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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Networx.com in October 2011. It has been updated and revised.