Painted pumpkins, carved pumpkins, pumpkins left alone – yes, it’s time for those seasonal, beautiful orange globes to make their yearly appearance on porches, steps and fence posts. But if you’re looking to create some different pumpkin Halloween magic this year, consider creating a totem pole! There’s a creative couple in a neighboring town from where I live who treats passersby to a new version every year. It magically appears each October, much to the delight of every child-filled school bus traveling to the local elementary school.

Pumpkin totem pole

This Halloween, take your pumpkin decorating to new heights with a fun and wacky totem pole.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Pumpkin totem pole closeup

You can decorate your pumpkins with your favorite characters or make up your own.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco


Be sure to pick firm pumpkins for your totem pole project.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

A pumpkin totem pole is really quite simple, and you don’t need too much to create one. Here’s the list:

  • Wooden dowel or pole
  • Sturdy container or pot with a hole in the bottom
  • Bricks or rocks
  • Leaves or hay
  • Pumpkins (small, large or a size assortment)
  • Weatherproof paints (and any other decorations you like)
  • Brushes
  • Newspaper or drop cloth
Just gather everything you need, and then take the project step-by-step:
  1. Choose a location for your totem pole. (A sidewalk leading up to a front door makes a great spot to greet your trick-or-treaters.)
  2. Decide if the totem pole will be viewed from every side, so you know how much of each pumpkin you’ll need to decorate.
  3. Place the wooden dowel or pole on the ground, and line up your selected pumpkins (in order) so the pole can be cut just slightly shorter than the top of the last pumpkin. (You want the top of the pole to be just below the top of the last pumpkin so it’s inside the pumpkin and not seen.) Before you cut, remember that the pole has to be hammered into the ground for stability (about 10-12 inches deep).
  4. Set a 12- to 14-inch-diameter container on the ground where you want the totem pole to be. Then pass the pole through the container’s center hole, and use a hammer or mallet to firmly anchor the pole into the soil (again, 10-12 inches deep). Fill the container to the top with rocks or bricks (to provide added stability), then cover the top of the rocks with hay or leaves. You can scatter hay around the base of the container, too (to camouflage it), and decorate the area with smaller pumpkins for a finished look.
  5. Wash and clean your pumpkins of any soil or debris, and remove the dried stems so they’ll stack neatly atop each other. Carefully cut a hole into the bottom and top of each pumpkin that’s just slightly larger than the diameter of the pole. (If you’re working with children, it’s wise to precut the holes, then clean and store your knives before the kids get involved.)
  6. Pick a dry work area with a table. Outside is great (because you need to work with non-washable paints), but if it’s raining or too chilly, consider using your garage. If you have to work inside, just be sure to cover your table with newspaper or a disposable tablecloth or drop cloth for quick cleanup.
  7. Line up your paints and brushes, and then let the fun begin! (Consider drawing the image on your pumpkins first before painting on them.) Use stickers, indelible markers, glitter – whatever you’d like. You’re only limited by your imagination and by what won’t wash away!
  8. Let the pumpkins dry completely before handling them. (You don’t want to smudge any of your artwork.)
  9. Push each pumpkin onto the pole carefully, and try to keep them centered for best results.
  10. Add accessories after the last pumpkin’s been put into place. Again, use your imagination. Witch’s hats, wigs or potted ivies (for hair) are great toppers for any totem pole.

And that’s it! It’s an easy-to-do craft that’s fun for everyone. Your neighbors are sure to get a kick out of it, too. And hey, maybe the kids will even bring you treats because they’re awed by your tricked-out pumpkins!