Got a gaggle of young ghouls coming over to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve? Pull out all the stops by turning your house into a haunted haven.
Give guests a fright before they even step through the door by turning your front lawn into a graveyard of the living dead. A sound-activated zombie, who emits creepy noises and flashes blood-red eyes when set off, and a life-sized zombie dog that barks and growls ought to do the trick ($79 and $69 at grandinroad.com). If you want to up the fear factor, other animated zombies from the mail-order company shake and crawl, too.
Continue their frightful journey along a bloody footprints floor runner ($10 at Windy City Novelties, 300 Lakeview Pkw, Vernon Hills; 800-442-9722, windycitynovelties.com). Blood-splatter window clings($6) add more fun-and-gorey effect—minus the mess.
In the party room, set the stage for a true monster mash with a skull-shaped disco ball($30 at halloweeneffects.us). Mirrored-glass tiles cover the motorized, eight-inch skull, which has glowing LED eyes to light up your spooky dance floor.
And don’t underestimate the power of creepy crawlies. Plastic insects are sure to gross out some partygoers no matter how tough they think they are. Litter any surface with the scary spiders from Oriental Trading (800-348-6483, orientaltrading.com)—or, to really unnerve your company, dangle some from doorways with thread. A 144-count pack is $4.25. If you prefer winged creatures for providing creepy ambience, opt for crow or bat silhouette cut-outs($9–$10 at marthstewart.com).
Meanwhile, a gothic skull candelabrum($30, 866-586-0155, spirithalloween.com) makes a ghoulish centerpiece. The three-limbed, skull-adorned prop stands 19 inches high. Use it with the included LED candles (to avoid open flames if you have lots of little ones around), or substitute real tapers.
Eccentric Northwest Side emporium American Science and Surplus (5316 N Milwaukee Ave, 773-763-0313, sciplus.com) carries an eclectic mix of toys, hardware and lab equipment, which makes it a great place to score quirky Halloween goodies a la Dr. Evil. Its glass gazing ball ($23) adds an air of mystery to your haunted affair. For Frankenstein-style fun, get gooey and gross in the kitchen with a brain mold ($8). It comes with two recipes for gray or green brains. Add gummy worms for a delectably creepy, zombie look.
Need more “organs” on your holiday spread? A life-like heart gelatin mold($6 at mcphee.com) results in a specimen that jiggles just enough to make stomachs churn.
With the bone chiller ice tray from the Well Dressed Home (415-333-8360, welldressedhome.com), even the beverages are sure to thrill. Chop up the rest of those gummy worms and freeze inside the skull-shaped ice cubes, or jazz up the cubes by using fruit juice—ideally OJ for a classic holiday hue.
Of course, any Halloween party benefits from the spooky special effect of dry ice. A ten-pound slice from Polar Ice Co. (2308 W 21st Pl, 773-932-6276) lasts 25–30 minutes (10 lbs for $8; 50 lbs for $30). Those white vapors add just the right ghostly touch.
Start your party out on the right broomstick with this Rifle Paper Co. classy-yet-whimsical witch invitation from Greer Chicago ($20.50 for box of ten at 1657 N Wells St, 312-337-8000, greerchicago.com). For a hands-on option with your little ghouls, let them jazz up these playful ghost invitations from All She Wrote with a tube of glitter glue included in each set ($17 for a box of ten at 825 W Armitage Ave, 773-529-0100, allshewrote.com).
Set the mood at your party with Halloween Hits, a mix of classic Halloween tunes, including Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s “I Put a Spell On You” and Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater” ($15 at amazon.com).
Mix a witchy deep-purple punch using two packs of grape and one pack of cherry unsweetened Kool-Aid, two liters of ginger ale, a liter of water and one cup sugar (eye of newt optional). The result? A surprisingly tasty concoction for under $5. Spook it up with orange-juice skully ice cubes, then serve in the plastic skull-and-crossbones punch bowl($10 at Party City, various locations, partycity.com).