The front door at night
The cemetery at night with fog machine fog
In 2001 the theme was a "Western Barbeque" or "Cowboys and Indians". The reason for this theme was that some friends do not like to wear a costume and missed each previous party. To encourage them to attend and at least dress up a bit, they were told that they did not have to wear a costume, but should wear jeans and cowboy boots if they had them. Prizes would still be awarded for best costume. Everyone came in their best western attire. The thinking here is that they would addicted them to the party so next year they could not miss it and would have to dress in costume to attend.
The party was a great success. The decorations were westernized. The skeletons were dressed up as a cowboy and an indian, my flying crank ghost sported a cowboy hat and badge, and our alien from the "Outer Space" theme party even put on his western attire. We used old Gene Autry and Roy Rogers & Dale Evans music inside and out for atmosphere (these are available on CDs). There were barbequed meats, chili, and other western themed foods. It was tough to find cowboy and indian items at the party stores, so I checked out the internet and found metal Texas Ranger badges as prizes for best costumes, arrows were from a flea market (styrofoam inside the sheriff skeleton held the arrows in place), and western themed table cloths could be found on eBay. Everyone was so relaxed, feeling that they were not wearing a costume that they had a great time. This posed a question for the following year's party. What can be done that is equally as relaxed, but has a theme.
Wire holds the skeletons in their poses. A bicycle hook screwed into the tree supports the skeleton. The indian actually has a noose around his neck, but the headdress hides most of that effect.
In 2006, I did two interviews - one for the New York Times (entitled "Orange and Black In A Time of Red, White & Blue") and one for The Record (of Northern New Jersey) on costumes and decorations appropriate this year in light of the terrorist attacks. I did one television interview (they shot for 6 hours and boiled it down to 4 minutes) for Metro TV on a show called "Finders and Keepers".
I use old Halloween costumes as room decoration. When I had enough costumes for a particular theme, they got pinned to the curtains with old trick or treat bags at their invisible hands. I love the effect that it creates. Here is a very rare costume from my collection. It is Mr. Spooky from the Disney Haunted House attraction. It is the holy grail for Haunted House collectors. Another super rare piece is the Beatles Yellow Submarine Blue Meanies costume. Again, a must have for the advanced Beatles collector.
Mr. Spooky was originally named Mr. Skeleton 1968 Beatles' Blue Meanie/Yellow Submarine costume
Here are a few pictures showing some inside decorations. I dressed up my teddy bears and decorate their wagon and surroundings with old crepe paper. In the Rocket photo, you can see how I pinned old Halloween costumes (the theme that year was outer space) holding trick or treat bags to the curtains to create an old trick or treating scene. The Rocket was a 1953 ride and it worked great. It was sold a few years ago to make more room for all the other stuff. One year we were Halloween Cheerleaders. The skirt was made of felt that was sewn together.
Black turtlenecks were decorated with an orange & black felt bat and we made orange & black pompoms. Faces were whitened up and eyes were touched up.The cake was in the shape of a spider. Painted tubes from clothes hangers, cut at an angle, glued together and painted black were used to create the legs.
In addition to the adult party, there was a party for our kids. They were expected to help plan their party and make sure everyone has a good time. One year they created a haunted house in the garage (the image above). The dummy above had no head. My friend, Sam, sat at the end of the table with his legs underneath and his head (with a mask) was the monsters head. Before the kids came in he tilted his head back to look like part of the dummy. There was a covered box of spaghetti and jello that the kids could stick their hand in to touch. Sam would stick his hand in the box from the other end and touch their hand. They would scream. The dummy looks fake enough to relax their suspicions. If they say "That's not real", you've got 'em. After they look long enough and start to fidgit the tour guide says the monster is waking up, Sam would groan and move his head. The kids fled. Kids with a sugar rush are too much.
The costumes were too good to forget so I set up a simple background downstairs and photographed each kid as they came in. The costumes are recorded for posterity. I produced duplicate sets of photos and give them to the parents. Some parents have a photo gallery of my photos.
The kids are grown up and run their own parties. When they were younger, the kids party in our home blew some moms away. They figured that the home would be destroyed. After several years of this, I had a pretty good idea what worked. Most parents just dropped the kids and split. What on earth were they thinking? Those that stayed had a ball. I also arranged to have a few parents as helpers so that the kids were always supervised. There is a great book on the subject of Halloween parties called The Pennywhistle Book for Halloween Parties. Get a copy and it will make life easier. There was a bone or body parts hunt similar to an Easter egg hunt - Outdoors if it was seasonable and indoors if it rained. Oriental Trading has great rubber body parts such as ears, lips, noses, etc. Peanuts were used one year. At the beginning of the party, the kids made personalized trick or treat bags. At the end of the party, they went trick or treating at different stations that were set up and got a pile of great stuff. Again Oriental Trading was the place to shop. When the kids were under 8 all kids got prizes. Over 8 and some would win more stuff than others.
The Halloween Museum, page 1
Trick or Treat Bags, page 2
Halloween History, page 4
Crepe Aprons from 1910s to 1920s, page 5
Halloween Jello Sculpture instructions & my graveyard fence, page 6
The Pirate and Retirement Home Parties, page 7
The Black & White and Pajama Parties, page 8a
The Hippie and Jumpsuit Parties, page 8b
The Murder Mystery Party in 2010, Toga Party in 2011, & Hobo Party in 2012, page 8c
Vintage Halloween Costumes for Sale, page 9a
Vintage Halloween Costumes for Sale, page 9b
Vintage Halloween Trick or Treat Bags for Sale, page 10
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