13 Steps to Throwing a wicKED Halloween Party

Those who fail to plan, plan to fail!
Don't be this guy! Read the guide to throw a great party!

    I think we have all been to a Halloween party that was thrown together at the last minute. Only half the people dressed up with a  paper skeleton and or pumpkin taped to the wall for decorations. Pizza and beer was served for snacks while some Ozzy song was droning on in the background. Sometimes they work out.... more often than not, they flop. This guide is here to save you from the curse of the paper skeleton and pizzas!
   For those that are thinking of throwing their first party or are feeling overwhelmed at the prospect, this guide will take you step by step to a successful and fun event. For those seasoned "Power Party People", I hope you find fresh ideas, new twists, and maybe an easier way of throwing a seriously wicKED bash!
   Timing is everything so when should you even start planning? Some people plan the week before. Some start planning in June or earlier. Do what you feel is best for you, but I highly recommend you have started planning your party by October 1st. This way you can get invites out (before others!) and you have time to adjust and recover should problems occur (and they will). In the end.. make sure you have ample time to PLAN!


   Most people hate to plan because it seems like so much work... in reality, planning can cut your total input time by half.

wicKED tip! Do yourself a favor and get a large dry erase board to assist you in planning. I have used one for years to help me stay on track, weigh options, and remind me of things. Laugh if you will, but this will be a great tool for you! (I also use spreadsheets and calendar reminders. If I didn't I would lose it).

   Since you are reading this, you obviously have the desire to throw a Halloween party so you have already crossed the first hurdle. Now to the good stuff.

Step 1. Location, Location, Location....

    The most important part of a Halloween party is where to have it. the location can control :
  • What date the party is on.
  • What time it starts.
  • What time it ends.
  • What type of party (adult, children, mixed, to drink or not to drink).
  • What theme (if any).
  • Decoration and Ambiance.
  • Who can and cannot attend due to distance
  • How many people to invite (max capacity is very important)

   Ideally the party should be at your home, or the home of a very close relative or friend. This will take lots of stress away from decorating, prep work, storage etc. It is better to have weeks to decorate and prepare rather than 24-48 hours from a rental places (banquet hall etc).

   What if you don't have a house or your place is on the small side? Here are some options to think about :

Outdoors : (make sure it is legal, don't trespass) Bonfires make party hubs, just make sure you are safe and have shelter in case of rain. Some of the best Halloween parties I can recall from youth were at a friends private home in the woods. Creepy forest, campfire, river, small swampy area. We had a blast.

Local civic center or banquet hall : This is great for some but it does limit your prep time and enforces a hard start and stop for your party. Also you have a short clean up window and must be extra careful with the property. Not to mention hauling your decorations back and forth. If you have no other options, this can still be a wonderful place to party if you work at it.

wicKED tip! I always try to have my party at my residence. Less worry about prep and cleanup. No hauling of decorations and the house rules are yours. I set up a combination of indoor and outdoor areas for my guests. It can get claustrophobic after hours in any house. People need to stretch their legs, get a breath of fresh air, or smoke so outdoors it is. Fire pit, tiki torches, and the autumn night is a great mood enhancer. I always decorate my outdoor area for my guests as well.

   For the purposes of this guide, we will assume you are decorating a private property and have ample prep time.

Step 2. The basics (aka. the who, what, and whens):

   Now that you have the where, lets knock out the other basic questions of having a successful party:

Who : Who are you planning to invite? Get a list together now (on your dry erase board) and see how many you will invite and how many you THINK will show.
What : What type of party is it? Children, adult, mixed? Will there be a theme? Costume required? Do guests need to bring anything? Will there be food and drink? Games or other entertainment?
When : Where you have your party and who you invite can effect this greatly. What time will it start? Will there be a hard stop?  What day?
   Speaking from experience, you do not want to have a ghoulish get together during the week. Most people work weekdays and it would effect their energy levels and time they can commit. There are exceptions to this. I knew a bunch of nurses that all worked weekends so they had the party on a Wednesday  (because they were off wed thur and most of the people they worked with were on this schedule as well).
   As to start time, adult parties seem to gravitate to night times, children parties start earlier.
   Will there be a hard stop? Hard stops can be awkward at adult parties so do what you feel is best.
wicKED tip!  Halloween itself is a bad day for a party because often, your guests have kids that trick or treat and yard haunters haunt. As a rule of thumb in wicKED land, the wicKED weeKEnD party always falls on the Saturday before Halloween. This gives you Friday night for prep and Sunday for clean/recovery time. Also, invite your guests about an hour or two earlier than you plan for the party to be in full swing. People are notoriously late, especial when they have to dress up, so my start time is 7pm with a 9pm peak target. I do not enforce an hard stop. During the wicKED weeKEnD, the party stops when my guests do.

