Sure, pumpkins are the traditional choice when it comes to jack-o'lanterns. But, the iconic gourds are infamous for rotting easily and after so many years haven't we seen every design imaginable on them?

Well if you're tired of the same old boring Halloween decorations, here are 10 alternative options for crafting a spooky (or friendly) Jack-o'-lantern face for the windowsill or deck (and a couple of these items can go virtually anywhere).

Other vegetables

butternut squash Halloween You don't have to hollow out a gourd to make it look spooky. (Photo: Jenn Huls/Shutterstock)

The pumpkin may be the classic Halloween gourd (and we love the painted pumpkin ideas posted on Hometalk), but other gourds and vegetables make great substitutes (particularly for those who don’t like the taste of pumpkin). The mottled and wart-y turban squash naturally looks more like a ghoul or cartoon witch. Similarly, a butternut squash makes a great imitation “Scream” mask. Be warned that some gourds have tough skins and may be harder to carve, but many decorators are looking for a challenge.

Other fruit

watermelon Halloween This jack-o'-lantern is putting out some major Ghostbusters vibes. (Photo: Marina Keremkhanova/Shutterstock)

Watermelon baskets are popular at summer functions, as watermelon lends itself well to carving. And after all, with watermelons exploding in Chinese fields, the big melons are naturally frightening. Moreover, while carving, you can eat the melons for a simple, healthy snack. Pineapples also are popular fruit to transform into creepy jack-o'-lanterns. Plus, pineapples look a lot creepier with the spiky heads than a pumpkin does.

Papier mache

papier mache decoration If taken care of properly, these jack-o'-lanterns can last well past Halloween. (Photo: Kevin O'Mara/Flickr)

Younger kids who aren’t ready to use a carving knife will likely have some messy fun putting together a papier mache Jack-o'-lantern. Also, unlike perishable produce, a properly stored papier mache Jack-o'-lantern should last for years.


Traditional vellum is made from animal hide, but paper vellum is available at craft stores, and is perfect for making lanterns that glow with haunting Halloween images. The lanterns are light enough to hang but sturdy enough to rest on a table or porch. See Martha Stewart’s clip art and directions for Halloween vellum lanterns.

Paper sacks

Halloween paper sack Paper bag lanterns are also a great way to light up your driveway for trick-or-treaters. (Photo: stockcreations/Shutterstock)

Perhaps the simplest way to make a paper Jack-o'-lantern is to take a cue from the luminaries that decorate many Southwestern homes in place of Christmas lights. Just cut patterns into paper lunch sacks, pour in a cup of sand and add a votive candle. For added glowing effect, glue a piece of translucent tracing paper behind the cut pattern. This idea is from the blog Make and Takes.

Tin cans

tin can jack-o'-lantern A great way to reuse an aluminum can is to paint it for Halloween. (Photo: Ryan Pensotes/Shutterstock)

To be sure, nobody is going to mistake an old coffee can for a pumpkin, but a hammer and nail or awl can turn a tin can into an evil robot Jack-o'-lantern. Just punch a few holes in the metal, and add a coat of paint for extra color. Blogger team Wary Meyers shows you how to do this on Apartment Therapy.


jar Halloween decoration Glass jars are also another alternative if you don't have tin cans laying around the house. (Photo: plotplot/Shutterstock)

Glass jars and candleholders offer another great surface for spooky Halloween images. Paint the glass or cover with cleverly cut paper to make glass Jack-o'-lanterns. Learn how from blogger Ink Stained Roni.


Halloween balloon decor Balloons are perfect for trick-o-treating and for parties. (Photo: New Africa/Shutterstock)

To make some spooky floating Halloween heads, carefully draw designs onto balloons (or get pre-made Halloween themed balloons), blow them up and slip a glow stick inside. For an extra ghostly effect, drape the balloons in flowing cheesecloth, as the blogger at Simple Creative Insanity did.


Halloween spider lamp Lampshades also make a great party decoration. (Photo: Susan Marie Sullivan/Shutterstock)

In addition to making Halloween lanterns, you can keep the holiday really simple by adding ghoulish images to lampshades and cast haunting shadows.

The solar pumpkin

Finally, if you don’t have the time or creativity to make Halloween crafts, plenty of commercial pumpkin replacements are available. We found a solar-powered glass pumpkin light on Etsy that we like.

If pumpkins aren’t your thing or the pumpkin shortage has struck your patch, consider these alternatives. Happy haunting.

Editor's note: This article was originally written for in October 2011. It has been updated and revised.

10 pumpkin alternatives for Halloween
Try one of these other festive ideas instead of your traditional jack-o'-lantern this year.