Give Your Guests an Experience, Not Just Entertainment
It's one thing to go out to a party and hang out with some friends, but it's completely different when you all have an experience together. Make your Halloween party one that your guests will not only remember but tell other people about by presenting a Victorian sÃÂ©ance. And don't just put on a show for your guests. Make the evening an interactive event for everyone by outlining a dress code, suggesting items to bring for a potluck meal, having a decorating party ahead of time to set the stage and then facilitating a unique moment that's both historical and in-the-moment all at the same time!
That may sound complicated, but it's actually not that hard when everyone contributes a little bit based on their own interests and talents. As the host, your main task will be to be a guide for all the bits and to provide the house where the sÃÂ©ance takes place. By not just "being tourists" your guests will have an amazing time. Ready to plan the most interesting party you've ever thrown? Step right this way....
Study Up On SÃ©ances - mesmerism, trance, spirits and more
If there is one thing necessary for a good séance, it's a convincing medium. Read up on the history of the Victorian séance and learn about some of the most prolific mediums of the times, how they worked and who was more successful. Then you'll be ready to host your own. I recommend that the main event happen at midnight on Halloween night if possible for the most authenticity.
You have a basic choice here: either conduct a straight-forward séance where you try to contact the spirits and whatever happens will happen... or you can do what many Victorians did and stage a séance that is an intentional performance where your medium does contact the other side. If you have any friends that act or perform, this is a great way for them to get involved.
Setting the Scene - decorating tips and tricks
So that you don't overwhelm yourself with the decorating, try to really focus on just one or two rooms. A living room that connects to a dining room is a great space to use. If you have a friend who has a house or apartment that is Victorian, see if that person would like to host the part at their place as their contribution. Friends who love shopping, thrifting, collecting or who work in interior design are your best resources for this part of the party.
Take some time at your local library or doing online image searches to study up on Victorian home décor. You'll want wood furniture, lots of patterned fabrics, and busy rugs. Ask other friends and family if you can borrow pieces of furniture or other household items that fit the look and feel you're trying to achieve. King-size bed sheets in the right patterns work great thrown over modern furniture to change the look for just one night. Vinyl decals put up on the wall imitate the look of elaborate Victorian wallpaper but then peel off easily once the party is over.
Dressing the Parlour
If all that works for your time frame and budget is setting up one end of a room with a period feel and look, that will work just fine. You'll want to have a table where you can seat all the guests if you are having a very small party, or a few key persons if you are having a larger one. This will be where you can have divination games earlier in the evening and then stage your séance at midnight.
Dear Departed Uncle Henry
Haunted Family Portraits
The Victorians loved portraits. After all, photography was a new technology then, and having pictures of your loved ones up on the parlor wall was a standard part of Victorian home décor. But since this is Halloween, you'll need some haunted portraits. These period pictures show solemn and formal family members until you walk past and then in the changing light, they turn into skeletons and other gruesome sights.
Recommended Dress Code
not required, but it really adds to the fun
Dress codes help parties in that they expand the idea of setting the scene. I have some friends that regularly organize events that include suggestions for how to dress and they way they put it is, "It's not required to dress up, but you have to admit, when you look around at a whole group and everyone is wearing similar colors or a certain style, doesn't it look cool?!" They're certainly right about that!
So when you send out your party invitations, why not make some suggestions for how to dress? Invite guests to wear certain styles, certain colors and even create a character and name for themselves for the party. The key word here is "invite." You are encouraging people to join in the fun at a deeper level.
What To Wear:
- Victorian period wear. This was often dark suits for men and long skirts with high-necked blouses for women.
- Steampunk costumes. Your friends who are into this will need very little encouragement to break out the fabulous outfits and show up in character.
- Dark colors: black, charcoal, brown, forest green, navy blue, burgundy
- Modern formal wear in the suggested colors.
You might take a weekend afternoon ahead of the party and have people get together to all go thrifting for something to wear together, or work on costumes at someone's house. Connecting the people who love dressing up and the folks who are a bit nervous about what to wear is a great way to exchange knowledge and share resources.
You can encourage dressing up even more by planning to have a camera set up in a corner somewhere to take formal portraits. It's easy to get sepia-toned or black-and-white photos from modern digital cameras. You can post them online later, or even print them out at the party for guests to take home as souvenirs.
Activities for a Victorian Hallowe'en Party - vintage fun for all ages
To help set the mood and get your guests mingling with each other, having some Victorian party games is the way to go.