Step 3. To Theme or not to Theme (and lots of other questions):

   There seems to a be a modern trend for themed Halloween parties. I have been to my fair share of theme events and I am on the fence if one should theme or not. Let's weigh our options:

Easier to plan decor, food,ambiance, and attire.
Fun time from "oneupsmanship" as people try to out do others with their individual interpretation of the theme.
A number of games and contest can easily come from themes.

Limits individual creativity of both host and guest.
Takes out some of the surprise factor of host's decor and guests costumes.
Can deter some guests that do not like the theme (can't please everybody).
Guests may not have the know how or means to dress for the theme.

   With that being said here are some themes that I have experienced :

GHOST : Everybody dresses as a ghost. This can be from a sheet with holes to a full on latex application. The decor was "haunted" and yard was grave yard.
DEAD CELEBRITY : You guessed it, you have to come as a famous person who has passed on. I saw 5 Elvis's at that party (3 fat, 1 skinny, 1 ghost of Elvis) and the house was done up in lots of glam and glitter from the skulls to the pumpkins.
MOVIE MONSTERS : I actually liked this one. Jason , Freddy, and Mike were all in attendance. Also saw some Dracs and a few Franks. The banquet hall was done up in old movie posters and memorabilia as well as a healthy dose of jack-o-lanterns.
ZOMBIES! : Nuff said. Everybody comes as the walking dead. The yard and house were decorated as a graveyard with the kitchen looking like a mad scientist lab/morgue. Toxic waste symbols were everywhere as well as Zombie posters. This was lots of fun. There were no napkins or flat ware, just plates so everybody was eating with their hand. This prompted people to "eat like zombies". As I recall there were lots of red sauces and salsa as well as pasta and BBQ items... it was gruesomely great!
CLOWNS! : Just clowns... the good, the bad, the ugly.... and the evil. Circus theme prevailed throughout. Circus music  was drifting eerily through the LARGE outdoor tent it was housed in. Coulrophobics beware!
VAMPIRES : Real ones, not the shiny ones. The yard was a graveyard, lots of coffins and caskets. The house was old style Victorian Manor haunt. Lots of bats, candles, and spider/spider webs. Red wine, red sauce, red velvet cake, anything red or bloody was served.
OLD FASHIONED HALLOWEEN : Never experienced this one, but I saw it on TV. Old black bandit style masks, plastic face masks held on with a rubber string. Classic old decorations everywhere. Apple bobbing, charades, and cake walks were in full force. Candy corns, caramel apples, and punch were treats.
BLACKLIGHT PARTY : Everybody wears UV reactive costumes or makeup (almost like a modern day rave but for Halloween).
This was in a dark basement. Lots of UV reactive bottles, and pictures on the wall. Some UV reactive items as well.  This was before the time we knew about making glowing edibles and drinks. If only I could send my recipes back in time!
ANCIENT EGYPT : Mummies, Pharaohs, Cleopatras, Anubis, and archaeologist complete with pith helmets were costumes of choice. Excavations tents were erected in the front of the old three story house. Sarcophagi and hieroglyphs decoration everywhere. Even your mummy can come to this one.
ALPHABET : A week before the party, everybody draws a letter out of  a hat. You then come up with a costume that starts with that letter (ie. I draw B so I went as Big Bird). I did not like this theme much to be honest.
INITIALS : If my name was Bill Gilley, my initials would be B.G. I would then need to come up with a costume that has my initials in it's name. Bill Gilley would go as big gorilla. Angie Mullins could go as angry man. This is another lame party them in the book of all things wicKED.
MOVIE PARTY: Choose a specific movie and decorate and dress accordingly. Some ideas are Star Wars, Harry Potter, Twilight (vomit), and Friday the 13th just to name a few.
   Other ideas for theme parties include, witches, sexy, gender swap, profession swap, asylum, country (with hay rides and scarecrows), animals, angels/devils, 70's, gangster, and pirates just to name a few. For further information on themes, go to the Amazing Party Themes website. There is tons of great info an I am sure you will find something that will meet your needs. (Thanks to Pumpkinrot for posting the link!)

   This guide will assume you have chosen no theme and just a good old fashioned Halloween Party is on your roster.

wicKED tip: I personally do not throw themed parties. I very much enjoy leaving the artistic licensing of costumes to my guest. I decorate with an eclectic mix of Halloween. There is usually a graveyard in the front yard with Jack-o-lanterns and scarecrows leering through the shadows in back. A mad scientist lab takes over the kitchen table. Bathrooms  are the scenes of a bloody murder, and a nice mix of movie monster and zombies for good measure. I also want my guests to be surprised at my choice of costume, foods , and decor. The wicKED weeKEnD Party celebrates all things Halloween as the theme.

STEP 4. Whats on the menu? 

