Dig out that old "Werewolves of London" cassette and get ready to party on with the ghouls and ghosts this Halloween.
You'll be right in step with the rest of America. Halloween is the third most popular time for adults to throw a party -- right behind New Year's Eve
and Super Bowl Sunday, according to the National Retail Federation.
"Adults take [Halloween parties] oh so much more seriously than kids ever would or ever could," says Tracy Bloom of Creative Parties in Bethesda. "So
we've had quite some fun with it."
In the past clients have asked her for a real coffin in their living room, with a "corpse" that sat up periodically. She's decorated a dinner table with
a chafing dish that contained a live head, revealed when a guest lifted the lid. (Someone sat under the table with his head poking up through a hole.)
Even if you don't have a professional event planner to set things up for you and wouldn't go quite that far if you did, you can have a blast throwing a Halloween bash -- without spending a lot of money.
Most important, say the party people, is to know your audience and plan accordingly. Are your friends creative and a little crazy? Or will you have a
hard time convincing them to wear a costume, let alone participate in silly parlor games? Figuring that out will help you decide what sort of Halloween
party you want to throw: a free-for-all fright night, the wilder and less structured the better, or a get-together with a definite theme.
Come as you were
"Think of a theme to focus your guests," says Lesley Bannatyne, author of "Halloween: An American Holiday, An American History" (Pelican, 1998), who is
currently working on a how-to book on Halloween for adults. She suggests a "come as you were" party or one with an Edgar Allan Poe theme; or have all the guests dress up as vampires or aliens or mummies. If you're inviting married folks, you might have them come as famous couples like Antony and Cleopatra or Jackie and John Kennedy.
One of the hottest Halloween themes of the moment, says Wendy Moyle, president of the Internet party site ShindigZ.com, is retro '60s and '70s.
Guests who have too much dignity to dress as Dracula, complete with fangs and fake blood, may be more willing to come in simple costumes as love children,
hippies or Brady Bunch clones. Tie-dye, disco balls and peace symbols can be worked into the otherwise ghoulish party decorations.
A thoughtful host, says Moyle, will have a few props to offer guests at the door if they don't come in a costume -- a funny hat, a mask, a bandanna -- so they won't feel out of place when everyone else is dressed up.
But whatever your theme (or lack thereof), be sure to have a camera near the entrance so you can snap a picture of your guests in all their dressed-up
With Halloween only a couple of weeks away, you'll probably want to invite your friends by phone or e-mail rather than posted invitations. But be sure to tell them costumes are required.
"They give grown-ups a chance to step outside themselves, outside of the boundaries," says Moyle. "They can take on another persona."
Step into my parlor
Halloween décor, almost unknown a decade ago beyond a
jack-o'-lantern or two, has become a significant part of a $5 billion Halloween industry, according to the retail trade group The Halloween Association. That means you can find plenty of seasonal decorations for your party in the stores right now. You can spend as little as a few cents for a creepy plastic spider to put in the bathroom soap dish or spider confetti to
sprinkle on the table, to as much as $159.99 for a fog machine at Valley View Farms in Cockeysville. (A gallon of fog machine liquid costs $39.99.)
But you can also create some pretty spooky effects from items you have
around the house.
"People sometimes make decorations too complicated," says Linda Sadler, author of "101 Spooktacular Party Ideas" (Creative Kids Products, 2000). "You
can do simple, inexpensive things to make a house look Halloweeny."
She suggests getting dead flowers from florists for your vases and placing them around the house. Throw sheets over your living room furniture as if the
house hasn't been lived in recently. Buy inexpensive cotton spider webs; to make them look more realistic, stretch them out into long strands. Hang orange and black balloons everywhere around the house.
No Halloween party is complete without a haunted house (even if only a haunted room) or a fortune-telling corner (have a friend dress up as a gypsy
and read palms). If you have a yard, make a haunted graveyard with several guests' names on tombstones cut out of Styrofoam. Use fresh soil or mulch (on
a black plastic bag for easy cleanup) to create the look of a freshly dug grave. Have an old garden glove stuffed with paper coming up out of it.