Planning A Halloween Party

So the party”s at your house this year! Whether you”re expecting a gaggle of costumed kids after a round of Trick-or-Treating or a horde of thrill-seeking office mates, planning your Halloween party may be the most creative project you”ve ever undertaken.

First, enlist the help of one or two friends and brainstorm some ideas over a batch of witches” brew (a nice fall drink like hot apple cider comes to mind). Make a list of affordable Halloween decorations, classic Halloween music, a few games and some activities appropriate to the age group.

Of course, we have many suggestions to get you started.

Halloween Party Decorations

If you”re planning to go all out and transform your entire residence into a haunted house, you”ll have to recruit a work group and plan to spend some serious bucks. For those of us with modest means, a large party room can be spookified (yeah, I knowI made that up) for a modest sum.

Transforming a single room into a bat cave or ghouls” ballroom isn”t too difficult. You can use black and orange paper streamers to create a false ceiling. Use low lighting pointed towards the floor for a spooky ambience.

Affix some padding around a large round plastic garbage can that you line in clean plastic. Drape black crepe paper over the padding and shape into a witches” cauldron. You can use it to hold punch or float apples in it for a kids” bobbing contest.

Remove your wall art and replace it with ghoulish art: inexpensive masks festooned with ribbons can be fun to create. Hang plenty of fake cobwebs or have gobs of it dangling from the ceiling for an eerie effect.

Music for a Halloween Party

If your guests like dancing, you”ll have to kick off the party with the old classic, Monster Mash. Here are 13 more songs to get your Halloween play list started:

  1. “Feed My Frankenstein” Alice Cooper
  2. “Dead Man”s Party” Oingo Boingo
  3. “Thriller” Michael Jackson
  4. “Halloween” Dave Matthews Band
  5. “I Put a Spell on You” Marilyn Manson
  6. “Ghostbusters” Ray Parker, Jr.
  7. “Hell” Squirrel Nut Zippers
  8. “In the Midnight Hour” Wilson Pickett
  9. “Pretend We”re Dead” L7
  10. “Shout at the Devil” Motley Cre
  11. “Dead Souls” Nine Inch Nails
  12. “Men in Black” Will Smith
  13. “Evil” — Interpol

If you”re hard pressed to find a good compilation of Halloween songs or you don”t have time to load your iPod, you can select a scary horror movie with lots of sound effects and play the sound track in the background. Remember to go easy on the shrieks if you have small children over.

Alternately, a CD of scary sounds like creaking doors, moaning, screams, ghoulish laughs and other horrors is sure to entertain your guests.

Halloween Games and Activities

Bobbing for apples is the ultimate among Halloween activities. You can float apples in water and have a prize for the first participant who retrieves one using only his mouth or teeth. Be fair: use small apples. Also, be prepared for a wet mess by setting this activity up outside or, at least, placing a large tarp under the tub.

If you prefer to skip the waterworks, you can string a sturdy rope or cord across the room and suspend apples from that line. The apples swing on the cord and bobbers try to catch one in mid-air. (The trick is to give an apple a good shove so that when it swings back towards you, it”s impaled on your waiting teeth.)

You should alternate the high-decibel games with calming activities for the younger set. Pumpkins are classic Halloween symbols and nothing fascinates the little ones more than participating in a pumpkin carving contest.

Pair each child with a knife-wielding adult. Purchase a small pumpkin for each child and have the adults do the actual carving. Then, assign a tea light to each Jack-o”-Lantern and herd the group out to a dark area like your back yard for the judging. Award a prize for several categories: the scariest, the most creative, the ugliest, etc.

If there are not enough adults to supervise each carver, you can have children decorate pumpkins with paint pens.

Launch a scare spree with ghost stories around the fire. If you have a backyard fire pit or a fireplace, use it as the single light source. Your guests can roast marshmallows while they compete to tell the most spine-tingling tale. Have a starter ready to kick things off.

Halloween Themes: A Ghoulish Ball

Adults love to have a reason to dress up in Halloween costumes. Give your guests plenty of warning if you”re having a costume party. For an interesting twist on the Halloween masquerade, try one of these themes:

  • Rocky Horror Picture Show (think fishnets, black lipstick, Bic lighters and lots of toast)
  • Mother Goose (each guest comes as a nursery rhyme character)
  • Space Ghouls (Mr. Spock meets Princess Leia)
  • Uniform Universe (invite guests to wear the uniform of an un-chosen profession: nun, cop, Playboy Bunny, secret agent, ballerina, etc.)

Halloween Food and Refreshments

No Halloween party is complete without great treats. You”ll have lots of choices as the pumpkin harvest and the fall”s crop of apples provide lots of colorful and tasty options.

A buffet table spread with a plastic or paper Halloween tablecloth is great for serving finger foods and canaps. Serve chip dips in hollowed-out pumpkins. Use orange foods like cheese, Ritz crackers, carrot sticks and cheese puffs.

Cupcakes can be decorated with orange frosting and black or brown sprinkles. Cookies can be iced to look like pumpkins. Look for cookies cutters in the shapes of witches” hats, cats or ghosts. You can use the cookies cutters to shape finger sandwiches or cheese slices too.

A punch bowl can be used to serve apple cider or an orange brew made with orange soda. If you”d like an especially ghoulish touch, toss in some black boba (tapioca balls)a particularly great imitation of “eye of newt.” Peach or cantaloupe slush are creative orange-colored drinks with plenty of health benefits.

Since orange and black are the indisputable theme colors for Halloween, have plenty of licorice candies to create black garnishes on sweet treats. For savories, black olives will do the trick.

Now, get to work on your own costume.