Lock your doors. On 31st October every year, the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. Rustle up your goblins and ghouls, your witches and zombies, and concoct a cauldron-stirring Halloween party that will be the envy of the living… or the dead.
SETTING THE SPOOKY SCENE
Want to scare the socks off your party guests? Conjure a haunted mansion with just several metres of cheap organza fabric – in black, white and pumpkin orange. Drape the fabric from wall to wall to create an eerie hall of web-like drapery. You can add fake cobwebbery (from party and haberdashery stores) in the corners of windows and draped over props.
To make your scene more effective, try to concentrate decorations in one area rather than the whole house. Place DO NOT ENTER! or WRONG WAY! GO BACK! or ENTER IF YOU DARE! signs on doors that are not to be opened.
For haunted ghosts, hang white balloons from the ceiling with fishing line. Before you attach to the ceiling, drape over a 1.5 metre square of white organza (snip a teensy hole in the centre to thread the fishing line through) and then attach eyes and a mouth cut from black card with double-sided tape.
DEADLY DECORATION GALLERY
A family of creepy photographs is easy to create – simply print off monstery pictures from the internet and bluetac over the glass of existing picture frames. Stretch cobwebs between frames and you have a ready-made ancestory creepfest.
Water tinted creepy green in clear vases is always fun. Add a plastic spider or two. For the food table, add bunches of cauliflower to bright green water in a clear jar. Mmmmm. Brains.
Remember those lanterns you made from paper in kindergarten? Make your own paper pumpkins using this same format. Make them large or small but remember to create them a little less rectangular than the lantern – more of a squat shape. Cut out mouths and triangular eyes from black card and attach with glue. Staple a handle to the top and hang from creepy branches
Bare brances in pots are a really effective way to add an eerie atmosphere to your party. Leave them bare or hang with pumpkin lanterns, cobwebs or other Halloween ornaments. You can even hang plastic skeletons or other creepies found at party stores, or the kids can make their own creations.
Cut bats, witches hats, pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns or other ghostly spooks from black (or white) card and blu tac to walls and windows in a concentrated pattern. You can also cut out wording and make ghastly signs – EERIE, SPOOKY, CREEPY, BEWARE! – out of paper and cardboard.
Fake ivy and fake autumn vegetables (or real!) like gourds, pumpkins, onions, garlic – can be used to decorate the food table. You can also place small plants under glass domes for that ‘experimental mad scientist lab’ look.
Carving pumpkins is enourmous fun – enlist the kids to cut open the top, scoop out the flesh and then carve a ghastly face on one side. You can stack pumpkins and even add a candle to the top pumpkin (make sure you don’t leave unsupervised unless you want your jack-o-lantern – and possibly your living room – roasted). A safer option is a battery operated light.
Of course, the classic Halloween game is bobbing for apples but for less mess, try hanging apples on the clothesline instead. Hang them at varying intervals and heights so kids of all sizes can vie for a blood-thirsty bite. No hands allowed. First vampire to penetrate the apple skin with their fangs, wins.
Feeling generous? How about a gift from mummy? Unravel a toilet roll then reravel carefully, placing a small treat (sticker or wrapped lolly) even two or three metres, depending on your guest list. The children stand in a circle and begin winding the paper around their own bodies (mummy-style) and when a treat drops out, they snaffle it then pass the roll to the next person. Test out different brands of toilet paper and be sure to buy a brand that’s super strong and doesn’t tear easily.
Another fabulously fun (be prepared for mess!) is the mummy wrap. Divide kids into pairs and appoint a wrapper and wrappee. On go, the kids have three minutes to wrap as much as their victim as possible, from head to toe. Best wrapped mummy wins. When you’re done, let the kids go wild unleashing their mummies – ripping, shredding and tossing the toilet paper. Worth every messy and hilarious minute.
GHASTLY GAME GALLERY
For skeleton relay, you’ll need to print off the bone parts of a skeleton, paste them onto card, cut them out and place a piece of blu tac on the back of each one. Depending on your number of kids, you will need several of these sets. Divide kids into teams and on go, teams race to assemble the skull, chest, hips, femurs, tibias, etc – in the correct skeletal position. They can do this on a window or wall. First team to get it right wins.
Too much groaning and moaning in your house? Set the whining grumbles free with zombie tag. Cordon off an area the kids can’t escape from. One child puts on a creepy mask (with eyeholes blacked out to prevent peeking) and a pair of monster gloves (or thick washing-up or gardening gloves). This zombie must walk around moaning intermittently with its arms outstretched. Every time it moans, the other kids must put their arms out and moan, too (if they don’t, they’re disqualified). Whomever is touched by the zombie becomes the zombie. Last child caught wins.