WHO'S HUNGRY?  :  People get hungry and thirsty. A good host provides. A great host provides wicKED Recipes tailored for Halloween. This would be a good time to decide if you are going to shoulder the entire cooking burden. Do you have a co host that is helping? Will you require your guests to bring items? How much time, effort and money will you be able/willing to put into the menu?
    At bare minimum, the host should provide a variety of drinks and a few standard snack.  At most, the host should see the menu from cradle to grave. As the host/hostess cups, plates, flatware and napkins are also your responsibility. The old adage of "If you want something done right..." comes to mind. A happy medium can be reached depending on your situation.

wicKED tip! I always make enough food and drinks for my guest so that if NOBODY else brings anything, we still have sufficient amounts of refreshments. I do, however, tell people they CAN bring anything they want. This is after I reveal to them what I plan on making, but it is not a requirment at all. This will allow another creative outlet for your guests. I have had people bring everything from a bag of dry ice for the cooler to a full on roasted pig! It's good clean fun to see what gross things your guests can come up with!

   Whatever you decide, the main thing is not to over extend your finances or time. With smart shopping and the right recipes, you can provide some really great food items for under $50 bucks. Some rules to followe are:
  • Find recipes that you can easily make.
  • Decide how many items and how much to provide.
  • Set a budget and STICK TO IT! (don't forget to budget in cups, plates etc)
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help.(just make sure if you ask for actual cooking assistance, you get it from a reliable person).
  • Ensure you have ample time to prepare the foods.

   I have had great luck with putting together Halloween pot lucks with my guests in the past. If you choose to go this route, it will require some further planning and logistics on your part. It does greatly lightens the load of cooking and cost to you, however you may run into issues of guest that don't show with a vital dish or "forget" so be prepared.

wicKED tip! Right before you make your food purchases for the party, clean out your fridge from head to toe (even though that green fuzzy thing in the back looks like a Halloween prop, dump it). This helps you in two ways, first it gives you a nice clean fridge to show off when your guests, inevitably, open up for a peek. Secondly, and most important, it makes sure you have room for any food and drinks you have to prep before hand AND it ensures you have sufficient storage space for any leftovers you may have. Don't neglect the freezer... having room for an extra bag of ice or sherbet is always a wicKED thing to have.

ANOTHER ROUND FOR HOUSE ON ME! : If you intend to serve alcohol at your party, be the responsible host/hostess and assume the role of bartender. This way you control the amount of happy juice going into your guest and help prevent party fouls, ghastly gagging, or other embarrassing moments (it also keeps your best friend from draining your top shelf vodka you got while visiting Russia).
   Be the best host/hostess by ensuring your beastly boozers have a designated driver, a place to crash at your place, a Hotel/Motel withing walking distance, or some other alternative mode of transportation (taxi, bus, a pre-arranged pickup). It's ok to get you and your guests to get their drink on, just do it responsibly.
   If you suck at bar tending, or you are unwilling to do so, find a level headed person willing to do it for you (or just have a dry party).

wicKED tip! Being the bartender lets you easily mingle with all your guests as the bar/food area tends to be a busy place at any party. Use big glasses and dispensers so you will have time to mingle elsewhere with your guest. Deciding on what mixed drinks you want ahead of time will allow you to pre-mix many of the ingredients and be ready to go in minutes when empty glasses appear!

Step 5. Now that's Entertainment!

   Every party waxes and wanes like the moon. During any lulls, do you plan to have entertainment? You don't have to plan any games or entertainment (I mean you are at a Halloween Party! what more could you want?) but I would suggest you at least have a small game or skit planned as an ice breaker. You can decide to schedule the entertainment and what time it starts (and put it on invites) or just let it roll and spring it when the mood seems right.
  What kind of entertainment can you provide to a Halloween party? I have complied a list of things that I have experienced that may work out well for you:

COSTUME CONTEST : This seems almost mandatory. You can have prizes, ribbons, trophies (all of these you can buy very cheaply at most Halloween outlets or mega retail store) or just have the honor of saying somebody won! Set up a central location and display voting rules.
 Provide a means to vote (pen and paper) and a suitable container for votes. You can make categories such as sexiest, scariest, most original, funniest, or just vote for the best costume  It's up to you, but it's a lot of fun for your guest.

GAMES : The best ice breakers involve everybody at the party. They are easy to come up with too. The best ones have a Halloween overtone. Some of the ones I have experimented with are:
  • Halloween Charades - easy to come up with a few index cards with Halloween things on them.
  • Halloween Pictionary - another easy game. Just use index cards with Halloween words on them and use your large dry erase board (the one you did all your planning on remember?) Split your guests into teams.
  • Horror movie 20 questions - easily adapted
  • Horror Movie Trivia - again easily adapted.
  • Truth or Dare - be careful, this one can get you in trouble ;)
  • Halloween Who am I - one at a time, each guest pulls an index card out of a hat. The card will have a suitable Halloween character on it (ie. Vampire, Black Cat, Jason). Without the player seeing it, the host then tapes it to that person's forehead so that the word is visible to the other guest. The player then has to ask, in turn, the other guests a question about what they are. The guests cannot say what the player is or hint at it, only answer direct questions (except what am I). Starting with 100 points, each question they ask subtracts 1 point. Each wrong guess also takes away a point until either the player hits 0 or they get it right and keep their remaining points.
  • Hide and seek - don't laugh as this was one of the best things I ever did at a Halloween party. It was in a big forested back yard.Very creepy and cool!
  • Murder Mystery - one of your guests ends up murdered! Have clues throughout the house that lead to the killer (takes some pre-planning on you and your accomplices parts).

