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How to Throw a Halloween Party

Pirate Halloween Party

Flounder for a party no more. We've uncovered a trove of Halloween fun that'll hook yer little landlubbers on a ghostly galleon party they'll always treasure.

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

Aye, Thy Excitin' Invite: Halloween Invitations

Who says message-bearing bottles only turn up on the seashore? Sail these spooky invites straight into your guests' mailboxes.
These invitations are meant to look like they've sprung from the depths after decades at sea, so you'll want them to look aged.
Remove the labels from water bottles (1 per guest). Sponge the bottles with green and blue paint to look like algae. Paint the cap also, and tie raffia around the neck of the bottle. Glue a shell on the raffia.

If you can't find aged-looking paper at a craft or stationery store, make your own. Tear the edges of some medium or heavyweight white paper (one piece per guest). When the edges are roughed up to your liking, crumble each piece into a loose ball. Boil four cups of water, and pour into a heatproof bowl over eight tea bags.

When the tea has cooled, squeeze and remove the bags, and dip each crumbled ball of paper in the water until the paper is stained to your liking. 

Create these messages-in-a-bottle for pirate party invitations.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Create these messages-in-a-bottle
for pirate party invitations.

Swirl paper in water to catch any tea leaves that escaped the bags to add extra dark, texturizing stains to the paper. Gently uncrumple each ball.

Roll them up scroll-style, unroll them, then let them air-dry. This will keep the edges slightly curled so the paper is easier to roll later.

When the paper is dry, use a black or brown marker to write: "You're Invited! Brave the gales of Halloween, and set sail for a spooky shipwreck celebration at Jay's house. Don your best pirate costume, and enjoy grub and games galore inside the ghost ship. We set sail Saturday at 3 p.m.; Neptune willing, we'll return at 5 p.m.
X marks the spot: 1234 Maple Lane. RSVP at 555-1234 by Sunday."

When all the invitations are complete, roll each like a scroll and tuck into a bottle. Aye, aye, then it's time to pass them out to the swabbies.

Lost at Sea Scape: Halloween Decorations

Want to plunge guests to the depths of the sea? Go where only sunken ships and sailors dare to tread.

Decorate your party room to look like a pirate's ship.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Decorate your party room
to look like a pirate's ship.

The first step in submerging your party room to the depths of a watery grave: Plug in a black light. It'll cast an eerie underwater glow and highlight colorful but spooky cutouts of octopus, sea creatures, and ghost-shaped seaweed. Use clear fishing line to float a few cutouts or fish from the ceiling, and stick some cutouts behind poster board "portholes" hung low on the party room walls.

Because captain and crew go down with their ship, hang and lay plastic or cardboard skeletons around the room. Decorate a few skeletons with deflated inflatable life rings, pirate eye patches, and scarves. Drip fake pearls and costume jewelry from the skeletons' hands. Hang sea netting (found at party supply stores) on the walls, and hang starfish or a snagged pirate from it. A skull and crossbones flag will add more pirate-y charm.

Pirate bounty Halloween decoration.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Pirate bounty.

Buy inexpensive Mardi Gras and pearl beads and mix them with gold-wrapped chocolate coins. Scatter them across the serving table for pirate booty. A treasure chest is a great centerpiece. Find one at a Halloween or craft store, or create your own by papering a shoe box with brown construction paper; make the "hinge" with silver or black tape. Fill it with old costume jewelry and trinkets, and leave it open. Or, for giggles, "lock" it with a big buckle from an old belt but hide a spooky surprise inside, such as a skull. Curious kids will love the gag.
Lay seashells around the rooms. To complete the ambience, play a nature CD of the sea: lapping oceans waves or storm sounds work well, but haunting whale calls will hook captains craving the creepiest sounds.

When kids arrive at the door, blindfold each and invite them to step into the deep by walking the plank, which is a board set on the floor at the entry to the party. Will they take the plunge?

A Bounty of Fun and Games: Halloween Pirate Games and Stories

Captain Kidd's Folly

Use the treasure map to tell Captain Kidd's story when making a pirate-thtemed Halloween party.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Use the treasure map to tell
Captain Kidd's story.

Share the following story before handing each guest a secret map, which you can make using the recipe for tea-stained paper invitations. If you're creating identical maps for all the kids, photocopy the map before dipping the paper in the tea, and bury or hide a box filled with at least one treasure per child. If you're willing to draw a new map for each child, do it after the tea-dipped paper has dried, and bury or hide each child's treasure separately.

