Throw a Spook-tacular Adult Halloween Party

So what if you’re too old to Trick-or-Treat; Halloween isn’t just for kids any more! Here are some ideas for throwing a wonderful, memorable, “groan”-up Halloween party.

Admit it: you miss celebrating Halloween the way you used to when you were a kid. I know I do! For me, the whole month of October would revolve around the very last day – and it seemed that each day until then, I was doing something different to prepare: decorating, carving jack-o-lanterns, planning my costume, attending parties. Halloween is the one day of the year when you can be anyone or anything (and eat candy until your stomach aches).

But regardless of how much fun it is, there comes a time when it’s not socially acceptable to trick-or-treat anymore. You get forced into the world of adult Halloween: helping kids with costumes, chaperoning their parties, and handing out candy instead of collecting it (and to add insult to injury, now you have to pay for it!). Don’t worry, though. I’ll bet most of your friends secretly feel the same way – which is why an adults-only Halloween party will be a huge hit! So start browsing the stores for funky wigs and scary masks. It’s party time!

Odious Invitations

Your party doesn’t have to take place on Halloween night – the weekend is excellent. In fact, it may be better if you don’t have your party on Halloween, if you or any of your guests have children old enough to trick-or-treat; you may not have the turnout you’d hoped. If you do decide that Halloween night is the only acceptable time to throw the bash, make sure it starts late enough that your guests can still celebrate with their kids earlier in the evening.

You’ll need to send out invitations several weeks in advance, especially if you want your guests to wear costumes. You can always buy pre-made invites that match your napkins and plates from any party supply store, but it’s fun – and eye-catching – to be creative and make your own. Design your own on your computer with ready-to-use Halloween graphics. Cut out letters and paste them onto blank cards, ransom-note style. Get some black construction paper, cut out the shapes of witches’ hats or black cats, and write the party information with a white gel pen. Or buy a can of granite-look spray paint and paint tombstone-shaped cutouts, then write the info on them once they’re dry. If you’re only planning on having a few guests, buy each a tiny pumpkin and either write the information on them or carve them into jack-o-lanterns and put the details inside written on a piece of paper (these, of course, will require hand-delivery). On the simpler side, you can write everything on a piece of orange or black construction paper, tuck it into a regular envelope, and enclose a few pieces of Halloween confetti – available pretty much anywhere they sell Halloween-themed items.

If all of your guests have e-mail addresses, and are sure to check them regularly, you can skip the paper invitations altogether and go for the “e-invites.” There are several sites where you can get very inexpensive (or free!) online invitations and party announcements: Evites, Yahoo! Invites, and Sendomatic are among the most popular. This type of site almost always has helpful extra features, such as the option to include a map with directions to the party location and mechanisms that track RSVPs for you. And their invitations are cute and catchy, with animations and music.

Whatever type of invite you choose to send, make it easier on yourself by requesting that guests RSVP by a specific date. That way you’ll have an accurate headcount and won’t over- or underestimate your needed quantity of party supplies.

Devilish Decorations

Perhaps the most fun part of planning a party is choosing what decorations to use – and it’s especially great at Halloween when cool seasonal décor is abundant in all the stores. Ambiance can make or break a party, so it’s essential that you put a lot of thought into this area of planning.

