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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.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, October 1995


  • Brown-paper bags (two for each lantern)

  • Votive or pillar candles in a glass

  • Scrap cardboard


  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. 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. 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.

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