   Other ideas for games could be Name that Halloween tune, What scary movie is this clip from, Pin the tail on the werewolf, bobbing for apples (or brains if you are having a zombie theme) or blindfolded Marco Pollo in the back yard (known as ghost in the graveyard when I was little).

LIVE BAND OR DJ : This would be great for large parties with lots of room. Try and find some Halloween songs for the band to play or have your DJ prepare Halloween music!
101 USES FOR A GHOST COSTUME : I actually did this back in my college days. You take a basic Walmart ghost costume ($15.98) and you entertain your guests by adding simple props to it Then make your guests guess what you have now evolved into (ie. paper sideburns for Ghost of Elvis, a pencil and paper for a ghost writer, a sailor hat and stomping motions for Staypuff Marshmellow Man, a bike tire for the Michelin Man, etc). This is huge fun, but the host (or other victim) has to be willing to be the center of attention for a bit and prepare the props ahead of time.
   MUMMY WRAPPING CONTEST : A wicKED favorite. Choose at least 3 teams of 2 people each. One is the mummy, one is the embalmer. Blindfold both and give them three rolls of toilet paper. The first one to completely wrap their mummy wins! (This is a lot of fun especially after the bar has been open for a bit). You can do several groups of teams or brackets for the best of the best. The winning team gets......lots of toilet paper!
SCAVENGER HUNT : Have a list of  Halloween items that everybody has to go out (into the dark backyard or creepy attic/basement) and gather. First one back wins! In this modern age, everybody has cell phones so it would be great to just to have the first person back with a picture of all items on list winning. That way you could include your decorations as hunt items without guests tearing them down and hauling them back to you.
PUMPKIN CARVING CONTEST : For safety's sake, do this FIRST before the bar opens. You could make it a speed carving contest. If you do, I would suggest you use the much safer carving kits rather than sharp knifes. This will avoid attracting unwanted zombies with severed fingers.
I went to a party once that had a 6pm pumpkin carving contest prior to the actual party. Everybody had one hour to be as creative as possible. At the end of the night, the group all voted and a prize was given for best pumpkin. The plus here is your guest carve your pumpkins for you and they can then be added to the decor of the party.
PASS THE PUMPKIN :  This involves passing one of those mini pumpkins (apple sized) around the room without using any hands. Best played by splitting your guests into two teams and forming two long rows. First to deposit the pumpkin across the finish line wins. A variation on this game is "Pass the Ghost Poo". Form two lines. Give each player a toothpick between their teeth. Now they have to pick up the ghost poo "marshmallow" and pass it to the next person without using anything other than the toothpick clenched in their teeth. The winning group is first to deposit the poop!
GHOST STORIES : Really good if you have an outdoor area with fire pit or a creepy basement/attic. Encourage your guests to tell their best! (For some ideas, read my blog archives)
CONDUCT A SEANCE  : You can try the real deal or, with some pre-planning and a couple of accomplices, stage a great fright fest. Dust off that crystal ball! Ouija Boards and Tarot Card reading play well here too if you or one of your guest is willing to lead!

   I am sure there are many more. Search for your own forms of entertainment at your party or come up with a brand new one!

wicKED tip! I always have at least three things planned to do at a party besides the mandatory costume contest. Some times I only get one in but they are there if I need them. I try not to schedule them, just let them happen as the normal flow of the party warrants it. I have scheduled bigger events in the past,  like a band or a DJ. I make sure to mention it on the invites. I would also give notice to  pumpkin carving contest, costume contest, or speaking to the dead to build anticipation and let guests know to be prepared.

Step 6. Logistics (ScoobyDoo where are you?)

VEHICLE PARKING : Before your guests can get in the party, they have to get to the party. Do you have suitable parking at your place?  Is there a public area nearby that guests can walk and or be ferried to and from the party? 
   If you have great neighbors, you can ask them if you can use their drive way for parking (after you invite them to the party of course). If parking is tight and you have no other options, you may have to do some creative suggested car pooling among your guests. (Designated Drivers are great here by killing two birds with one stone).

PEOPLE PARKING : Setting up your home to ensure people are not lost, forgotten, or go roaming where they are not wanted is key. You will need to decide what parts of your house you want to declare party zones and what parts are better left unseen (such as that back bedroom you just piled high with empty Halloween totes). For those areas you do not want guests in, just close the door and use those "do not cross" police ribbons they sell at this time of year. You can also cover it up with cloth and hang a creepy picture on it as if it were a wall, or place a static prop in the way.
wicKED tip! I always use my life size Jeepers Creepers prop to keep people out of rooms they shouldn't be in. It works great plus he is shocking to see if you're not paying attention.

