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Denizens of the Dark

Conjure a subtle sense of foreboding with these haunting tableaux of eerily carved pumpkins.

Photography: Antoine Bootz

Source: Martha Stewart Living, October 2007


Carved pumpkins usually go solo -- the jaunty jack-o'-lantern perched on a stoop, greeting Halloween callers with a toothy smile. But presented in a cluster, these late-October luminaries really shine. This year, why not assemble dramatic vignettes to set the stage for a season of spine-chilling fun? Beckon treat-seekers with glowing orbs that radiate a spider theme on the steps of a dimly lit doorway. Or set a harvest table with pumpkins from which an ominous scarecrow and a black cat loom. These are just two of the scenes you can create using the techniques that follow. Before you visit the pumpkin patch or the farm stand, draw a sketch of your composition to determine how many pumpkins you'll need. Then, with an eye for sizes and shapes, choose ones with slightly flat faces, which will make it easier to transfer the designs. When carving time comes, invite friends over to partake of the craft of transforming pumpkins, large and small, into scenes full of watchful ravens, screeching cats, and fluttering moths. Your gang of pumpkins will bewitch the night so effectively, you'll want to enjoy them long into November.

Once the carving is complete, wrap string lights around the glass jar, then place jar inside pumpkin. We prefer this technique because you won't have to worry about the lights going out in your display.

You can also use fruits of various sizes in the same arrangement. (Keep in mind that smaller pumpkins are harder to work with.) We paired three basketball-style pumpkins with a small, smooth-skinned pie pumpkin.


  • Keyhole saw to cut the opening

  • Plaster scraper, fleshing tool, or sharp, sturdy spoon for scooping out the pulpy flesh and thinning the walls

  • Awl, for transferring the template patterns

  • Narrow-blade and wide-blade linoleum cutters for etching designs

  • Miniature saw for carving designs

  • String lights

  • Glass jar


  1. Cut a hole in base of pumpkin with keyhole saw. Scoop out seeds and flesh with plaster scraper, fleshing tool, or spoon; thin walls if desired.

  2. Choose template. Reduce or enlarge as needed, and tape to pumpkin.

  3. Using an awl, pierce holes along perimeter of template; remove to reveal pattern outline.

  4. Using narrow-blade linoleum cutter, remove skin along perimeter of your design. Then use wide-blade cutter to pare away skin within design. (The more skin you pare, the brighter the design will glow.)

  5. Carve out your design using miniature saw. For intricate patterns with tight corners, work in sections.

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