Dolls! Like clowns, dolls are universally unsettling.
The first how-to use dolls has to include taking advantage of Doll Island as an example of how to make people freaked out to come up your path.
Hang them from strings, tie them to a tree, tack them to a wooden fence. But, be sure the dolls are naked, or in tattered clothing, dirty, and nasty. I'd suggest you just bury them in a hole and make it easier to age them - use secondhand store finds. Some stores, like Goodwill, even carry bags full of used dolls cheap.
You don't have to accept dolls as they are. You can age them. In this case, the doll was a tan skin color, but crackled medium and ivory paint and left to age over time, it managed to lose pieces of its surface.
Don't be afraid to leave porcelain dolls out in the garden all year long through snow and rain to age them properly. You can also speed it along with crackle medium or Elmer's glue, layers of paint and chipping away or sanding. You can even take an ochre paint and water and mix and brush on to cause aging or do the same with black paint and water and wipe away, leaving the dark color in the cracks.
Peeling back this doll's hair, it has a deranged and mangled look.
Remove doll eyes and put a battery candle or glow stick inside. Put them in groupings. They have more power in numbers.
I put some of these on sticks in a plant. This could be done in a garden or a windowbox.
This mannequin head was a happy new one. No, really!
I took this mannequin head (13.95) and painted it baby blue and pink in large random patches all over. I painted it with crackle medium. Then, ivory. Once it was cracked, I painted makeup on it. Then, when it was good and dry, I sanded some of the makeup off for aging. Then, I took ochre paint and water and dripped it all around on it to make rain damage. Lastly, I took black glaze and painted it on and wiped it off, leaving it in the cracks.
How about cutting a hole in the head for a candle?
You can take the heads, remove the eyes, cut a hole in the top and stick Xmas lights inside. Imagine that draped on a bush?
I have done doll window displays in the past with lightning flashing and audio of sing-song children's voices. Sometimes, the kids coming to the door forgot to ring the bell, they were so distracted by the scene.
Never underestimate the creepy power of ventriloquist dolls, marionettes, and mannequins!
There are also some great animatronic dolls, like this one from Spirit Halloween.
- other potential uses -
Act out Halloween movie with a doll house in the front window with Michael Myers, a doll with a knife stuck to the wall, a girl upstairs with a headstone on the bed....
Gore up the dolls so that it looks like they have torn the limbs from another doll, lots of blood, lots of creepiness.
Burn or mangle the dolls and put them in a grouping standing in the yard like a ragtag terror gang.
Dress up like a baby doll and answer the door, stiff, and creepy. Be sure there is a table with lots of dolls watching the kids as you hand out candy. Perhaps add to the feeling with some sing-song child music.
Have a Jack O'Lantern (or group of them) eating barbies.
How about serial killer barbie display?
For one Halloween party, I set up dolls in front of a shed. Then, that night, I projected a stop animation movie (Brothers Quay Street of Crocodiles) against it to add dimension and creepiness.
Removing doll heads and lining them up on a front porch railing with glow sticks inside is a great concept too.