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The Devil is in the Details: Halloween Parties from a Horror Writer’s Perspective

Halloween Pumpkins - wallpaperIt’s that time of the year again when the breezes begin to cool, the leaves make the trees look as though they’ve caught fire, and everywhere you go you smell the scents of cinnamon and apple candles. For many people, it’s time for a Halloween party, which does take a little planning. There are a million ideas on the internet, but what if you want to go above and beyond the norm?

Enlisting the help of a horror writer might be beneficial to your party planning. When a horror author imagines a scene in their minds, they are able to pick apart every little detail in order to describe it to their audience. What they hear, see, and smell are all important sensory puzzle pieces they put together to recreate the scenes in their imaginations. Horror is in their blood; most were raised on the classics and schooled in everything creepy before they could even drive a car. Here are a few things that come to mind that may be helpful or inspiring when it comes to your Halloween get-together.

As many of you reading this article have at least a handful of horror authors on your friends lists that you can turn to for ideas, why not one of their books as inspiration? I recently read Eternal Frankenstein, an anthology put out by Word Horde. The stories within the pages stirred images of spooky laboratories, severed body parts and rolling thunderstorms. I can envision a party fashioned after it and the classic Mary Shelley tome. This would be a little more unique in comparison to the average Halloween party. The decorations would be in the style of old gothic castles, dusty laboratories, and perhaps even a small cemetery in your yard. The dinner table could be lit by candelabras and you could place some severed hands and fingers about, or create a laboratory of the area in which your guests will fill their bellies, with beakers filled with water and food coloring and chunks of dry ice for effect, use your brain Jell-o molds to freeze brains of different fruit juices to add to your punch bowl. Your invitations could be themed the same, letting your guests know they are in for something electrifying.

Speaking of horror inspiration, why not take some from your favorite scary movie? If you’re into the whole zombie craze and into punk rock, you could go for a The Return of the Living Dead theme. This way your zombies could come to your door either dressed as if they just crawled out of a grave or with their hair done as eighties punks, a mix of both which would be really excellent, or possibly some zombified paramedics. The soundtrack of the movie itself would make for great party tunes with greats like The Cramps and The Damned but you could also seek out other songs about the undead like ‘Pet Semetary’ by The Ramones. The boom box should be equipped with essential Halloween jams like ‘Thriller’, The Ghostbusters theme, and ‘Halloween’ by the Misfits.

Another big hit with horror addicts is serial killers. Shows like Hannibal, movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and fiends like Ed Gein serve as good inspiration for a grizzly Halloween party and there is no shortage of fake skeletons, bones and other severed body parts available in stores to use as decoration. Of course, nothing is stopping you from having a non-themed party, an all out celebration of the season is just as fun. A friend of mine and fellow horror writer, Jaime Johnesee, told me she likes to buy those awesome fake spiders and stick them to the walls with poster putty. It inspired a thought in my mind of decorating with a bunch of randomly placed plastic Tarantulas then possibly making a giant spider to hang out on the food table like the old school flick Tarantula from 1955. That led me to the idea of having a party themed like those old black and white, B-movies. The decorations could venture into the realm of hokey and cheesy and still be really appreciated; it would also be not too frightening for younger children. I’m envious of those that have neighborhoods full of people that love to get into the spirit of Halloween, mine certainly do not. A street party where every house is decorated to the nines would be extra special for the kids.

The Pumpkin KingAt parties a buffet table is always nice, offer a good spread that will appeal to the appetites of the ghouls on your guest list. A centerpiece of an edible skull is a nice touch, just take a plastic skull and wrap thin sliced deli meats around it until it looks like someone just stripped the skin off of it, exposing the tasty flesh beneath, then slice a green olive in half and place the pieces in the ocular cavities to look like eerie green eyes. Chicken wings, ribs and bratwurst would be a good selection for meat eaters while pastas, hummus and veggie trays make for easy nibbles for the vegetarian creatures in attendance. The drinks are important, not all revelers will be into alcohol so plan accordingly. The use of the plastic gloves used in serving food, not the latex variety, but those that basically look like a clear plastic bag for your hands are good for filling with different liquids and freezing, strip away the plastic and you have a floating hand of your flavor choice. They can be filled with water for regular ice or even fruit juice or Kool-aid for different colors. The kids get a kick out of some pineapple juice with a few cherry flavored hands floating around, slowly melting in it. When it comes to coolers, crack a few glow sticks and hide them in the ice so when someone goes for a beer or soda they are surprised by the glowing treasure box of frosty drinkage. Glow sticks are great for the inside of Jack-o-Lanterns as well; they last longer than candles, are much safer and give your pumpkin an extra kick of color. Dry ice is something that is used quite often, added to water it creates billowing fog but please follow safety precautions with it so no one gets hurt, fog machines are great but always follow the safety recommendations on them too.

Entertainment can come from a variety of things, like old fashioned games like bobbing for apples, or gathering around a projector to watch some favorite flicks while snacking and sharing drinks, to costume contests and even a live band to perform classics like the ‘Monster Mash’, ‘Flying Purple People Eater’ and ‘Werewolves of London’. Something that always stuck with me from my childhood was a Halloween party a relative gave and she did a reading of a creepy story to all the children. She included our names in the story to really draw us in. I copied her later in life and did a reading of my own to a group of kids, but I had my dad jump out of the darkness at the end to give them a little extra scare. That’s the most important thing to remember about a horror fiend’s favorite night of the year, just have fun and make some memories with those you love. And on that note, why does it only have to happen on Halloween? Let your horror love shine all year around with costume parties, readings and watching the classics with your fellow ghouls.

Some of my ideas certainly won’t be new to Halloween freaks yet they might get you scheming up a brilliant party that will still be dreamed about in those dog days of summer or in the grip of winter when you long for the marvels of fall. I hope some of my suggestions helped inspire those looking to throw a killer party on All Hallows’ Eve because the devil is in the details.

MICHELLE GARZA

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