You can find garden gnome lawn ornaments in gardens and front yards worldwide. These impish figurines usually have sweet, docile expressions on their little faces.
But some garden gnomes are much less friendly. Come fall, and Halloween season, you may stumble upon distinctly creepy garden gnomes in your neighbors’ front yards or gardens.
Decorating with scary garden gnomes is a lot of fun, and it’s easy to get started!
But where do you find scary gnome figurines, and how do you tie them in with the rest of your spooky season decor? Read on for answers to these questions and step-by-step instructions to follow.
Why Do People Use Scary Garden Gnomes?
Where did creepy garden gnomes come from, and why do people decorate with them?
Find everything you need to know about the origins of scary garden gnomes below.
Garden Gnomes Origin and Lore
What’s the significance of garden gnomes in general, and why do so many people keep them in their gardens?
Where Do Gnomes Come From?
Gnomes are mythical creatures who appear in the fables and fairytales of many different world cultures.
Earth-dwelling gnomes are usually depicted as small, benevolent but mischievous beings, typically portly in stature and often sporting long beards and pointed hats.
In Renaissance literature, gnomes were protectors and guardians. Their purpose was to defend land or crops, and one of their special skills was hiding buried treasures.
Who exactly were these gnomes protecting their land and treasure from? Humans, most often. Hence, gnomes tend to keep their distance and lurk in the shadows. In some myths, gnomes also rewarded humans who respected them and punished those who offended them.’ tendency to keep their distance and lurk in the shadows. In some myths, gnomes also rewarded humans who respected them and punished those who offended them.
But when did people start making little statues of gnomes and displaying them in their gardens, and why?
Garden Gnomes Throughout History
Garden gnomes have been around for hundreds of years.
Small ceramic figurines depicting gnome-like creatures began selling commercially in Germany around 1841. Soon after, their popularity spread throughout Europe. Much like today, gnomes sold in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were made of varying materials such as wood, porcelain, and terracotta.
The trend of decorating with garden gnomes declined worldwide after World War I, but the 1930s saw them rise back into fashion in the US after the release of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
Comical garden gnomes became popular in the 1970s, and garden gnome pranks trending in the 1990s brought the figurines into prominence once again.
What Makes Garden Gnomes Sinister
There have been creepy garden gnomes for as long as there have been garden gnomes of any kind. Read on to learn more about what makes garden gnomes inherently sinister.
Scary Garden Gnomes Have Always Been Here
Consider the mythical gnome. These magical beings have a penchant for stealth and a tendency to distrust humans. This dynamic is ripe for conflict and makes the gnome a believable antagonist.
You might think the gnomes’ diminutive stature would render them less dangerous. But these are intelligent, inhumanly powerful creatures whose size, when paired with nefarious intention, makes them all the more capable of a sneak attack.
Even before garden gnomes became popular in Germany, landowners in Renaissance Europe were known to place small sculptures and figurines of menacing creatures in their gardens. Some in Italy may have taken the form of hunchbacked “gobbi” or dwarves, similar to gnomes.
Scary garden gnomes have always been here! And their purpose is clear – to protect and defend against would-be trespassers.
The Uncanny Valley (Why Dolls are Scary)
Glancing over your shoulder at that garden gnome yet?
Something about its gleaming eyes and contented smile is a little unsettling, right?
That unsettling feeling may be related to a psychological phenomenon known as the uncanny valley. Many people naturally feel a (typically mild) feeling of being creeped out when face to face with something that the brain identifies as not quite human.
This eerie feeling can be elicited from encounters with all kinds of humanoid figures, such as dolls, animatronics, and other humanoid robots.
Ever turned a creepy doll around so it wouldn’t “look at you?” Obviously, you know it’s not alive, but something about its wet-looking eyes keeps you slightly unsettled anyway.
That’s because your limbic system is wired to remain curious about how much an almost-human figure looks like it could be sentient – and watching you.
How to Decorate with Scary Garden Gnomes
Ready to scare your friends and neighbors? Great!
Just follow these steps to creep the heck out of anyone who dares pass your garden and its tiny, scary guardians this spooky season.
Where to Buy Scary Garden Gnomes
The first thing you’ll need to do is acquire some scary garden gnomes.
You can find some creepy garden gnome lawn ornaments online for a quick way to jumpstart your creepy gnome collection. Here are a few of the best ones we could find.
