Friday, July 1, 2011

7 Halloween Party Ideas That Will Scare the Bejeebers Out of Your Guests

If you would like to give Halloween revelers the willies, you will have to plan for it. Some of the ideas in this article can be pulled off at the last minute, but most require at least a few days or weeks advanced planning.

You should also note that safety always comes first: A number of the ideas may be inappropriate for small children (bad dreams). If you know someone who is faint of heart, you may want to forgo the entire list - except for the costume party and soundtrack, which are mild in comparison to the others.

1 Live scarecrow. You've probably heard of this one. It only works if it's a fresh idea in your area. In short, a person dresses as a scarecrow to provide trick-or-treaters with a special treat.

First build a dummy scarecrow from whatever you have available, but keep in mind that the same clothing will have to fit the live-scarecrow person. Use a pumpkin jack-o'-lantern large enough to safely fit over the person's head (an old potato or paper sack with eye holes will also suffice; never use a plastic bag). Complete the outfit with an old hat, gloves, and so forth. If possible, hay or dry grass sticking out in various places in the scarecrow uniform will add to the effect.

A few weeks or days before Halloween, prop up the dummy scarecrow on a porch swing, bench or garden chair on your porch or other prominent location near your front door. The general idea is that your neighbors notice it in the days leading up to Halloween. Also surround the dummy scarecrow with glowing jack-o'-lanterns or other attention-getter Halloween decorations to ensure the scarecrow does not stand out too much.

On Halloween night, just before it gets dark, switch the scarecrow with a person dressed in the same clothing. The person should plan to perform a mime routine by sitting perfectly still until trick-or-treaters arrive. At this point, all it takes is for the "scarecrow" to silently stand up to startle the trick-or-treaters.

2 Ghost story. This one won't work well at a Halloween dance party, unless you can find a reason to pause the music. If you can create a somewhat somber environment, though, one of the best ways give people goose bumps is to go around a circle having everyone tell a ghost story.

To get started, do some Internet research - Google "scary ghost stories," for example - and print a bunch of one-pager ghost stories. Let everyone know before the party begins that later in the evening - around midnight - everyone will read their story to the party group. They can ad lib, localize or add twists the story. Some people may just read from their sheet of paper. Others may be more creative and take the story in a new direction.

If you apply the Haunted house and Window cleaner (below) to the formula - you could end up staging quite the creepy event.

3 Haunted house. This should follow along the same line as Ghost story above, but requires more time and effort. Begin as early as possible dressing up your house with broken shutters and windows, darkened rooms, sheets over furniture, cobwebs, and other props. Then dream up a story to tell your neighbors to go along with the gag: "I think my house is haunted." When people show up for your party, everyone knows what's coming - it's a "haunted house!" - but it can add to the effect of other scary tactics in this list. If you spend some time researching online, there are many high-tech ways to create sounds and other "paranormal" activity that when coupled with correct timing can scare a few guests.

4 Costume party. Fads and timeliness are the key to a successful costume party. Granted, social media themes will be in for the foreseeable future. But what about a current horror movie theme? Is there anything specific that could be culled from the latest Halloween movie? Any newscasters who could be portrayed as slightly off kilter (read: psycho) because of the slant they put on their news reports? Has anyone recently made the evening news with antics such as the guy who blew his top and quit his job (this particular event will be remembered well into the 2010s)? What about your favorite novel character? If everyone dresses as a scary clown from Stephen King's It, one of the clowns is bound to be a little spooky (there's just something wrong with a clown with claws or long finger nails).

5 Window cleaner. Similar to the effect that the scarecrow has on people, you can elicit fear - maybe a scream or two - from at least one partier if you stage a person staring in a window.

The person elected to stare in the window should not appear until right before another person inside the house or apartment has had their attention directed to the window. At a minimum, the person in the window should wear a hockey goalie face mask or paper bag with eye holes (no plastic bags, remember).

Use conversation and body language to steer an unsuspecting person toward the window while keeping them facing away from the window. Then use the same techniques to slowly turn the person toward the window until they see the lurker (the lurker has to be peaking through the window to know when to stand directly in front of the window).

If the majority of the party-goers are onboard with the prank, it can be performed numerous times with similar effect as new people arrive.

6 Alien! This one may require a bit of rehearsing. In short, recreate the startling children's birthday party scene from the movie "Signs" in which a green "alien" skulks past the alley. You will have to spend some time building up to the event by creating conversation about a "meteorite" landing nearby earlier in the day. Talk about everything related to the movie, but never specify that an "alien" may be in the vicinity.

Use the aforementioned body language and conversation to steer one or more persons toward a closet, front door, back room, or - weather permitting - an alley similar to the one in the movie. Where, of course, your "alien" (described below) is lurking. All the green goblin has to do is walk out of a room, hallway or just be seen sneaking around, and your chosen hopefully gullible guest will either "boo" you because it was a goofy gag - or may have their pants scared off (not literally).

The alien should be a relatively thin or muscular person dressed in a full-body, realistic, green alien suit - just like the one in the movie - scary finger nails (more like claws) and all. This trick won't work in the midst of a costume party, as there must be extreme contrast between normally dressed humans and the "alien." Google the phrase "signs disturbing clip" to re-watch the sneaky "alien" segment, if need be.

7 "Halloween" motion picture soundtrack. Play the "Halloween" movie soundtrack or music from other scary movies throughout the party. Low volume works better than high volume. If nothing else, just rent scary movies and play the audio. Or, heck, just watch scary movies on Halloween night, of which there are plenty.

Combinations of the various themes noted above may work together to frighten your guests. Halloween is all about "scary," just be careful with your tricks. Be safe, and don't go overboard if someone is truly frightened. In all actuality, most, if not all of these will bomb - except for the scarecrow. That one works every time if performed right. If nothing else you'll end up with a few Halloween laughs.

Sean Kinn writes seasonal articles for the 7 Easy Ways blog at

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