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Scary Message Lanterns

Lanterns made from plain brown-paper bags spell danger for arriving trick-or-treaters or Halloween dinner guests. To make a lantern, you'll need two bags of the same size, plus a votive or pillar candle in a glass, stencils, a utility knife, cardboard, and a glue stick.





  1. Step 1


    Stencil letters, words, or designs onto one bag. Experiment with different bag sizes and typefaces; inspiration for script styles can be found in the art section of your local bookstore or library. (You can find some spooky creatures here.) Use a photocopier with an enlarger to create stencils of any size for your lantern. Slide a piece of cardboard inside bag for a cutting surface, and cut out letters or shapes with the utility knife. Do not discard center cutouts from letters with closed shapes, such as A, D, and O.

  2. Step 2


    Fold the top edge of the second bag over twice. Trim top of stenciled bag so it is slightly shorter than the bag with the folded edge. Run glue stick around edges of letters inside stenciled bag. Place bag with folded edge inside stenciled bag, tucking stenciled bag's top edge under inner bag's folded top edge. Press bags together at stenciled area; hold until glue sets.

  3. Step 3

    Gather center cutouts saved from letters with closed shapes. For each one, glue the cutout onto inner bag exactly behind the corresponding letter on outer bag, creating the illusion of a printed letter. With lights shining inside bags, an O, for instance, should look a ring instead of a big round hole. Now set up your display and light candles. Hold candle in its glass, halfway down in bag. Light wick with a lighter, and lower it carefully into bag. You can also use battery-powered or flameless candles if you choose.

Martha Stewart Living, October 1995




Reviews (7)

  • DarkStream 28 Aug, 2008

    Combine previous comment (No.5) with Martha's project. Stamp stencil or just write your message with fat marker pens, but still on brown paper bags. The candlelight is more orange coloured to go with the occassion!! And be sure to put those candles in jars, with or without sand, or you might set the bags alight! ignite the paper

  • PaperRockScissor 27 Aug, 2008

    If you are going to use just candles, by all means put play sand in the bottom. It will weigh down the bag and catch candle drips. But if you use candles in glass or jars, as per directions, you shouldn't need the sand. The glass will weigh the bag and drips will be retained.

  • jenniferhall1027 27 Aug, 2008

    battery operate tealights would work nicely instead of the candles.

  • roofus07 27 Aug, 2008

    or you can use your Christmas lights, like Martha suggests for the white pumpkins!

  • mryantaylor 27 Aug, 2008

    Probably more readable as well. (see other comment)

  • mryantaylor 27 Aug, 2008

    This is a lot more work than is required for this idea. If you take white paper bags (available at Walmart and other locations), you can just stencil or stamp your message onto the bag and forget cutting it out. The effect is reversed, but would save a lot of time and still is striking.

  • bornsamedayasmartha 15 May, 2008

    For safety.......I think sand should be put in the bottom of the bags...