  • Make it personal. If you know who will be attending your party exactly, personalized placeholders for the table add a nice touch. At the most natural end of the spectrum, you can cut Halloween shapes from heavy card stock and write your guests’ names on them. Or you can make each person a little candy dish by bending paper into a cone shape and filling each cone with candy corn or other sweet treats. For a truly outrageous and spooky way to personalize your party decorations, you can create your graveyard by making tombstones out of foam (you’ll find a link to a site with instructions at the end of this article). If you’re not having a large number of guests, write each person’s name on a grave. Is the thought of your friends’ names on tombstones a little too freaky for your taste? Write something funny or cute – one of the suggestions I saw was, “I. Emma Spook.”
  • Darken the mood with light. Replace your regular light bulbs with colored ones: red or green work best, or black lights for an eerie glow. Candles add a nice touch, but remember this: if your party is going get crowded, and several members of that crowd are going to be – ahem – a bit tipsy, you’ll want to either avoid flame altogether, or make sure your candles are in a spot where they can’t be accidentally knocked over. If your goal is to illuminate a specific prop – such as a centerpiece – in colored light, you can tape a colored cellophane gel (a thin piece of heat-resistant plastic, available at camera supply stores) to a lamp, and direct the light toward the desired object.
  • Create a frightening fog. What could add to that unique Halloween ambiance better than billows of creeping mist? Dry ice is a Halloween party must-have. It’s perfect for adding an eerie effect to your punch bowl: mix up your drink in a large bowl, then put it inside a bigger bowl (or cauldron!). Using tongs, gloves, or oven mitts, distribute chunks of dry ice into the bigger pot – never touch dry ice with bare hands. Pour hot water gently over the dry ice, and you’ve got your mist. The water has to be hot, or the effect won’t work. Add more dry ice and water as needed. Never put dry ice directly into the punch (it can be hazardous if ingested unless it’s marked food-grade.) You can also use the misty effect in other areas: try putting dry ice in a shallow, low-sided pan and hide it behind a centerpiece. Or put some behind the refreshment table and watch the mist curl eerily around the selection of foods. A word of caution: make sure you always use dry ice in a well-ventilated area, because it gives off carbon dioxide.
  • From Jennifer Anderson, managing editor at AllRecipes.com, comes this decorating tidbit: “Use non-toxic plastic glow sticks (available at any party supply store) to make your food look radioactive. Place some glow sticks in a clear glass bowl and pale orange, green or red gelatin squares on top. Drop some glow sticks in the punch bowl, too!”
  • Use a CD of scary sounds in the background to set the mood. These are relatively inexpensive – I picked mine up for about six dollars – but you could also use a blank tape and record your own.
  • To give your house a spooky, abandoned feel, cover your furniture with white sheets. Use thin, lightweight pieces of plywood or balsa wood to “board up” your windows; you can secure them to the wall with an adhesive that holds strong but won’t stick to your wall covering (3M Command is one brand). Buy a package of fake cobwebs and distribute them liberally throughout the room.
  • A few weeks before Halloween, decorate your home with a few bouquets of fresh flowers. Enjoy them, but don’t water them; by Halloween, they’ll be droopy, dry, and brown – the perfect accompaniment to your party décor!
  • If you’re feeling creative, and are good with your hands, visit the Monster List of Halloween Projects site (link included at the bottom of this article) for a compilation of fresh, creepy, and downright amazing do-it-yourself ideas from all over the Web. These range from relatively simple to intricate and complex; all have instructions, and most have pictures of the projects in progress.

Ghoulish Games

If you think party games are just for kids, think again! While it’s true that you don’t need to entertain adults as kids do continually, games can still play a big part in grownup get-togethers. They’re great for breaking the ice and getting the conversation – and the fun – flowing.

  • For this game, you’ll need two containers (plastic trick-or-treat pumpkins are good), a couple of canisters of modeling clay or Play-Doh, several large sheets of paper and a black marker, and depending on your number of guests, forty to eighty small slips of paper. On half the slips of paper, write the names of Halloween-related (or just plain scary) characters or stories: Frankenstein, Alfred Hitchcock, The Addams Family, the Headless Horseman, Hannibal Lecter, Psycho. On the remaining paper slips, write “Mold with clay,” “Hum the theme song,” “Act it out,” or “Draw” (you can even take it one step further and label some of the papers “Draw while blindfolded”). Put the character/story papers in one container, and the instruction papers in the other. Have your guests come forward one at a time and draw a slip of paper from both buckets, then do what on instruction on their papers: bring the Addams Family, for example. The other guests will have to guess what the person is doing. They can use sound effects if they’re acting something out, but no words. The results are hilarious – and you may discover talents that you didn’t know your friends had!
  • Make-a-mummy! Divide people into pairs or threes, and give each team several rolls of toilet paper. One person does the wrapping, making his or her teammate into a mummy. See which team can wrap the fastest. Second prize goes to the best-looking mummy!
  • Pass the pumpkin. Get several miniature pumpkins (apples will also work). Organize your guests into lines of six to eight people, and have the starting person tuck a pumpkin under their chin. Then each person passes the pumpkin to the next person in line with only their jaws – no hands allowed. The teams start at the same time, and the first team to pass the pumpkin down the front and back to the starting person again wins.
  • Remember the classic game of “telephone?” Well, this is it, but with a Halloween twist. Have your guests sit in a circle. One person begins by leaning over and quickly whispering a Halloween-related phrase to the person on their right. Then that person whispers it to the next person, who whispers it to the next, and so on and so on until the message reaches the last person in line (the person sitting to the left of the one who started the game). There’s no repeating allowed; if you’re not sure you heard correctly, improvise as best you can. When the message reaches the last person, he or she must say what they heard out loud. This game is funny because the message is rarely the same once it gets around the circle. Try making up a Halloween tongue twister; one example I found was, “The ghastly, greedy, green ghost got on the gray grave and groaned greatly.”
  • If not everyone at your party knows each other, play a getting-acquainted game. Put out two baskets: in one, have small pieces of paper with words like “Witch” or “Werewolf.” In the other basket, have complementary words or phrases such as “Broomstick” and “Howl.” Have half the guests pick from one basket, and the other half pick from the other basket. Then each person goes off to find the “mate” to their piece of paper.

Freaky Food

A Halloween party isn’t a Halloween party if the food doesn’t keep with the theme. There are so many exciting ways to make your munchies look gross or spooky! You may be tempted to make everything themed, but be sure to toss in a couple of “normal” foods in case a few of your guests are squeamish. Be sure to label all your foods (“Bat Wings,” “Witches’ Fingers”) so that everyone will know what they’re eating. Hint: almost anything can be made into a Halloween treat by adding food coloring!

