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How to Throw a Halloween Party

'It's Alive' Halloween Party

The touch of a cold corpse, the sound of a howling wind, the taste of your heart in your throat... the senses truly come alive at Halloween. Spine-tingling invites and a mad scientist show that'll slay 'em are sure to set your guests' neurotransmitters on super-shiver mode.

Try It!
Here are some Halloween recipes from our collection:

This Halloween theme party is fun for little Frankensteins and Brides of Frankenstein.

Audio Invites

Listen up, moms and dads: Audio invitations are an awesome way to involve your kids and alert your guests to the frightfully good time that awaits. Using a few regular household items, you and your children can relay the party date and time details amidst a cacophony of spooky sounds. All you need are some blank CDs or audiotapes and a little imagination.

You'll need one cd or tape per invited guest. Since you're only going to be recording a few minutes of sound on each, choose the cheapest tapes with the fewest recordable minutes.

Local libraries and music stores often have recordings of eerie music or sound effects available, but you easily can make your own. Crack fresh celery for breaking bones. Have a vaporizer or humidifier gurgling in the background to mimic the sound of a cauldron bubbling or experiments going awry in a mad scientist's lab. You can also find sound effects on the Internet.

A slow wail (created by running your finger along the rim of a wine glass) makes a haunting intro. You can follow with a squeaky door, heavy footsteps that get faster and faster and louder and louder -- then a howl, a bloodcurdling scream, some celery snapping, insane laughter, and, finally, a spooky whisper that asks: "Who's next? You are, if you dare to attend Nathan Alexander's Halloween party on October 26. The terror begins at noon, at 1234 Maple Lane. Survivors -- if there are any -- can escape at 3:00 p.m. Please wear play clothes and arrive hungry. Your last meal will be a good one."

Finish with a haunting melody, more howls and screams, or whatever your imagination desires.

Record the Halloween party invitation on a CD or audio tape, as shown here.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Record the invitation on a CD
or audio tape, as shown here.

Once you've recorded the invite on a tape, use it as the master to dub the remaining tapes. Remember to rewind each tape to the beginning. You can also record the invitation on CD through your computer. Many programs are available for creating audio and burning CDs.

Finally, create a label for your CD or write "Listen if you dare" on the recorded side of the tape's label and underneath, "RSVP 555-1234." You can package each CD or tape in a festive envelope, box, or even trick-or-treat bag so your child can distribute the tapes with fanfare.

Surgical Scene: Halloween Decorations

Domain of Pain

Cheerful orange streamers and balloons with happy Halloween messages are cute, but they don't exactly fire up the fear factor. Get your guests in a frightful frame of mind by sticking to decorations that inspire gaping mouths, nervous guffaws, and big giggles. How? Outfit the party room like a mad scientist's laboratory.

Start by laying a white sheet over a rectangular table. If the guests are older, stuff a sweatsuit with clothes or newspaper, and set that underneath the sheet with a round pillow or ball (for the head). Then mix a few drops of red food coloring in corn syrup, and drizzle it on the sheet for realistic blood drippings.

Outfit the party room like a mad scientist's laboratory when throwing a Halloween party.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Outfit the party room like a mad scientist's laboratory.

Next, create a scientist's life generator from a large cardboard box covered in aluminum foil or colored with markers and paint. You can add dials and buttons galore by gluing on different colored bottle caps, large buttons, or cardboard dials you've made.

Pick up a few yards of plastic tubing and aluminum foil accordion tubing (like the kind hooked to your clothes dryer) from the hardware store. You can run these tubes from holes made in the box to the body, to various "bubbling" jars filled with soapy water and food coloring (and capped tightly), and to a metal colander, which any brave "victim" can try on.

Want to get really creepy? Drop some cooked spaghetti, a peeled and partially squeezed grapefruit, or doll heads in jars filled with corn syrup. A "Doctor Frankenstein Is In" sign on the front door and a phony medical certificate from "Dismembered University" on the wall will have the kids in stitches.

Halloween Costumes: Hair-Raisin' Fun

This Halloween wig is perfect for your favorite mad scientist when creating a Halloween party.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
This wig is perfect for your
favorite mad scientist.

Setting the scene is fabulous, but why not get into character too? Lab coats and surgical masks are easy-to-find Halloween costume fare and make serving the body part provisions that follow much more fun for the kids. If the kids aren't wearing costumes of their own, invite them to join in on the madness by handing out mad scientist wigs.

To make these crazy coifs, stretch the waist of a pair of nylons over a basketball or soccer ball, knotting the legs near the crotch and cutting off the legs. Place a square chunk of cotton batting over the nylon cap so that a little hangs over the edges.

Baste the batting along the edges of the cap with a needle and thread. Be careful not to puncture the ball. When you've circled the edge, place one hand -- with fingers stretched out -- on the top of the batting to keep from ripping your stitches. With your other hand, pull and stretch the batting between your fingers so it sticks up here and there. Trim away the overhanging corners of batting. Once you've got the wig in a shape you like, remove it from the ball and sew a couple stitches at the crown to secure the top of the wig to the nylon. It's ready to wear.

Screaming Halloween Crafts

Have kids draw wild faces as a fun Halloween craft.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Have kids draw wild faces.

Kids can document the horrors of Halloween by blow-painting a wild scream face -- with their mouths. Provide each child with a sheet of heavy black paper or cardstock and a straw. Set different colors of finger paint -- white and light colors of purple, green, and blue look fantastic against the black paper -- in the center of a covered table.

