By Michelle Cannon Epting

‘Tis the season for costumes, candy, carving pumpkins, and cringing in delighted terror at scary movies and haunted houses.  Halloween has arrived, and children anticipate post trick-or-treating surges of sugar, while adults look forward to attending local theme park events and creepy costume soirees.  If you are the brave soul daring to create a house of horror for your friends this Halloween, then you may be looking for a few ideas in making your party a night no one will forget.

In order to create the right atmosphere, consider your decorations from the moment guests arrive.  A ghost-lit walkway is one way to do this.  Collect empty milk jugs, wash and dry them, and design faces for them with black magic marker or construction paper on the side opposite the handle.   Cut a small hole in the bottom of each jug, and place an artificial candle in each one.  Line the jugs up along the walkway to your house, and light them up.  Your guests will be guided to your door by the illuminated ghost faces.

A festive decoration for your door is a candy corn wreath.  Take a foam wreath, and cover it with black tissue paper.  Lay some candy corn pieces around the wreath to approximate the spacing and look you desire for your wreath.  Then simply use a hot glue gun to attach the candy corn completely around the wreath.

Lighting inside your spooky manor is central to continuing your atmosphere.  Using candlelight as much as possible will lend an eerie tone to your party.  In places where more lighting is needed, replace traditional light bulbs with dark red or orange ones.

There are a few other simple, yet effective, means of creating a spooky aura for your gathering.  Decorate with bare branches in vases, dead leaves on tables, and strategically placed cheesecloth.  Cover furniture with sheets (with or without fake blood) to simulate an abandoned house feel (and to protect your furniture.) Construct mad scientist specimens by filling clean old jars (all sizes and types) with food coloring tinted water and objects (a doll’s head, plastic insects/rats/eyeballs.) A witch’s cauldron can be made out of a tub with warm water, dry ice, and some glow sticks.  To add a little humor, place a motion activated unnerving character in the now-darkened bathroom, as your guests will be more susceptible to a fright when they are the most vulnerable.  If you’re feeling particularly crafty, use cardboard and some spray-paint to create headstones from your guest list.  Place a humorous quote or cause of death for each guest and build your graveyard.

Finally, use technology to your advantage.  Play scary movies on the TV with or without the volume.  The images playing silently in the background actually seem scarier to most guests and are less distracting.  As with any party, music is key.  There are Halloween party soundtracks available or you can create your own.  The list in the sidebar includes some of the most well-known and popular choices.

  • Thriller (Michael Jackson)
  • Monster Mash (Bobby “Boris” Picket and the Crypt-Kickers)
  • Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr.)
  • Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon)
  • A Nightmare on My Street (DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince)
  • Highway to Hell (AC/DC)
  • Don’t Fear the Reaper (Blue Oyster Cult)
  • Somebody’s Watching Me (Rockwell)
  • Runnin’ With the Devil (Van Halen)
  • Witchy Woman (The Eagles)
  • Superstition (Stevie Wonder)
  • Love Potion #9 (The Clovers/The Searchers)
  • Werewolf (Frantics)
  • Time Warp (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
  • Jump in the Line/Shake Senora (Harry Belafonte)
  • I Put a Spell on You (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins)
  • Little Drop of Poison (Tom Waits)
  • This is Halloween (Marilyn Manson or The citizens of Halloween Town—Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas)
  • Headless Horseman (Bing Crosby—Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow),
  • Zombie Dance (The Cramps)
  • Zombie Jamboree/Back to Back (Harry Belafonte)
  • Grim Grinning Ghosts (The Haunted Mansion)
  • The Devil Went Down to Georgia (The Charlie Daniels Band)
  • Purple People Eater (Sheb Wooley)
  • Witch Doctor (David Seville)
  • Feed My Frankenstein (Alice Cooper)
  • Abracadabra (Steve Miller Band)
  • Bad Moon Rising (CCR)
  • Theme songs from various scary/halloween movies

If you want fun activities, consider these:

  • Plan a mini pumpkin-decorating contest with paint
  • Host a costume contest with prizes for the scariest, funniest, sexiest, most original, and best overall
  • Hold a dance competition (for example, the best “Thriller” dancer)
  • Of course, you can research Halloween food and drink recipes online or with your friends.  This is also one area in which your ingenuity may shine.  Alternatively, you may host your party as a potluck, and see what delicious and disturbing concoctions your guests produce.

Hopefully, these terror-ific tidbits will help you host the most haunting party that your guests will attend this Halloween and will yield menacing memories for many more.