WHERE'S THE PARTY AT? : Decide where the gathering points for your party will be in your home. Logically, your house party should have three key gathering points. These being food/eating area, central party area itself, and an outdoor or transition area if possible. More designated gathering points than that and you run the risk of several small groups forming around your house (ie. Your friends hang in the Den where you set up the beer keg, her friends hang in the back bedroom watching Twilight where you set up the desserts, your co workers are in the kitchen looking for more booze at your bar, and your neighbors are in your backyard eating off one of 3 buffet tables you set up around the house). It is great to have theme rooms and decor but focus your entertainment efforts to loosely contain your party as a group as much as possible. This will help you be a good host/hostess as well as encourage mingling and camaraderie. It will also have the added benefit of  keeping your creepy co worker from going through your girlfriends underwear drawer.
   Keep your food and drink to one area such as kitchen, dinning room, outdoor patio. Focus your seating, and music to the living room, large dinning room or great room. Having a third party focal point is just icing on the cake. It's a good choice to keep your focal points adjoining each other, if possible, to avoid people getting lost in the transition. This will also help you easily gather the crowd for entertainment.
wicKED tip! I am lucky enough to have my kitchen and living room flow into each other. The outdoor area I set up has a bank of five large windows from the kitchen overlooking it. 
All of these are adjoining each other. That way, no matter where my guests go, they are in ear shot of one another. I went to a party a few years ago in a huge sprawling house. I was lucky to see the same person twice in one night due to poor logistics.

How loud is too loud? : Do a sound check with a partner. Have them play some sample sound tracks and music you plan on having at the party. Make sure it is in the spot it will be played from during the event. Walk around the perimeter of your neighborhood with your friend on your cell phone.  This way you can gauge an acceptable level for your effects and music without being a neighborhood nuisance.


No! Not that kind. It is time to put your plan into action. By now, you should have who, what, when, and where all planned. Let's get some people up in your party! 

STEP 7. Invitation only...

    I highly recommend you send some form of invite. This keeps your capacity and food (booze) cost manageable as well as prevents non desirables, party poopers, and stray zombies from crashing your shindig. Invitations should be sent to your guests with an RSVP request so you can better plan food and capacity.
   If you send your invites too soon, people will forget. Too late and people already commit to other things. You know your guest best so send them when you feel is the right time.
   There is a big debate on hand written(printed) invites and electronic. Both have merits and pitfalls. Let's weigh them out :

PAPER WRITTEN OR PRINTED : Very personal. There is great room for creativity and you can give your guests a keepsake.  They don't have to be on paper but if you use other media, you may have to hand deliver them and lose the conveinyance of the US Postal service. Crafty people have sent paper coffins, origami pumpkins, even skulls as an invitation. You don't have to be crafty to be cool. There are all kinds of invitation out there for sale as well as templates for downloading online. As far as RSVP, unless you are going to put a self addressed envelope in with the invite, don't expect many returns (even then they will be few and far between). 

ELECTRONIC INVITE : Not as personal, but with today's tech, you can sure make it that way. Use any number of E-Card sites to send an invite. You can also use your favorite social networking tool like FACEBOOK to set up an event and invite your peeps. Try making  a short movie or slideshow and email them. Even a Media Text to your group can do it. There are just as many creative venues to use as with paper invites, but this gives you greater control over tracking. With Electronic invites, you can track when a person has read the invite and even send reminders every now and then with any updates. 

   Whichever way you decide to go, just make it memorable and fun!

   Also, consider inviting your adjoining neighbors, even if you know they will not come. Why you may ask? If your party gets loud, or people park close to their driveways, they will remember you invited them and, hopefully, not contact the authorities ;)

wicKED tip! I always send out invites October 1st so people have time to prepare, schedule time off, get a sitter, etc. I make an event on Facebook and invite from there. I add pics from past years parties and put all relevant info pertaining to the upcoming one that is needed. For those guests that do not use Facebook (gasp! there are a few) I use the option to email that event to their personal email account (yep Facebook is that cool). RSVP is a click away and you soon will have a pretty good idea of how many people will be at your bash. I send a follow up to the event group every week to build the suspense and to keep people excited.

