Many, many years ago we started a tradition that we call “The Raising of the Scarecrow“, and have repeated it every October 13th. since then. While it may sound elaborate, it really only takes about thirty minutes to setup and maybe ten minutes for the actual “ritual”.
The Raising of the Scarecrow – The Preparation
Originally, we made a special scarecrow just for this event by assembling a distressed Bucky Skeleton body, a artificial Jack O’ Lantern for the head and a purposely distressed Grim Reaper robe for it’s clothing. The mast pole was made from round stake fence poles. The Pose-N-Stay is a good alternative to the expensive Bucky skeleton. Later, this scarecrow was replaced with another more traditional looking one, that had a very scary facemask held up by a styrofoam wig head.
To put together a non-skeleton scarecrow, you’ll need an old pair of pants, an old well worn shirt, old work boots, an old trench coat or other long coat and a pair of old work gloves.
We bought a couple big bags of Fiber Fill at Wal-mart, the kind that you use for stuffing homemade pillows or comforters. WE stuffed the pants and the shirt, laid it down both pieces and tucked the shirt into the pants and then sewed the shirt and pants together using wide stitches by hand just to keep them together. We placed the wig head, which is available at most beauty supply stores, into the neck of the shirt and stitched it tightly in so it wouldn’t fall out. We made sure that we added more stuffing to any area that needed it and tied a rope belt around the pants, through the belt loops. Next we stuffed a pair of old cloth work gloves and sewed them to the ends of the sleeves. The boots were a bit harder to sew on, they were an old pair of leather work boots but using a carpet or leather needle, we were able to stitch them on after filling them with as much newspaper as we could get in them. We topped him off with a very creepy scarecrow mask that we had and placed an old Fedora style hat to his head and sewed that on as well. The mask had long, stringy straw hair so it was easy to sew on. It does take two people to get him situated on his stand because he is close to six feet tall.
The same can be done using a skeleton as the base under clothing. You may still want to sew each piece together as you get him dressed but distress the clothes to the point that you can see bones showing here and there.
We send out “Raising the Halloween Scarecrow” invitations to our chosen friends and family members the week before. We make and print the invitations ourselves. You can do this yourself using a card making program or using a program like Microsoft Publisher. Make them creepy looking and print them out to send either using regular card stock or a lighter weight stock that can be folded and put in a regular letter sized envelope.
When everyone arrives on the chosen night we get started. First, we dig a hole in the ground in the front yard with a post hole shovel where we want to display the scarecrow. Since we leave this it up for the rest of the month and want it to be really secure in the ground, we dig the post hole to a depth of two feet. The mast is temporarily paced inside the hole, but not filled in yet.
Then four Tiki torches are arraigned at a safe distance around the pole, about eight feet from the main scarecrow post hole. Many years ago we found some really cool Tiki torches that have a Jack O’ Lantern torch canister, instead of the typical can. They are really unique and offer a festive way to light up the night. Once they are planted firmly in the ground, we fill them up with enough Citronella oil to last a couple of hours.
In the garage, we have laid our Halloween scarecrow on a bed of straw inside a wooden coffin. Lastly, a length of plastic chain is wrapped around the coffin as though the scarecrow has been locked inside. With proper music playing, we unwrap the chains and open the coffin to find our scarecrow waiting for appointed duties.
We burned a special music CD just for this occasion. Its starts with a two minute long version of the “Funeral March” from the Paper Magic Group – Scary Sounds CD (track #74). There is also a midi version of the “Funeral March” at the Halloween Online music page. This is the perfect amount of time for us to slowly carry the coffin to the ritual site and then tie the scarecrow to the mast. The next track is the very gothic “Visitors in the Night” (track #7) on the CD “Transylvania” by Nox Arcana. At just under three minutes in length, its perfect background music while the ritual poem is being read.
Earlier in the day, each of us carve a pumpkin in preparation for the ritual. You could go with just a simple Jack-O-Lantern face or do an elaborate template carving. You’ll need one for each person attending the raising that night.
The Raising of the Scarecrow – Ceremony
At dusk, four of us act as pallbearers, each dressed in a Grim Reaper robe. We start a portable CD player with our special CD in it and slowly carry the coffin from the garage to the front yard where the Halloween Scarecrow will be raised.
Two others lift the mast out of the hole and hold it parallel to the ground, while the pallbearers lift the scarecrow out of the coffin and secure it to the mast with twine. The shape of the mast is cross like with a smaller cross piece for his feet. His arms are draped over the upper pole and tied there, his feet are placed one on each side of the pole so when it’s raised, he looks like he is standing there. We use a smaller cord that is the color of the boots to tie each foot to the pole, you can barely see them and it looks like he’s just hanging around up on the mast.
The mast is then raised up right and put back in the post hole. Dirt and small rocks are packed into the hole and around the base of the mast. The Jack O’ Lanterns are placed on the ground circling the base of the mast pole, each with a votive candle inside. We all hold hands forming a circle around the scarecrow and all recite the following poem that we made up:
With the fires all lit the bats fly above,
We’ve raised the Scarecrow for all to see!
Halloween is near, the night we all love,
With the fires lit, let evil spirits flee!
Protect us, oh Scarecrow, until Halloween night!
Such a frightening visage, you bring such fear.
We’ll honor you every year with fires alight,
You’ll soon be gone but be back again next year!
That ends the ritual. Now, it’s party time! We let the torches and Jack O’ Lanterns burn and we start a fire in our fire pit. We all gather around it and roast marshmallows, make S’Mores and drink hot apple cider. We tell stories of past Halloweens, ghost stories or just whatever pops up. This usually goes on for a couple hours until it’s just too chilly to sit out anymore, even with the fire going. We douse the fire pit out but we let the torches and Jack-O-Lanterns burn. We keep an eye on them until we are ready for bed and then someone goes out and puts all the candles and torches out until the next night.
The Raising of the Scarecrow – Rest of October
Every night until Halloween night, one of us goes out at dusk and lights the fires again, weather permitting, and then we put them out just before going to bed. Then we just sit back and enjoy the rest of the night that we love most, Halloween! It actually makes us feel a bit secure to have him up in our front yard where anyone driving down the road can see him. He’s a pretty scary looking guy hanging up there. Some times, after Halloween before we put him away, we set him on our big yard swing that was made for us by a friend. You can fit about four people on it normally so we just let him stretch out and drape himself over the swing. From a distance it actually looks like someone sitting there.