Halloween – How to make your party go with a scream
Summer is officially over, the colder weather has arrived and the first of the winter parties will be upon us this weekend. Halloween was until recently an uncelebrated festival of ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night, but it has gradually crept into onto our calendars and as the children now love to go trick or treating on October 31st it gives us grown ups a great excuse to have a party! So how do you go about decorating your house to make it spooky and plan your Halloween party? Well read on and I’ll tell you how.
The first really easy effect is to ghoulify some curtains. The idea is to make your curtains look like they are in a haunted house of the “Psycho” style. Go to a fabric store and buy the cheapest plain net curtains you can find. With a Stanley knife slash them vertically as though some crazed maniac is stabbing someone in a shower as in the famous scene in Psycho. Now with a garden plant sprayer spray the curtains lightly with cold tea to give them an aged appearance. In a joke shop, or possibly a supermarket, buy some fake blood and carefully splatter it on the net curtains – as though you were wielding an axe and the blood has flown off the blade. Once dry, these are ready to hang in the windows using drawing pins. If you want to go all out, you could even hang one as a shower curtain – though obviously remove the original first!
Lighting is crucial to help set the atmosphere and I would suggest you use as many tea lights, candles and lanterns as you can. These are absolutely essential for getting the right effect, but be careful where you place them as you don’t want to burn the house down! Remember the more candles the better – place them around the house, up stairs, in hallways, on window sills. Also it helps to dim the lights really low. If you don’t have dimmable lights, then buy low-wattage light bulbs and replace all the light bulbs and only turn on a few to give a dark gloomy effect – some specialist lighting suppliers also sell orange bulbs that will help to add to the effect.
It is compulsory that every Halloween house has to have a pumpkin or two. They are best placed in a place they can easily be seen, maybe on a window sill so it can been seen from the outside or in the hallway when guests arrive. To create your pumpkin lantern first buy a medium or large-sized pumpkin then cut off the top and scoop out all the seeds and flesh with a large spoon. To make a face on a pumpkin go onto the web and search for pumpkin designs, choose a design and print it off. Tape the design to your pumpkin and using a thick needle or skewer pierce the outline through the paper into the pumpkin. Once you have completed the full outline remove the paper and with a thin bladed sharp knife cut into the pumpkin around the “dots”. Remove the parts that you have cut out and place a tea light in the middle of the pumpkin. Light the tea light and replace the top.
As Halloween is the festival of witches and all things dead, no party would be complete without a few Gravestones and they are easy to make. Start by finding inspiration either online or visit a local graveyard, and either take a few photos or print some images to remind you of the gravestone shape – remembering to keep your chosen design simple. On some small squared paper trace the outline of the gravestone from the image onto the paper. Now on some large squared paper draw a rectangle 100cm x 50cm and transfer the shape of the gravestone from your small squared paper to the large squared paper, remembering that the lines on the small squares need to match on the big squares. For the gravestones themselves, you need some polystyrene sheets about 5cm thick, this can be found in most DIY stores in the insulation section. To create a good graveyard effect you will need 3 or 4 gravestones so make sure the polystyrene sheets are big enough. Also from the DIY shop buy some 1cm dowel rod that will be used to stake the gravestones in the ground. You’ll need a 100cm length per gravestone to provide two supports, don’t try to cheat and use one support per gravestone as the wind will blow them around! Lay your transferred pattern on the polystyrene sheet and transfer the outline by punching holes through the paper onto the sheet. With a sharp knife or small bladed saw, cut out the shape of the gravestone and smooth the edges using a medium to fine sandpaper.
