Haunting your House for Halloween: Mind Games and Parlour Tricks

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Halloween was traditionally a holiday of pranking, earning it an unsavory reputation as “the holiday of the vicious young boy”.  And no wonder– a night filled with broken glass, upside-down outhouses, and eggs caked on the side of your house doesn’t sound that appealing. Thankfully, we’re past this phase of Halloween (for the most part), but you can resurrect some of the spirit of “pranking” in a more tasteful manner.

Trick your Trick or Treaters.

These pranks would work well at the start of your Halloween party / haunted house as guests arrive, but are also classic tricks if you’re simply looking to scare the living daylights out of trick-or-treaters. The gist of the ideas is this: someone disguised as a stationary prop stays completely still, letting visitors feel comfortable that it’s totally inanimate. At the opportune moment– bam! Surge to life, yell, reach towards them. It’ll send people screaming.

Some variations on this idea:

-Put a bunch of scarecrows leading up to your house– most of them actual dummies, but the last one a person in scarecrow costume ready to jump out at passerbys.

-Lay on a chair in the porch dressed as a decoration (scarecrow would work here too). Have a bowl of candy on your lap with a sign: “sorry, we’re not here. take a pice of candy”. When the children reach for the bowl, suddenly move.

-Hide yourself in a large box disguised as a table. Cut a hole in the box the size of your wrist and the same sized hole in a flimsy bowl. Fill the bowl with candy, hiding your hand. When kids reach to grab some, thrust your hand out. See more ideas here!

Create Some Creepy Sensations.

If you’re having people come into your house, have the entry way pitch black (or blindfold your guests). Hang damp pieces of cloth or yarn from the ceiling so people will feel something cold and clammy brush their face unexpectedly as they walk.

Stir up some Ghost Story Shenanigans.

“No crowd is better primed for a good prank than one listening to a ghost story in the dark”, says Martha Stewart. She suggests this trick: Candles are placed around the room. As the story nears its climax, they mysteriously go out, one by one, until the room is dark. To achieve the effect, simply cut the candles in two, remove a small piece of the wick from the middle, then join the pieces back together by heating the cut ends. When a candle burns down to the missing section of wick, it gutters and dies.

She also mentions this trick: “One perfect stunt for storytelling requires hiding a compatriot outside the house; as soon as the tale reaches a crucial, scary section, he starts to rub a well-rosined bow on a violin string that has been affixed to a windowpane. An eerie, weirdly pitched wail fills the room, but its source is inexplicable.”

Hold a “Seance.”

If you’re really dedicated to throwing a creepy party, hold a fake seance and rig the ordeal like charlatans did over a century ago. The Victorian era was especially ripe with fraud when it came to Seances, so much that many societies formed just to debunk these fakes. A lot was written about the tricks these charlatans used, some of them absurdly simple. Example: “…place a bell underneath a glass or inside of a box or cage in the center of the table and state that the bell will be played by the spirits when the lights are turned out. The bell never moves — however, a duplicate bell is produced and played instead. By muffling the bell with some clear tape, it will make the ringer sound muffled, as though the sound was coming from under the glass”. This and more found on the page “How to have a Seance: Tricks of the Fraudulent Mediums

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