Hot Halloween party ideas for a spooky bash

Oct 18, 2011 at 1:15 p.m. ET

The countdown to the spookiest day of the year has begun. If you’re thinking about having a party in honor of Oct. 31, we’re here to help. Make this Halloween your best yet with our simple but spooky ideas for an unforgettable fright night. Read on to find out how to host three scary soirées sure to impress your guests of all ages.

Mad Men Halloween party

1Haunted house party

There's no better way to celebrate Halloween than with a haunted house. Turn your humble abode into a place where only the bravest souls dare to go. Taking your space from safe to scary is easier than you think and a great way to get both kids and adults into the spooky spirit.

Place artificial cobwebs (or use long strips of cheese cloth) all around your entryway – on hooks, poking out of the hall closet, covering tables, draped on a chair – to set the scene as guests arrive. If you can find plastic bats and spiders (check costume or party supply stores) scatter the scary creatures among the cobwebs to increase the fright factor.

Light lots of candles to create an eerie ambiance, hang your faux cobwebs over chandeliers and scatter more creepy critters (spiders, etc.) on various surfaces.

Create tombstones out of cardboard, paint them grey and stand them up all over the house.

Fill glass jars and vases with water, food coloring, a drop of milk to create a murky effect and objects that could be mistaken for something spooky – cauliflower or cabbage for brains, a latex glove filled with water for a severed hand or even toy rats and frogs work well.

Serve spooky treats such as orange Halloween punch for the kids, vampire-inspired beverages (for the grown-ups), caramel marshmallow apples and ghost cookies.

If you really want to spook your guests, have some "secret" guests (neighbors, family members) come before the party starts, dressed as zombies, axe murderers and ghosts. Have them wander in and out of various rooms, sneak up on party-goers and generally add to the haunted house atmosphere.

2Pumpkin-carving party

Everyone loves to carve pumpkins, and hosting a carving party is a great way to get both kids and adults involved in the Halloween festivities. Hold the party in the afternoon rather that the evening so it's easier for kids to attend.

Have guests bring their own pumpkins and carving tools so you aren't bogged down securing supplies. It's a good idea to purchase a few extra pumpkins, however, for anyone who arrives without one or if someone makes a mistake and needs to start fresh.

Cover all work surfaces with newsprint or kraft paper for quick cleanup post-party. If you live in a mild climate consider doing the carving outdoors. If you'll be carving indoors, it's a good idea to protect the floor from the sticky (and potentially slippery) mess. Provide some pumpkin-carving templates to make the process easier, or for anyone who needs some creative carving inspiration.

Decorate your home with pumpkins of various sizes and further enhance the mood with pumpkin-scented candles. Serve pumpkin-packed treats such as pumpkin cupcakes, roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie bars.

For smaller children or anyone who isn't in the mood to get messy, have some smaller pumpkins on hand that can be decorated with black markers, stickers and glitter glue. Make sure guests remember to take their jack-o-lantern as they leave.

3Themed costume party

Rather than simply host a party where everyone comes dressed up, narrow your focus and choose a theme. This can make the party more fun and actually make it easier for guests to choose a costume. The possibilities are endless – Mad Men, Wizard of Oz, zombies, celebrity couples – use your imagination and make sure you give guests enough notice to give them time to get whatever they need to dress up.

Go one step further and choose décor and food items based on your theme. (If it's Mad Men, go with a 1960s feel in food, drinks and furniture, wall art, etc. If it's Wizard of Oz, make sure you have a yellow brick road and red slippers everywhere.)

Have prizes on hand for the best costumes and don't forget to take lots of photos of your dressed-up guests. Create a photo book or an online photo album so everyone can relive the fun.

More Halloween ideas

How to make your own Halloween costume
How to make a graveyard cake
5 Fun Halloween party games