The next part will take a couple of days so don’t leave it to the day of the party. Paint your gravestones in a mid grey coloured water based paint till almost dry, then lightly wipe them with a slightly damp cloth to create a worn texture. Using a thin brush and a darker paint, draw in the details of the tombstone, such as the Epitaph or ornate twirls in the corners per your image. Now let this dry completely. Now you have to age the tombstone by dabbing it with a dark green and rusty-red paint to create an aged look, smudge these with a cloth again remembering to go vertically when smudging as that is the way the rain falls. When dry lightly apply a final wash of watered down dark grey paint vertically again to help blend everything. Push two 50cm dowel rods into the ground to a depth of about half of the dowel, then push the tombstone onto these when it is dry.
For the finishing touch send your children to collect as many old dead leaves as possible, these we will use to put around the bottom of the gravestone, along with a single tea light in a lantern. Ikea do very good cheap lanterns for this purpose at about £2 each.
You can’t have a haunted house without a coffin and the illusion of this is easy to create and provides a great focal point for the main entertaining room. A coffin is basically a triangle shape, so to make a coffin lid buy a piece of chipboard (200cm x 100cm min) and cut out the shape of a coffin lid. Now place three 4 bottle water packs (2l size), preferably shrink wrapped, on the floor in a line then place the coffin lid on them. Then place a piece of black cloth over the top to fully cover the coffin, allowing around 30cm of spare cloth to trail on the floor. To dress the coffin place a couple of candles or tea lights on the top. For a really ghoulish touch buy some roses before the party and do not put them in water, just leave them to wilt and die – then on the day of your party arrange the dead roses on top of the coffin.
To add to the coffin and the ghoulish net curtains buy some shredded orange & shredded black paper tissue paper and sprinkle it around mantelpieces and tables. If you can’t get any shredded paper buy it in sheets and then pass it through your shredder. From a joke shop or supermarket buy some cobwebs and then stretch these over doorways or mirrors and pictures, adding joke spiders for reality. To further enhance the spooky feel hire a smoke machine from a theatrical prop rental store. If you put this in your main room, you can flood the floor with ghoulish smoke.
The secret with Halloween decoration is more is good, you won’t get me saying that too often! With a coffin, blood splattered old curtains, spider webs and a smoke machine you can be sure that the mood is set for the party. As it is October people will love it if you provide a hot meal at the party and if you lay a buffet table the great benefit is people can help themselves. I normally do a party for about 50 at Halloween where I do all the cooking, so take time to get organised and your guests will love the Halloween themed menu.
A real party treat and a guaranteed crowd pleaser is Spiced Chicken served in a Pumpkin. To cook this start by cutting the top off a large pumpkin and then remove all the seeds and the stringy interior but leave the firm orange flesh. Now sauté sliced onions, sliced chicken breasts and button mushrooms until browned then add sliced fresh ginger, a few cardamom pads and chopped fresh green chillies. Cook for a few minutes then add to a white sauce and put the mixture inside the pumpkin. Smear the pumpkin skin with sunflower oil and bake in a moderate over for an hour and a half. When cooked careful lift the pumpkin from the oven and transfer to the table with pumpkin the lid on. To serve, scoop out the flesh of the pumpkin with the chicken mixture.
Many other dishes can easily be changed to add a Halloween touch. Devils on Horseback are always a good snack to serve when guests arrive, simply wrap prunes in pieces of bacon and cook in a moderate oven for around 15 minutes. You can easily create Eyeballs by placing half a green olive on top of a mozzarella ball and using a sliver of black olive for the pupil. Alternatively you can serve quails eggs on a bed of salt to look like a plate of Eyeballs. To make Witches Teeth retain the seeds from your pumpkin and lightly roast them in the oven. Another trick is to add food colouring to your rice, green rice looks nasty but the rice will still taste nice – blue rice doesn’t look good so avoid this.
On the day of the party don’t forget to prepare a trick or treat tray for the children that come round. For added drama I always open the door wearing a dark cloak, a scream mask dripping blood and a 12 inch fake kitchen knife, it usually gives the children a fright and adds to their enjoyment of Halloween. However you enjoy October 31st the tips and ideas here will ensure your party goes with a scream!