More than three centuries ago, Captain William Kidd, a famous Spanish privateer, was hired by the King of England to attack and pillage enemy ships. Captain Kidd attacked many a pirate ship, most from France, England's enemy at the time, and he earned a load of loot. But some say his heart was greedy, and word got back to England that he was pirating England's ships, too.

Angered by the pirate's betrayal, the King of England demanded Captain Kidd's head -- and with it, Kidd's ill-gotten stash. But the wily Captain was on the run. After he killed one of his own men, Kidd's crew mutinied. Soon he was alone and adrift in America. After burying his loot up and down the Atlantic coast, Kidd hid himself from the King and certain death in the shadows of Boston. He did a good job hiding his treasures. But Captain Kidd was found, arrested, shipped back to England. Though he protested his innocence, Kidd was hanged.

Nevertheless, Captain Kidd got the last laugh: The King found little of the pirate's loot, and three centuries later, treasure hunters around the world are still searching for it.

Captain Kidd, Hanged Man

This is a great game to play after telling the story of Captain Kidd. It's played like hangman--where kids take turns guessing the letters of a mystery word (the number of letters are marked by spaces on a chalkboard, dry erase board, or piece of paper).

The only difference? Instead of drawing a limb of the hanged man for each incorrect letter, a part of a disassembled cardboard skeleton (find a hinged one at a party store) is added until the skeleton is complete or a child solves the puzzle.

Swim with the tide of the party and use a mix of easy and difficult seafarin' words. Some good ones? Ghost ship, booty, peg leg, Captain Hook, ahoy, sunken treasure, gold coins, maps, drowned, sharks, scuba, mermaid, waterlogged.

Tales From the Deep

A Halloween party is the perfect time to creep out a crowd with ghoulish ghost stories. Lucky for you, there's a heap of haunted tales about ghost ships and shipwrecks. Look for books at your local library, then gather the group, dim the lights, and in your most gravelly, gruesome voice, read them a chapter or short story that'll set their imaginations to sail.

Rescue the Maiden

Since this game involves speed and needs a running start, it's best played outside in the yard, though it can be played indoors in a large living room or basement cleared of furniture and breakables.

Have one child stand across the floor or yard, at least ten feet from the rest of the group. He or she is the guard of the maiden (use a doll or stuffed animal for the maiden). Place an empty box behind the group. On "Go!," members of the group try to retrieve the maiden and run it back to the goal (the box) without being tagged by the guard. If a child is tagged by the guard before reaching the maiden, that child is out.

If a child is tagged by the guard while racing the maiden back to the box, he or she becomes the next guard. If a child rescues the maiden and makes it back to the box, he or she wins a prize.

Ghost out of Water

Place the blindfolded child in the safe zone.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Place the blindfolded child
in the safe zone.

Name a territory a safe zone, such as a section of carpet in the living room, a porch in the front yard, a chalked area in the basement, or someplace else it's suitable to play. Choose one child to be "It," and blindfold and place him or her in the middle of the safe zone. It counts to ten. All players have until ten to move around as quietly as possible and find a spot within the "water," the area surrounding the safe zone.

On ten, players freeze. It has 30 seconds (allow more for younger players) to feel around to find and tag someone, who then becomes It. Frozen players can bend and duck out of the way, but their feet can't leave the spot, unless they can tiptoe into the safe zone. However, if It hears them moving toward the safe zone, It yells "Ghost out of water!"

The player who was caught becomes It. If It doesn't tag or call anyone after 30 seconds, he or she is It for another round.

Use a sock as a pirate's goodie bag when throwing a pirate-themed Halloween party.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Use a sock as a pirate's goodie bag.

Pirate Boot-y: Halloween Goodie Bag

Decorate kid-size socks with jewels, beads, silver chenille stems, and seashells for a galleon of fun. Fill each with gold-wrapped chocolate coins, jewel ring candy, a skeleton straw, and a seashell necklace.

You could also include a "treasure" map. City or town maps or maps of area parks are usually free at your local chamber of commerce or visitor's center.

Pirates, while fun, are generally seen as bad guys. In the "Good, Bad, Ugly" Halloween Party, your guests can sort out the difference between good and evil. Learn how to create this Halloween Party in the next section.