Halloween is one of the most delightful holidays of year because it not only makes dressing up in outrageous or goofy costumes socially acceptable, but enthusiastically encouraged, even for grown folks. 

Naturally, I like to squeeze as much mischievous madness as tastefully possible out of my big Halloween fling. If you are anything like me, you know that the best parties are the most memorable parties, and the most memorable parties incorporate unique themes that elevate the occasion above the average level of fun. 

I've listed five easy adult Halloween party ideas, around which you can organize everything else to add just the right Halloween twist.

Mini Haunted House

House parties are always a blast with the right people and ingredients, and giving it a spooky spin is an automatic win.

  • Create a haunting atmosphere by switching out the bulbs in overhead lights and replacing them with colored ones in each room. For example, green bulbs give off a creepy, toxic glow; red adds an air of veiled malevolence; black lights impart an other-worldly fervor. 
  • Use themed votive candles and candelabras to enhance the effects with a somber, vigil-like aura. 
  • Play a classic horror film like Nosferatu or Bela Lugosi’s infamous Dracula on mute in the background, or even flip off the channel to incorporate freaky flickering static. 
  • Outline entrances with electric string lights to lure guests through the haunted party area. 
  • Drape the doorways with pale crepe streamers or torn linen that will sway with ghostly grace as guests pass through them. 
  • Adorn ceiling fixtures with strips of lightweight fabric in pallid hue to create the ambiance of haunted dilapidation. 
  • Incorporate polyester webbing complete with plastic spiders in the corners and across shelving. 
  • Use white and black sheets to swathe furniture, tables, and seating to keep the focus on the delightfully horrifying décor. 
Props & Decorations 
  • Simple props take on a whole new effect under unconventional lighting, so I generally stick to inexpensive materials and splurge (just a little) on paints. For example, handmade tombstones get a boost of creepy with the addition of glow-in-the-dark painted details; red acrylic handprints on white curtains add melodrama; and reflective white paint packs a pearlescent punch. 
  • One or two major props will suffice to create the scare factor; position them in unexpected places (ie. the coat closet, hanging above the front door, or stowing a “surprise” in the guest bath are always fun ideas). After all, we wouldn't want to desensitize our guests to surprises, so limiting the number of scares will keep them on their toes. 
  • Plan a hair-raising haunted house playlist that is slightly spooky but plenty dance-y to unleash the spirit of the night. 
  • Some popular and lighthearted suggestions include: 
    • Stevie Wonder’s Superstition
    • Michael Jackson’s Thriller
    • The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Time Warp
    • Henry Belafonte’s Jump in the Line
    • B-52’s Rock Lobster
    • Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London. 
All Hallow’s Eve Bonfire

If you prefer an outdoor social setting, why not host a Halloween bonfire complete with s’mores while carousing the night away. 
  • Outdoor settings can be as well-decorated as indoor settings. Decorate serving tables with displays just like you would incorporate inside, with Halloween themed knickknacks and natural objects. If you have major props like scarecrows or monster mannequins, bring them along to create a creepy scene. 
  • Hang crepe streamers or lightweight cloth tatters from nearby tree limbs, and create “ghosts” from sheets using fishing line and acrylic paint. 
  • Turn the clearing into a “graveyard” by arranging rows of foam tombstones that may also serve as path markers. Traffic flow can also be directed by laying wood along wide paths to keep guests from wandering into holes or spiderwebs. 
Lights & Luminaries
  • Light the way to different outdoor party areas (ie. the the Porta-John) by lining the path with spooky Halloween-themed luminaries. Paper bags with themed stencil cut outs make attractive accents that will keep everyone on the right track. Weight the bags with gravel or sand and place colored LED accent lights inside for maximum fire safety; alternatively use votive candles and votive candle holders.
  • Carved jack-o-lanterns make festive glow-in-the-dark accent pieces that are perfect for decorating serving tables and drink areas. For example, place a pumpkin with the word “Brews” carved from a stencil in front of the beer cooler. Here’s a link to a letter-carving tutorial
  • You can also use carved & lighted jack-o-lanterns to create a mob of zombies. Intermix with tombstones or designate an area along the walking path to set out a collection of zombie jack-o-lanterns.
  • Set out finger foods and roasting treats in decorative bins to keep them all together and prevent them from blowing away. Don’t forget the roasting sticks! 
  • Check out this delicious tin-foil French fry recipe for an extra warm and filling selection that can be customized by each of your guests.
Seating & Essentials
  • Even if you plan to ask guests to bring chairs and blankets, it’s a good idea to have some back-ups on hand. The heat of the fire only warms one side at a time, and so a nice blanket is great to snuggle up in when the evening cool sets in. 
  • Spread picnic blankets over a tarp so they don’t get damp. 
  • Practice good fire safety; use a raised fire pit or create a fire ring with large rocks in a clear area. Make sure there are no over-hanging branches that could catch an errant spark! 
  • Make sure to pack a small fire extinguisher, bucket, and shovel just in case. 
  • Other useful items include a lighter & lighter fluid, fire starters, and special effects like powders that create colorful flames (practice before use!): Check it out here.
Costume Contest Masquerade