If you’re not holding a trick-or-treat during your party, a petrifying piñata is a great way to doll out the treats and they really are so easy to make. Just make a paste of cornflour. Add about 5 heaped teaspoons to a little cold water and add boiling water, stirring constantly until it thickens. Cool down a little with more cold water and stir until smooth. Papier maché strips of newspaper over a large balloon. Make about 4 or 5 layers, depending on the size and strength of your monster bashers.
Leave a day to dry then carefully cut a hole in the top and pull out the balloon. Add wrapped lollies and then make small holes a few centimetres from the opening to thread through thick string or ribbon for hanging. Decorate with strips of tissue paper that have been fringed with scissors along one side. Glue on the tissue paper strips letting the fringing overlap, then glue on eyeballs, fangs and thick black ribbon legs to make a spider. Use orange paper and black card cutouts to make a jack-o-lantern, or make your own version of a macabre monster.
FEEDING YOUR MONSTERS
A gruesome buffet is easy as pumpkin pie with these horribly delicious ideas. Go on – creep out the kids! Labelling your food adds a whole new element of sclock to your offerings – and you can get really creative here.
For eyeball eggs, hardboil eggs then cut in half. Scoop out the top of the egg to make an indentation small enough to fit a sliced (capsicum stuffed) olive.
Dreadful dip is so easy – place in a bowl and add a candy eye or a clean plastic one. Serve with cornchips and crudités. You can also serve ogre snot… guacamole.
For bewitching witch’s fingers, beat 225g of softened butter with 1 cup of icing sugar, 1 egg and 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence. Gradually mix in 2 and 2/3 cups of flour, ½ a teaspoon of baking powder and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls and then into sausages, indenting the sausage to make knuckle shapes. Press a skinless almond firmly onto one end for the fingernail then make little slashes over the knuckles with a knife to make wrinkles. If the dough softens too much, return it to the fridge to firm up. Bake in at 160°C for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden. Cool before lifting onto racks. These will spread and fatten out a little as they cook. You can add globules of red icing gel blood to nails, if desired.
Goblins all over Australia are feeling nervous about this next treat – crumbed goblin guts. Make it super easy and just buy crumbed frozen chicken strips and whack in the oven. Serve with vampire blood (tomato sauce to you). You could also serve baby frankfurters under the guise of gemlin intenstines or sausage rolls as minced cockroaches in pastry.
FEARSOME FEAST GALLERY
Meringue bones are not only delicious, they snap and crackle like the real thing…
Preheat oven to 100 degrees Celsius. Beat 3 large eggwhites with ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar and a large pinch of salt until fluffy. Gradually add 2/3 cup caster sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla essence. Beat until grains of sugar dissolve. Using a piping bag with a large plain tip, pipe straight bones onto baking paper and then add to little ‘bulbs’ at the ends to make a bone shape. Bake for 1 hour and then turn off the oven and allow to sit inside for 1 hour or until dry. Store in an airtight container.
Grim jelly can be made with red or green jelly in clear plastic cups. Add a plastic spider or other clean creepy to the top, or insert lolly snakes as the jelly sets.
Crackle monsters are as easy as pie – simply add googly eyeballs to chocolate crackles. Make the eyes from small marshmallows with a black pupil made from food colouring. Add the marshmallows after baking and be sure to make an indent in each crackle to insert the eyes. Secure with icing if required.
For something really popular, creepy cupcakes look so effective – just ice with dark chocolate, green or white icing and add various lollies to make horrid faces. Use tic tacs for mismatched teeth, dried kiwi fruit slices for zombie eyes, sugared fruit straps for tongues, licorice whips for all manner of detail. The possibilities are endless.
Bloodcurdling cookies can be iced with white icing and then piped over with melted dark chocolate. Pipe spiderwebs, bats, skulls – let your imagination run riot!
Troll teeth are super easy – but don’t wake the troll upon extraction! Just fill a large bowl with popcorn.
For drinks, phantom fizz (green fizzy drink with vanilla ice cream) will satisfy thirsty ghouls, or make moaning milk – vanilla milkshake served in clear plastic cups with ghostly faces drawn on the outside.
May these aplorable ideas get your morbid juices flowing. With a belly full of hair-raising treats, chilling food and freakish games, you too will be hooked on this gloriously goulish festival. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
For ideas on how to host a trick-or-treat in your neighbourhood, see Hocus Pocus – Hosting a Haunting Halloween.
Photographs Tania McCartney