Step 8. If clothes make the man....then decor makes the party :
   Decorating for your party is crucial for a good time. Whether you go minimalist or overboard, make sure you do something to signify the Holiday. If you are a yard haunter, or like to decorate for you trick or treaters, then you are already halfway there. If you went with a theme, then your have a pretty good outline of what your looking for.
IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS : People tend to appreciate details, especially Halloween fans. I would recommend you decorate all rooms that your guest will have access to as well as any outdoor areas such as patio, backyard, or deck that you will want your guests to mingle around. First impressions are key so make sure they get a vibe for the party as they walk in (who doesn't turn their front yard into a grave yard for their guests?). Some ideas for great decor are below:

  • Swap out normal pictures for lenticular or other scary printed pics.
  • Use your newly emptied Halloween totes for your every day what-nots, flower arrangements, vases, candy dishes etc. Replace them with Halloween equivalents.    
  • Place a variety of rubber snakes, rats, and bugs in among your food. Even in your fridge, medicine cabinet and kitchen cubbards for nosy guests ;)
  • Motion Sensor props. Great for a scare as your guest move about. Dropping spiders, screaming paintings, lunging rats or zombies.... a few of these are sure to be a hit. (I always put a Haunted Hedge in my philodendron that sits in my kitchen) 
  • Bloody hand prints on mirrors in bathrooms are great or write out in fake blood "HELP ME" or "BEHIND YOU"
  • Lighting. Lights set the mood, black lights, red, orange, and green. Even a dark room with a few well placed candles and jacko's would be great.
  • Use a fog machine to set the mood as your guests enter your party. Add a fog chiller for a super creep factor! (use outdoors only please)
  • Throw a skeleton in your pond or outdoor fountain. Make it look like it's escaping. (In fact, sprinkle as many skeletons as you can throughout)
  • Put a full standing prop or skeleton in your guest bath tub. Add a thin translucent shower curtain for added effect!
  • Creepy Cloth makes great replacements for your standard curtains. It looks good thrown over lamps too. If you have extra (or other black material) cover your furniture.
  • If you have hardwood floors, bring in some real dry leaves for a haunted mansion type feel (they sweep up easily and, trust me,  you will have worse on your floors by morning)
  • Candles are great. Just be careful as they can cause fires with long flowing costumes and spider webs everywhere. I recommend using LED or flicker bulb candles for safety. 
  • Spider webs. Use them anywhere you would imagine a spider putting a web if your house was abandoned for a year. Use the pull kind in a bag or get a really cool Webcaster for realism. 
  • Place a tape body outline anywhere in the house for conversation. 
  • Scary DVD on repeat. The average home has 3 TV sets. Put in a horror flick ,set it on repeat, and let it go.
  • Sound effect and or music. Midnight Syndicate is great for this. There are tons of Halloween CD's available in retail stores or you can go to Scary Sounds of Halloween and download hundreds of  Halloween sound track for free! There is also Halloween Radio that is 24/7 Halloween related tunes and they even take requests!  I recommend having some form of sound effects at your entrance and some good music in your central party area. You can go above and beyond by providing specific effects for your various themes around the house (if you wish). wicKED tip!  Check with your cable or dish provider for music stations. Comcast provides a music channel called "Sounds of the Season". This channel has thousands of great Halloween songs of all genre accompanied by a Halloween slideshow. You can use some of those TVs you own to pump pure Haunted goodness into any room that has one.
   A ROOM WITH A VIEW : Room themes can be used unless you are going for an overall party theme. Room themes give your guests a variety of atmospheres to enjoy. Every room (or area) does not have to have it's own theme, but it is cool to have one or two to show off. Some of the best room themes I have encountered are as follows:

  • Go crazy with some fake blood in your glass shower or tub for a murder scene. Add some body parts and a chainsaw for an over the top effect.
  • Make a spare bedroom into a wake complete with skeletal corpse on the bead. 
  • Turn your den into a movie monster room as you play some classics scary movies. wicKED tip! I did this one year in my home office. I played the classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on an old floor model TV. Set the DVD to repeat and then places several zombie props around as they "watched TV".
  • Turn your kitchen into a mad scientist lab complete with test tubes, glow in the dark beakers, and other concoctions (especially if they are edible). 
  •    Don't neglect your designated outdoor party areas. Make a crazy (pretend) ritual area in your back yard with a fire pit and some skull torches. Or just another graveyard, the point being make it an interesting place for your guests to visit. wicKED tip! I turned my back yard into Camp Crystal Lake. Complete with campfire, picnic area, tent, wooden sign and, of course my chicken wire Jason. I had him stand just out of range of the firelight. I also had a CD player on repeat playing the theme from Friday the 13th.

 I could write pages and pages of other ideas but the point is DECORATE. Halloween comes around once a year. Make the most out of it!
   I don't think you can go overboard with your creativity, but you can go overboard on time. If you do plan to go all out, make sure you have have time, and help,  to do everything you envision. It does you no good to stay up all night before the party trying to finish stuff. You will pay for it during your party. This is why many Halloween enthusiast, myself included, start decorating the last week in September!
wicKED tip! While you are putting out your Halloween, this is a perfect opportunity to put up you valuables and breakables in preparation for your party. Anything you do not want out where it could be "party fouled" ,broken, or stolen should be wrapped safety away in your Halloween totes where they can await their eminent return in November. If you are like me, you will have several totes filled with everyday items. I stack them in my back office in a vaguely coffin shape, and cover them with a black sheet . Put a skeleton on top and you have another cool decor item that is really just you hiding your junk!

Step 9. They're here......

   It's party time! Put your plan into action and have fun!

ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE? :  The smart party host/hostess will have all electronics, music, sound effects, fog machines, animatronics, and battery operated nightmares ready to go 30 minutes before your designated party start time. Now go and greet your guests.
   After that, you can pretty much put yourself in cruise control and let your carefully planned pieces fall into place. Just be prepared for something to go wrong. A light will pop. Fog machine run out of juice. Somebody party fouls the punch bowl. It happens, just roll with the punches and be ready.
   A few things to have on hand during the party to ensure smooth sailing are:

  • Ice...get an extra cooler full just in case
  • Extra  plastic forks and cups.
  • Spare bag of chips hidden away. If you need it, it's there. If not, you will eat it during the next football game.
  • Stockpile paper towels and old rags. Be ready with stain lifter spray especial if you have red sauce and drinks around light carpet.
  • Set up some personal reminders on your cell to remember specific events. wicKED tip! I set up reminders for me to check my fog machine every 2 hours. This is so it  does't run out of ice or fog juice and run the risk of damaging the unit. The same reminder goes for my tiki torches and fire pit.
  • Spare batteries. Especially if you have a bunch of battery operated decor.
  • Have a few designated "go to" people in case of trouble (ie, drunken argument, fight, major cleanup, Zombie Apocalypse). These will be the people you turn to for assistance and you can trust in a pinch.
  • Have buckets of water around any fire sources such as fire pits or torches. (also have extra torch oil and wood for the fire).
  • Extra seats on hand. Spare lawn chairs close by etc.
  • Ensure all bathrooms are OVER stocked with toilet paper and air freshener. Your guests, who just tried your Hell Fire Chili with Demon Sauce, will thank you.
  • Extra trash bags.
  • Duct Tape. It fixes anything from a broken lawn chair to your life size scarecrow that just lost an arm.
  • Spare costumes. It never fails.....one of your guests or their +1 comes without wearing a costume. Have your spares ready to keep them from becoming a sore thumb in the crowd. wicKED tip! I always buy up tons of costumes after Halloween just for occasions like this. I get complete sets for $2.50. Keep your eye out for simple things for your undressed guests such as pirate hats, plastic sword, and vest for a fast pirate. Flowing black robes have endless possibilities with any cheap accessory. 

   As the host/hostess, make sure you do your best to keep the party at optimal levels. Involve shy or quiet people in the entertainment. Introduce people to one another. Offer food and drink to those that have none and encourage all to let loose and have a good time. On that same note try to keep it below riot levels. Be the cooler head and the voice of reason when needed. The biggest thing to do now is enjoy the fruits of your labors and celebrate!

HERE KITTY KITTY : Of special note to pet owners. Take precautions for your four legged friends. If you have inside cats or dogs that are prone to running away every time the door is open, they may have to spend the night in a back room, kennel, or with a family member. This may also be the way to go if your furry friend is sensitive to strangers or large crowds. The same precautions should be taken for your finned, feathered, and scaled family members. Usually a posted sign warning against opening cages and tanks is sufficient.
wicKED tip! We are lucky in that our two feline family members just head to the back office and curl up in the lap of one of our zombies during The wicKED weeKEnD. As for our large fish tank, I just put a few nice Halloween decorations on the lid to help avert any guests who may want to drop a treat in.

Step 10. I'm ready for my close up.....

   Make sure you document your party with lots of pictures and videos! With all your hard work you will want to remember it. Take before, during, and after pictures. That way you can share with others, reflect and remissness, and use them to help plan out next years party. I know I am always trying to remember where I put this item or how I had such and such posed. Take close ups of your food before the hordes dig in. Get those nice stills of the front entrance before cousin George backs into it. make sure you get candid shots of your party in full swing to make cherished memories last a life time.
   Taking pictures and shooting videos may seem a daunting task with all the other duties you have assumed as the host/hostess. Hopefully your guests will take their fair share of pictures and video to share with you. I have  used a few tactics in the past to ensure really cool photo and videos at my parties. Listed below are a few ideas you may want to employ to help you :

DISPOSABLE CAMERAS : This is an old wedding tactic. Put a few disposable cameras around with  a note attached encouraging your guests to take lots of pics! I have seen Halloween disposable cameras in the past you could use if your lucky. If you have the extra digital cameras (or the money to spring for them)  they can be used as well.

HUNTERS TRAP CAMERA : These are motion activated digital cameras you can bolt/Velcro in place. They will grab candid photos as your guests pass by them. Make sure to place them away from the main hub of action to avoid having a thousand pictures of your tipsy neighbor doing the Cha Cha. 
wicKED tip! I once used 2 of these at a party. I placed one by a motion activated prop and got some GREAT pictures of my guests being caught off guard. The other I put at the entrance to get an action shot of my guests entering. 

VIDEO HOT POTATO : Another old wedding tactic. Start a video camera up with a fresh tape and start passing it off. Have your guests state their name, what they are dressed as and wish everybody a Happy Halloween. This is a great way to get some great candid videos to share.