  • Tempt your guests with a piled-high platter of “bat wings.” Take ordinary chicken wings and baste them with barbecue or spicy sauce that you’ve added a few drops of red, blue and green food coloring.
  • Add some significant creep factor with a plate of severed (yet yummy!) “Witches’ Fingers.” This recipe comes from the Searchable Online Archive of Recipes (it makes five dozen fingers):

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 egg

1 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla

2 2/3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup almonds, whole blanched

1 tube red decorator gel, optional

In a bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg, almond extract, and vanilla. Beat in flour, baking soda, and salt. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. Working with one-quarter of the dough at a time and keeping remainder refrigerated, roll a heaping teaspoonful of dough into finger shape for each cookie (making a bulge in the center for the knuckle). Press almond firmly into 1 end for nail. Using a paring knife, make slashes where the “knuckles” should be. Place on lightly greased baking sheets; bake in a 325° oven for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden. Let cool for 3 minutes. Lift up the almond, squeeze red decorator gel onto nail bed and press almond back in place, so gel oozes out from underneath. (This step is optional; they look great with or without this touch.) You can also make slashes in the finger and fill them with “blood.” Remove from baking sheets and let cool on racks. Repeat with remaining dough.

  • Use an Ouija board as a serving tray for veggies and dip. Name your dip something gross, such as “Guaca-moldy.”
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds make great Halloween munchies.
  • Offer traditional childhood Halloween fares, such as caramel apples, popcorn balls and a big bowl of miniature candy bars and other trick-or-treat-type goodies. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making caramel apples, just set out a platter of apple chunks – tossed with a bit of lemon juice so they won’t turn brown – and let guests dip them into a bowl of caramel with toothpicks.
  • Use Halloween cookie cutters to cut slices of bread into shapes (witches’ hats, ghosts, etc.). Make mini-sandwiches with the filling of your choice; chicken, tuna, or ham salad work great because they won’t hang over the sides of the bread.
  • Make genuinely devilish deviled eggs by coloring the filling with red food coloring.
  • In her book Halloween: Spells, Recipes, and Customs, author Silver RavenWolf tells of her mother’s famous “party pumpkins.” To make them, skewer chunks of ham (or lunch meat), cheese, and olives on toothpicks, then stick the ends into a pumpkin until you fill the entire surface of the pumpkin with the appetizers.

Dastardly Drinks

Most adults-only parties offer a selection of alcoholic beverages, and there are recipes in abundance for this type of drink – but you’ll need some libations for the teetotalers, too. Alcohol can be expensive, so if it’s not in your budget to supply for the whole party, be sure to specify on the invitations that guests should bring their own (and something to share). If you are buying alcohol yourself, consider going to a wholesale store such as Costco or Sam’s Club; liquor in those places is often much cheaper. Make sure that there are plenty of designated drivers on hand!

  • Garnish Bloody Marys with olive “eyeballs.”
  • Get creative with your ice! Freeze plastic bugs into ice cubes, or add red food coloring to them. For your punch bowl, pour a different-colored punch or juice into a latex glove and freeze; when it’s frozen, gently remove the glove and float the frozen “hand” in your bowl.
  • Jell-O shots are easy, favorite party fare. The darker colors, such as black cherry or grape, are perfect in keeping with the theme – and you can garnish each one with a gummy worm as it sets. Be sure you have lots of fridge space!
  • From DrinkOfTheWeek.com comes the perfect martini for your Halloween bash – the Jack o’Tini:

2 oz. Vodka – chilled

1/4 oz. Bols Pumpkin Smash Liqueur

1 candy corn

Place single candy corn at the bottom of a chilled cocktail glass. Combine vodka and liqueur in a shaker with ice, shake well, and strain into the glass.

An accessible version of traditional hot cider, this recipe can be made with or without alcohol (this is the “spiked” version, and serves twelve people):

2 quarts water

6 orange spice tea bags

1 cup light brown sugar

4 cups apple cider

3 cups light rum

16 cinnamon sticks

6 teaspoons butter

Boil the water and steep the tea bags for five to ten minutes. Remove the tea bags and stir in the apple cider, rum, brown sugar, and two cinnamon sticks. Heat until steaming. Fill six mugs and drop ½ teaspoon butter in each; garnish with cinnamon sticks.

There’s no reason why adults shouldn’t enjoy their Halloween just as much as the kids do; we may be older, but we still need reasons to look forward to the holiday. Throwing a memorable Halloween party takes a lot of effort, but it’ll be worth it when your friends keep telling you how great it was. Enlist help if it’s too much for you to handle by yourself. One note of caution: you’ll probably be expected to host another party next year, so be prepared. Happy haunting!

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