A Halloween Bash for the Books


Each year on the first weekend of October, my house changes. Usually a run-of-the-mill, suburban domicile, the front yard becomes a graveyard. Ghoulish creatures lurk behind bushes. Spider webs cover deformed gourds. Moving inside, books are the decoration of choice, surrounded by black candles, skulls and spiders, stacks of spine-tingling stories from classics to contemporary masterpieces.

Don’t you love Halloween? It’s a time when you can be whatever you want, the one day when no one is confined to his or her circumstances, not even a contemporary women’s fiction author who fancies her house to look like what she thinks Anne Rice’s should.

What better way to celebrate than a Literary Halloween Party? It's not too early to start your planning.

Here are a few suggestions for a frightfully fun evening.

Decide on a theme. A few of my favorites include Great Couples of Literature (Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Caesar and Cleopatra, Catherine and Heathcliff, and one of my all-time favorite duo costumes, Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale from The Scarlet Letter), Come as Your Favorite Author, and the always fun Dead Author party. Or how about Literary Monsters, but not just Frankenstein and Dracula, but centaurs, sirens and cyclops as well?

Invitations. Set the tone right off the bat (no pun intended). A few years back, I attached pulled and stretched cheesecloth to black card stock, then glued the famous picture of Bela Lugosi coming down the stairs. Inside, I put a quote from Dracula plus all of the other pertinent party information.

Decorations. For me, it’s all about creating a home that looks like a vampire family lives there. Not the Twilight ones, though. They are too contemporary and clean-looking. I mean the old-school goths with black, gargoyles and skulls. A few traditional pumpkins for carving are great, but I prefer the white ones or the faded, misshapen greenish-gray ones for a more ghostly feel.

Cheesecloth is great for creating an old, worn fabric texture for spider webs or tablecloths. Simple push your finger through the middle and rip. Keep pulling until the piece is sufficiently web-like.

Put a skull on top of a stack of horror novels. Add some gourds and maybe a plastic rat or mouse. Dress up your fireplace mantel with black wrought iron candelabras with black candles. Hang one of those fake portraits that changes to a skull head when someone walks by it. Here is another opportunity to use books. On mine, I add hardcover copies of The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Frankenstein, Evelyn Waugh’s hilarious riff on the funeral industry, The Loved One, and, of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

On your serving table, use unpolished silver pieces. Mix in gourds, small pumpkins and candles. Put dead roses in a vase and cover them with spider webs. Creepy, right?

Activities. Read “The Raven” or another classic Poe tale. Tell ghost stories, or create a running story, where each guest contributes a line.

Food and beverages. Why not re-name traditional Halloween food for the night? Serve some eerie punch with a block of dry ice in a cauldron courtesy of the three witches from Macbeth, or meat pies from Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. What about Dutch apple pie in the spirit of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Tales by Washington Irving?

Music. Greet your guests with Danse Macabre, Op. 40 or Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. There are many more magnificent, creepy classical pieces on iTunes, but these are two of my favorites.

What are some of your favorite literary Halloween party ideas?

(This piece originally ran on Writer Unboxed.)


Kelly Hashway said…
That pumpkin made out of a book is just awesome!
Kelly Steel said…
Cool photos. Loved the pumpkin, I went back to have another look!
Beverly Diehl said…
I wanna come play at YOUR house for Halloween.

I do put up/out some decorations, but you've got me WAY beat. Love the idea of using old classic horror novels as decorations.
deborahbrasket said…
That does sound like fun. I just settled for posting a series of true life ghost stories on my blog to celebrate Halloween this year.
angel011 said…
No Halloween here, so no special preparations. As for the Literary Halloween Party, doesn't it last all year round? :D
Chrys Fey said…
Oh, what fun!!! I love Halloween. My place has been decorated since the first day of Autumn. ;) One year, I will definitely have to do a Halloween Bash. And I can't believe I never thought of using horror novels as decorations before! Great idea!!
Kelly H.--it is great, isn't it? One of my friends makes wreaths from books as well. I will be having a link to her site when it gets closer to the holidays.

Kelly Steel--glad you liked it!

Beverly--You are always welcome! :)

Deborah B. --I'll stop by to check it out. Love scary stories!

angel011--You are correct; every day is Halloween;) Do you remember the Ministry song from the '80s?

Chrys -- Awesome! Halloween parties are the best!

Glad you all liked the ideas.
Claudine G. said…
The pumpkin book caught my attention, as did the mention of Edgar Allan Poe ~ the beating heart under floor planks/the glass eye/ the black cat with its eye dug out ... really creepy. Great suggestions here, Karen. Have a spooktacular Halloween!
Thanks, Claudine. You, too! :)

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