CONFESSION BOOTH : In a spare room, set up a video camera on a tripod. Have it aimed in on a seat with instructions how to start and stop it. Decorate the room to looks like a funeral parlor, crypt, or mad scientist lair. Invite your guests to drop in and have a chat like they do on most reality TV shows.
wicKED tip! I saw this done once and it was a lot of fun. The hostess had the camera hooked into a computer so it ran non stop. That way her guests did not have to fool with turning it on or off. 

SCENE SETTER : Create a scene that requires your guest to take part in. You can use wooden figures with face holes like you see at many carnivals, dummies with no heads so your guests can stand behind them, or just a creepy scene that your guests can pose for pictures in front of.
wicKED tip! The best I have seen was a fake guillotine scene. There was room for one guest in the stock awaiting the blade as another guest took the rope as executioner. Made for great photos. 

STATIC VIDEO CAMERA : Just set a video camera up and let it rip. Set it up high on a bookshelf over looking your party or your buffet. Just make sure your guests know it is there (don't be too creepy!).

GROUP SHOT : What better way to document your party than a shot of the whole motley crew of misfits. It takes less than 5 minutes to gather the crowd and set up a camera with a timer.

   I am guilty myself of not taking enough pictures. I find myself often wishing I had a picture of some cool food item or decoration. Don't add regret to your list of party items ;)


Step 11. To all good things must come an end:

   It's sad, but true. Your party will eventually draw to a close. If you have been smart with your planning, your guests will be safe and sound with a designated driver, secondary ride, or a place to crash for the night (or morning if it was a truly wicKED event). There are a few things you need to be conscious of at the end of your bash. The life of a Haunted Host hangs on a for a few hours after the fun stops.

POWER DOWN : You will have all manner of battery operated and electrical things to see to. As your last guests are on their way, you need to do a full sweep to flip switches, pop batteries, and pull plugs.

ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES : If you used torches, fire pit, or candles, extinguish them safely.  Go through and dip your candles in some water and pour out that pit with a bucket of water. See that your torches are sufficiently smothered and out before storage!

THE GHOST OF APPETIZER'S PAST : Those hot wings may be haunting your stomach, but unless you want to find some haunted odors and supernatural flies, better stow away the ghoulish goodies. Anything perishable needs to hit the fridge or freezer (you cleaned it out like I suggested right?). Make sure your pop and other adult beverages have their screw caps on tight. Ensure any containers of ice are disposed of to avoid condensation and ruining nearby items.

BEDTIME FOR BOO BOO : If you put any of your higher end props outside for show, you may want to retrieve them. Unless you have video surveillance or live in the perfect neighborhood they could be targets for theft. If you have any concerns don't forget to retrieve your reapers. Just pile them in your out building or laundry room. There will be plenty of time to finesse them in the morning.

   Congratulations! You just pulled off a great party! Pat yourself on the back and hit the hay! You got another big day tomorrow. There are spills to soak, trash to tether, and stuff to stow. All that can wait till morning. Time to drift off into dream land while you reflect on your success.

Step 12. Clean up isle you!

   If you are very fortunate, you have some close friends that will come over and help in the recovery process. Be prepared to form a small "lost and found" bin for costume parts, cameras, cell phones, keys etc. It's now time to take back your home with some good old fashioned elbow grease.
wicKED tip! If you used fake blood on any glass or plastic, clean that up within 24 hours to avoid staining.
   If you chose to throw your party before Halloween (most yard haunters do), then you will want to do some maintenance checks on your gear if you plan on making a show for trick or treaters.  Fog machines, strobes, animatronics, and lighting will all need to be tested for functionality before show time and now is as good a time as any. Make repairs or replacements as needed. Batteries will most likely need changing before showtime also.

Step 13. You feeling lucky punk?

   While I am sure luck plays a part in a great Halloween Party, don't let your success hinge on it. This will  most likely not be your last Boo Bash so learn from your mistakes and your triumphs. You probably  had a few things happen that were just GREAT and a few that were.... not so great. If you are like me, you probably had a few flashes of inspiration during your party and may have even been inspired by the creativity of your guests. Don't loose these nuggets of knowledge to the sands of time (a year is a long time to trust your aging brain to keep details). Sit down and jot some notes on what you would do exactly the same and what you would do differently. Shoot yourself an email or print it out and drop it in with your party supplies as you box them up for next year. By doing this, you will ensure your future parties evolve, improve, and run smother than ever.

   Now it is time to reward yourself for a job well done. Sit back, relax, look through your party pictures and videos, and start finishing off those party leftovers sitting in your fridge.

   I hope you found this guide helpful in pulling off a great party. At the least, I may have inspired you to try something new. This guide has been a labor of love spanning years with hours of work to bring it to life. If you reproduce it in any way, (or link it) please give credit where credit is due. Feedback is always welcomed and with help, this document will continue to grow with new insight and ideas as the years go by. Check back often for new entries!


(last update 09/27/2011)