When I was a child in the New Orleans area, my big brown eyes would be popping at Halloween time with vivid images, shapes, characters and colors designed to capture the imagination and transport one into another sense of reality. I recall scary voodoo zombies regaling the windows of storefronts, Halloween jesters staring out from behind curtains, expressive uses of masks with a French or Creole twist, and these visuals combined with music and food would be a fun, frightening feast for the senses.
Now that we’ve moved into the Northeast and times have changed, Halloween has become more demure and conservative, and in many ways around our neighborhood, barely noticeable. Parents have become spooked themselves about having their children running around trick-or-treating, and small parties – tightly-controlled – have replaced the traditional community experience of Halloween. I can understand why that’s happened, but it doesn’t prevent me from trying to bring some of that old New Orleans spirit to my adopted hometown; in fact, it inspires me to share some ideas. I’d like to share these 5 with you.
1. Curtains – the Blacker, the Better!
It’s really inexpensive to purchase some black fabrics online and spread them all throughout the house; curtains over windows, draped over furniture, hanging in corners or in unexpected places. This alone can give a dramatic “cape of fear” over one’s home. Use liberally.
2. Make Strange Costumes!
This is a bit more involved, but rather than buying costumes off the shelf, a little imagination can turn some cheap fabric and some well-glued craft goodies into one-of-a-kind, bizarre costumes with weird shapes and faces. I recommend a combination of black and other ghoulish colors.
Fabric alone can be taken and “shredded” to make a host of scary cobwebs all around the house and especially on the front porch. “Webs” draped everywhere create a sense of foreboding as the children approach the door – creating a spooky effect that “primes” them for the fear to come once they ring the doorbell.
4. Eerie Lighting!
Setting up light bulbs (I strongly recommend red) at specific points of interest can cast ghastly hues and shadows in the windows and on the porch, as well as when you open the door. I like to have a light directly behind me when I answer the door, because it gives the effect of a gigantic silhouette. If this light is red or orange, it completely magnifies the effect!
5. Scary Faces Everywhere!
I purchase a bunch of cheap masks that, when in used in combination with the webbing, lighting, and black curtains, create the illusion of living faces peering out from every nook of the house. If done correctly, this creates the sense of a “ghoul jungle” that is fun, surprising, and never fails to delight the kids – even if there is a scream or two!
I do try to keep away from the bloody, murder-themed stuff – but I like making my Halloween experience as fun and spooky as possible without crossing the line. I may never recapture what I enjoyed in New Orleans as a kid, but every year I try to come as close as possible!