on something else. With creativity, however, I’ve found the opposite helps: for me the only cure for burnout is more challenges rather than fewer.

One such challenge came my way a few years ago, when I had an opportunity to decorate an entire house for Halloween. The homeowner had a strict $100 budget and insisted that nothing be attached to the house in a manner that would damage the exterior shingles. The place was newly purchased, and the homeowner had yet to install any window treatments beyond inexpensive paper “contractor blinds” on all of the windows.

The challenge was at first daunting, not least because I was doing the project pro-bono, the materials budget was tiny, and the restrictions seemed stifling.

The solution arrived when I realized that the paper blinds on all of the windows provided me the chance to turn the entire house into one oversized luminary by creating very large paper silhouettes on all of the windows.

For a PDF of this tutorial, visit the project page on Make: Projects.

And, as for the pleasantly unexpected result, not only was the project great fun to create, but Sterling Publishing also took an interest in it and has just published Spooky Halloween Silhouettes (see the CRAFT review), my book based on this original project. The book consists of twenty eight black-paper punch-out silhouettes that can be affixed to windows or photocopied and enlarged, thus allowing others to put together a spooky house-sized luminary of their own.

Materials

100-yard roll of inexpensive black paper My roll was 36″ x 3600″ and cost $74.
White chalk pencil
Scissors

PDFs of silhouette images:

Download PDF Download the Saw Image PDF
Right click to save the PDF to your desktop. Directions on downloading PDFs.
Download PDF Download the Headless Image PDF
Right click to save the PDF to your desktop. Directions on downloading PDFs.
Download PDF Download the Zombie Image PDF
Right click to save the PDF to your desktop. Directions on downloading PDFs.

Directions

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Start: For anyone unable or unwilling to sketch out images on their own, I’ve included 3 PDFs in the materials list (an image of a saw, a headless woman, and a zombie, pictured above) that you can print out. Once printed, take these images to a copy center and have them enlarged by the percentages listed below in order to create a full-sized template. Most copy centers can “tile” an oversized image, which is to say, they will print it out on multiple sheets of paper that you can then assemble, jigsaw-like, with tape and use as a template.
To calculate enlargement percentages for your own images, take the size of the silhouette you want and divide it by the size of the silhouette you have (for example, the 9″ silhouette of the headless woman below can be enlarged to 60″ by copying it at 666% – 60 divided by 9 equals 6.66 or 666%).
The silhouettes I created were drawn freehand and then cut out with scissors. Precision and exactness is NOT required, since the silhouettes are meant to appear as shadows and, as such, are expected to be a little abstract and distorted. Once cut, I simply adhered them to each window using transparent tape.
The goal is to create a shadow that suggests to passers-by outside that something not at all nice is happening just on the other side of the wall.
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In my project I hung an axe and a chainsaw in the windows of the front door as a nasty way to welcome trick-or-treaters.
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The three windows of the living room revealed a witch and her broom over a boiling caldron.
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In the dining room, a knife-wielding maniac and his intended victim are caught in a moment of suspended horror.
I tried to draw on many of the familiar visual tropes from horror films. It was obvious that children would be likely to see these images so I tried to be mindful of that. Admittedly, a few of the images are strong, but the cartoonish quality of them and the fact that they were paired with less threatening images helped convey to viewers that the whole project was done in the spirit of good (and creepy) fun. Be sure to modify the images you choose with your audience in mind.
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The kitchen is filled with carnage of a somewhat culinary sort, with three black cats standing guard over the viands.
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The back door is no more welcoming than the front door.
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The grim reaper and his attendant zombies survey the neighborhood below from their second-floor vantage in the cupola of the master bedroom.
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A second-floor room reveals the ghost of an unfortunate guest who never left.
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Even the basement windows reveal a few brazen rats in search of Halloween candy.

This is just a sampling of the more than 38 windows and five doors that I cut sinister shapes for. The final project made for an eye-catching sight in an otherwise dark and sleepy little hamlet. With a few inexpensive supplies and a dark imagination, you can turn your own house into the creepiest manse in town.

About the Author
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Jeffery Rudell is a paper engineer known both for his extraordinary, one-of-a-kind paper creations and his easy-to-make online craft tutorials. His work has been featured at Tiffany & Company, the New York Botanical Garden, and in the pages of Elle Decor, Brides, and Good Housekeeping magazines. He is also a writer and a regular contributor to the National Storytelling Tour (2007, 2010, and 2011). He lives in New York City.

92 thoughts on “How To: Haunted House Silhouettes

  1. Did you use orange blinds or lights behind the cutouts? I was think I can possibly put orange tissue paper behind the cutouts to achieve that effect.

  2. Kerry: The blinds were standard WHITE contractor blinds. The warm, orange-yellow tint you see comes from the incandescent light bulbs the homeowner used in each of the rooms. The brighter the rooms, the more yellow the light appeared from the outside. The darker the rooms, the more orange the light appeared from the outside. I hope this helps. Good luck with your own Spooky Halloween Silhouettes. J.

  3. What an extraordinary house decoration for Halloween. You gave me a great idea for a project at school,thank you!You know how kids like zombies and witches!AriadnefromGreece!

  4. I occasionally stage haunted houses for schools or charity and will certainly use these silhouettes in the future! I have an 1860’s stone farmhouse in MI that would look incredible with these images in the windows.
    Sometimes it was challenging to brainstorm projects when my children were in school knowing there was little or no budget. But as I signed up to do more projects, thankfully I learned how to resource and came up with some fun, easy and inexpensive ideas.
    What talent you have Jeff! I hope I see more of your work featured. Thank you for your creativeness!

  5. The dining room, a knife-wielding maniac and his intended victim………..the knife is upside down………..lol

  6. jeff…do you think that next year you might make more of the designs avaliable next year?!?!?! i would LOVE the meat locker silhouettes!

  7. jeff…do you think that next year you might make more of the designs available next year?!?!?! i would LOVE the meat locker silhouettes!

  8. jeff…do you think that next year you might make more of the designs available next year?!?!?! i would LOVE the meat locker silhouettes!

  9. very interesting article! I will follow your themes.
    Can I subscribe to your posts on Twitter or on your Facebook profile?

  10. AMAZING work! I cannot draw to save my life – so the templates you posted were amazing! Thank you! I was able to print out, larger, and tiled – so I’ll give them a whirl. Do you have any other pdf’s that you’d like to share with us? I’d gladly pay for a email file of ’em (being I can print them out larger vs a trip to the copy shop). The witch, the grim reaper — just awesome!

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  25. I have always been fascinated by silhouettes in all their forms. Our eyes see details that are not there in the black and white image. The Halloween House looks great!
    My condo does not have many big windows, but some of these will be up in slightly smaller than life-size. Thank you for your imaginative work.

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