Reward your guests for attending the Halloween party in style by holding a costume contest. Here are a few tips to pull it off with ease and ensure a successful turnout.
  • Make sure to announce the costume in your invitation, whether they be paper, electronic, or verbal. 
  • Designate two or three “costume judges;” ideally, individuals who are known for their discerning sense of style, theatrical flair, ability to make quick decisions, as well as being well-liked by your guests. 
  • Choosing to incorporate a theme (e.g., the Sexy Witch contest) can help the designated judge compare costumes more objectively because they will have common elements. 
  • Consider designating different costume categories for large parties, particularly you don’t want to specify a single costume theme; not only will it give more people a chance to shine, it will make it easier on the judge to appreciate multiple dimensions of costume creativity (e.g., Best Overall, Most Original, Funniest, Best Couple, etc). 
  • Write the rules, and make sure they are communicated with both guests and judges to avoid confusion. For example, if requiring entrants to dress in certain categories, make it clear that only these categories will be considered for prizes. Also make sure that the judges know how to handle differing opinions on prize-winners—e.g., democratic consensus, objective criteria, etc. 
  • Think of unique prizes that will be memorable and stylish in a ghoulish sort of way. Some ideas include: 
    • Basket of Halloween treats & drinks
    • Personalized Halloween trophies
    • Personalized picture frames featuring winner category & place
    • Cool & unique creepy knickknacks. 
Trick-Or-Treat Bar Crawl 

Organizing a Halloween-themed bar crawl is a great way to spend a destination holiday. Legendary Halloween destinations include New Orleans, Salem, Key West, and NYC’s Greenwich Village, but even the strip in your home town is tons of devilish fun in costume. 
  • The streets are bound to be filled with a sea of costumed pub-crawling, so consider choosing a distinctive theme that will make your group stand out. It will also help you to keep track of each other, since it can be challenging to recognize people behind masks and/or body paint. 
  • Plan your route out ahead of time. Especially if you are planning for a larger group, call ahead to the bars you plan to visit to see about reserving a space or obtaining group specials that aren't ordinarily available. 
  • Set time limits for each location. Once you reach the destination, remind guests to meet up and regroup just outside the entrance at certain times so that no one gets lost. 
  • Make sure to have the phone numbers of several taxi services ready on hand, because you never know when someone might need it. 
  • Another fun option is to rent a limousine for the party so your guests can ride in style; with everyone pitching in, a limo can be an affordable option. 
  • Consider ending the evening at a restaurant or diner of some sort to prolong the fun, but also to help guests sober up before leaving. 
  • Finally, treat your guests to stylish, personalized Halloween-inspired party favors like masks, votive candle holders, shot glasses, etc. to commemorate all the spooky fun. 
Halloween Murder Mystery

Murder mystery dinners are a hit any time of year, but incorporating the Halloween festivities into the story makes for an extraordinary evening. A few of our favorites can be found here: Homicide at Harrison House or The Halloween Party Murder
  • Make sure to cast people with respect to their preferred role: people who love the spotlight will have fun with active and verbose characters, whereas quieter people may enjoy less intensive roles. 
  • Keep the pace up enough so that guests stay involved with the story, but not so that the event feels rushed. 
  • If including character roles in the invitations, make sure guests know to keep their characters a secret from everyone. Make sure they have enough background on their characters so they can role-play convincingly. 
  • Plan to serve buffet-style food and drinks at the event to encourage guests to circulate and “get to know” each other as the evening goes on. 
  • It’s a wonderful idea to give out Halloween-themed party favors, but be sure to include an extra-special prize to the “Lead Sleuth” who finally solves the mystery!
What are some of your favorite adult Halloween party ideas?

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