Amazon: Grim Reaper Garden Gnome
DIY Creepy Garden Gnomes
Next, make your gnome collection more unique by creating your own scary garden gnomes.
Take any regular garden gnome and make it creepy by following these steps.
Step 1: Find a Gnome
Buy any garden gnome online or pick one up at an antique shop, garden or thrift store.
You might find simple gnomes made of terracotta, porcelain, or other materials. Or gnomes that are painted with detailed faces, clothing, and accessories. Either will work for turning into a scary garden gnome.
Concerned your gnome looks too happy or innocent? That could actually work in your favor. Few things are creepier than a sweet, smiling doll with blood dripping from its mouth, right?
Step 2: Add Blood
Take a pleasant-looking garden gnome and make it something you don’t want to turn your back on by bloodying up its mouth and hands.
Use red acrylic paint to create drips and stains on the gnome’s face, beard, hands, or clothing. Add just enough that you can see from a distance that this gnome has been up to something sinister.
Step 3: Gloss the Eyes and Mouth
Inanimate humanoid objects can be inherently creepy. This effect can be heightened by an unsettling contrast between obviously artificial skin and real-looking eyes.
Dollmakers commonly use a gloss varnish to give a doll’s eyes and lips a more “realistic” look. Apply a layer of gloss varnish to your gnome’s eyes and mouth, as well as any “bloody” areas to make them shine.
When and Where to Place Scary Garden Gnomes
How exactly do you decorate with scary garden gnomes? Keep reading for ideas about where to put your sinister garden gnomes and how to stage them in the creepiest way possible!
Scary Gnome’s First Appearance
Early in the Halloween season, stage a portion of your scary gnomes in your lawn or garden. Put them in places where they can “see” and menace passersby. Place these earth-dwelling creatures near bushes or trees, in positions where they appear to be peeking or creeping out from behind the foliage.
Move and Multiply Gnomes Overnight for Maximum Creep Factor
Here’s the most important part!
Mythic gnomes are most active overnight while humans sleep. Benevolent garden gnomes may tend to garden chores and bless your harvest. But creepy garden gnomes? Let’s imagine they’re up to more sinister activities in the dark of night.
Multiply the number of scary garden gnomes in your garden overnight to maximize their creep factor. They’re calling in the troops, and there’s strength in numbers.
You can also move your garden gnomes in slight increments nightly. This will give your neighbors the impression that the gnomes are inching out from their hiding places, getting bolder and more menacing every night!
Dark Garden Decor for Spooky Season
What other menacing creatures dwell in your dark garden? Surely, your scary garden gnomes aren’t the only sinister magical beings to be found in such a spooky place!
Frequently Asked Questions about Garden Gnomes
Still have some lingering questions about garden gnomes? Here are a few more facts about these ubiquitous, mysterious figurines.
What do garden gnomes in front yards mean?
Garden gnomes in front yards are symbols of protection and good luck for bountiful harvests. Their mythological counterparts were known for guarding and sometimes tending to farms and gardens overnight.
People who use garden gnomes in their outdoor decor may or may not have knowledge of the figurines’ symbolic meaning. Garden gnomes are also playful, colorful ornaments you can use to personalize your space and are simply fun to look at.
Where should garden gnomes be placed?
When deciding where to place your garden gnome, first consider this important question:
What is your gnome guarding?
Perhaps you have a vegetable or flower garden from which thieves are liable to steal your precious crops. Place garden gnomes where they can keep eyes on this treasure or in a place where they can block intruders from nearing it.
What is the fear of garden gnomes called?
Gnomophobia is a word used to describe an intense fear of garden gnomes. This appears to be an informal term, though, rather than a medically-recognized specific phobia that you’d find in the DSM-5.
Get Ready to Decorate with Scary Garden Gnomes
Now you know how to decorate with scary garden gnomes! Next, you must check out this list of the best scary garden gnomes you can buy online. Then, you’ll be all set to start your creepy garden gnome collection!
- About the Author
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Ashley Lystne is a writer for Minneopa Orchards, a fiction author, and creator of interactive novel choice games. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and an MFA in Creative Writing. Ashley tried out living in just about every major city in America before settling down in Washington state, where she currently resides.
A lifelong vegetarian passionate about growing her own food, Ashley also has a local side hustle cultivating and selling ornamental house plants. She loves contributing to Minneopa Orchards, where she can share her passion for all things plants and gardening.