Place plastic spoons in each paint color. If the paints are thick, add a bit of water, drop by drop. The paint must be a little runny so kids can "drip-draw" the face.

Have each child make a face by spooning little puddles of paint on their paper. Then, while the paint on their paper is still wet, they can use their straws to blow the paint in different directions to create interesting designs. It's a screaming good time.

Operation Entertainment: Halloween Games

It's Curtains for You

A state-of-the-art laboratory looks menacing under the operating room light, but to your gaggle of guests, it'll look positively mental.

Use your lab setup as the stage to entertain your guests with a gruesome shadow play. Just before show time, hang a white sheet between the stage and the audience. You can hang the sheet from the ceiling, or stretch a rope across the room and hang the sheet from it. Turn off all other lights in the room except for a bright lamp behind the stage.

You or your young host can act out a mad scientist sketch for guests using prerecorded and/or live effects. Some suggestions? Pretend to saw off the "patient's" pillow head by playing a saw sound, then lifting off a basketball that is taped to the pillow. Have a bowl of cooked spaghetti noodle brains waiting. The scientist can hold the ball in front of the bowl, thereby hiding it, and pretend to reach into the head and grab handfuls of brains. Then toss each handful -- with a loud splash -- into a bucket on the floor.

Break off carrot stick fingers; unwind wet rope intestines; pluck out and toss raw egg eyes, chalk teeth pieces, and even a peeled grapefruit heart. Operate with enough gusto and it's guaranteed: Your audience will provide the screaming and laugh track.

I Can Monster Run

Make monster shows with empty cans as a fun Halloween game.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Make monster shows with empty cans.

Why walk like an Egyptian when you can race like a monster? With the help and height of a pair of overturned cans beneath their feet, kids can do just that in this monster relay race.

Make monster shoes with 4 empty cans that are all the same size. The wider the can, the more stable the kids will be -- you don't want any turned or injured ankles. Large tomato sauce cans work well. You'll also need some twine, a hammer, and a nail. Before the party, use the hammer and nail to puncture 2 holes in the opposite sides of each can -- each hole should be a 1/4 inch from the lidded bottom and equidistant from the other hole. Loop a 4-foot length of twine through each can, and tie the ends of the twine together with a secure knot (place the knot inside the can).

For the race, divide the kids into 2 teams and hand 1 player from each team a pair of monster shoes. The first child on each team puts on the shoes and walks to a point at least 10 feet away, then turns around and walks back to the starting point. Then he or she hands the monster shoes to the next team member, who will do the same until all team members have had a turn. The first team to finish the race wins.

Buried Alive

Use a shoebox and a doll to create a coffin Halloween game.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Use a shoebox and a doll
to create a coffin game.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the fear of being buried alive led many people to have their coffins outfitted with bells, buzzers, and various other signaling instruments. Modern medicine has taken care of that concern -- doctors today can tell a corpse from a coma, but the lore makes for a great Halloween game.

You'll need a shoe box, string, a doll, and a small bell. Decorate the shoe box for the most gory fun. Cut a small, penny-size hole in the lid of the box, about in the middle of the box. Tie 6 inches of string to 1 arm of the doll. Place the doll inside the box, and pull the string out the hole in the lid. Tie the small bell to the other end of the string, and let it dangle against the side of the box.

Have kids take turns placing the box on their heads and walking through an obstacle course of cardboard gravestones. (You can tape these to your living room floor or tape wooden stakes to the back of each "stone" and stick them in the backyard.)

Use tape or string to mark off a square at the end of the course. This will be the empty grave into which the kids may use their hands to lower the box from their heads and place the coffin. Whoever can "bury" the coffin the fastest -- without ringing the bell -- wins.

Blood Running

Use cinnamon candies in this Halloween relay game.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Use cinnamon candies in this
 Halloween relay game.

Pretend cinnamon candies are drops of blood, and get your guests' blood boiling by holding a rousing, hot relay race.

For this game, you'll need at least 2 cups of red cinnamon candies, 2 bowls, 2 empty clear plastic or glass soda bottles, 2 tablespoons, and 2 funnels.

Place the bowls, each with 1 cup of candy in it, on 1 side of the room. On the other side, place the bottles and funnels. Divide the kids into 2 teams. Give each team a tablespoon. On "Go!" have the first member of each team run with a tablespoon from the bottle side, scoop up a spoonful of candy "blood," and run back to the bottle.

They then have to pour the blood through the funnel into the bottle, and then pass the spoon to the next team member. The first team to empty their bowl wins, provided their bottle's blood level is higher than that of the other team's. If it isn't, the team must scramble to pick up and deposit any candies into the bottle that have dropped on the floor during the race.

Goodies From the Great Beyond: Halloween Goodie Bags

Besides the souvenir wig, let guests take home a goodie box or pail.

Fill each with a small pocket mirror to identify the undead (the dead don't have a reflection), a small vial or baggie filled with cinnamon candy blood drops, vampire fangs, a vampire toy, and a pencil (a.k.a. wooden vampire stake).

Vampire fangs, mirrors, and Vampire pails are great Halloween goodie bags.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Vampire fangs, mirrors, and Vampire pails
are great Halloween goodie bags.

A less scary and more classic theme is the "Magic Brew" Halloween party. Learn how to throw this party full of black cats, witches, and bats in the next section.