Bobbing for Apples - It's recommended that you use a really heavy bowl or a large steel "washtub" for this. Put down some drop cloths as water will be split. It can also be nice to provided towels or aprons for guests so they don't get totally drenched. If you want to make it harder, use big apples. To minimize splashing and maximize success, go for small apples. They are much easier to bite.
Spirit Boards, aka Ouija Board - Some people are way to creeped-out to ever go near these things, but having an older style board is perfect for a little Halloween eve divination. For those of you who actually do energetic work and want to take protective measures before talking to beings from the Ether, take a moment before you start to state that your group is only there to chat, that only entities who wish no harm are allowed to come through and talk, and that all entities must leave when asked to go. When you finish using the board, make a formal statement that all spirits guests have to go right now and are not permitted to follow anyone home.
- Haunted Bay - Halloween Divination Games
Tradition holds that Halloween is the time when the veil between this world and the spirit world is at its thinnest. Those who knew how to properly communicate with the spirits could be shown their future. This communication, once limited to sacred c
- What is Halloween | Halloween Myths | Halloween Traditions
Have some old-fashioned fun! Halloween history, including the Halloween myths and Halloween games played in the Victorian era.
- Games for Hallowe'en - Victorian Times Magazine Archive
Ghost parties are appropriate for All-Saints eve, and below will be found some new suggestions on an old theme.
If you have any questions about throwing a Victorian Halloween party, don't hesitate to ask! And if you hosted a Victorian-themed party, tell us how it went!
Olde Tyme Hallowe'en - comments and questions
Rae Schwarz (author) from Seattle, WA on October 13, 2013:
@TheCozyDinosaur: It takes some effort and a few crazy friends to get something like this going, but if you build it up a bit more each year, the results can be great.
TheCozyDinosaur on October 13, 2013:
Wish this kind of thing was more popular. Thanks for the ideas
Rose Jones on December 13, 2012:
What a cool idea. I think it would be fun to have a few costume props around for those who didn't dress up so they could fit in. I wonder what the menu would be here? Pinned onto my Halloween board and blessed.
graphicdesignindia on October 05, 2012:
Good ideas.. love to read this lens..
KarenCookieJar on September 30, 2012:
I've read a few old novels where the characters participated in these, who knew it used to be so popular.
Michey LM on September 30, 2012:
Lot of innovation ideas. Blessings!
Rae Schwarz (author) from Seattle, WA on September 30, 2012:
@stylishimo1: Wow! That's both fantastic and kinda creepy. That's why it's a good idea to make some statements first about how whoever comes through only has permission to chat and has to leave when you are done.
stylishimo1 on September 29, 2012:
My grandmother, her mother and sisters, and her grandmother used to hold tabletop seances together, my great aunt says that one time my great grandmas eyes rolled back in her head when she was holiding a séance, she shouted "Chase her Johnny" and then the table tipped over and started dragging itself after my auntie who was 5.
Rae Schwarz (author) from Seattle, WA on September 29, 2012:
@miaponzo: I do have some suggestions included in regards to those sorts of situations.
Merstarr on September 29, 2012:
Very cool. I'd love to do this one day!!
miaponzo on September 28, 2012:
And them be very very careful because you just might call up something you didn't expect! Blessed!
anonymous on September 28, 2012:
COOL! I added several scenes to my prequel of Dickens' Tale of Two Cities (Sydney's Story) with gypsies and fortune-telling. I think Mr. Dickens would approve! GREAT LENS
justmelucy on September 27, 2012:
Spooky lens. It gives me the shivers. I've always been interested in this spiritual adventure. I participated in one years ago. It was interesting and I have decided to use caution since then. Great lens and great presentation.
Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on September 26, 2012:
Great idea! We used to do this as kids and loved it!
bossypants on September 26, 2012:
Ingenious idea! I love this lens. I'm adding a link to my Handcrafted Halloween lens. If you'd prefer I remove it, please contact me or leave a note on my profile page. Very clever!
SarahB709 on September 26, 2012:
I want to come to your party! I have the gown and will travel . . . this is a great idea and I think some of my friends would love to come to a party like this. I'm still at bit shaky about pulling out a Ouija Board but the rest of it sounds marvelous. FANTASTIC lens . . . I'll be back often. Thanks!
thememorybooksh1 on September 26, 2012:
smorse28 lm on September 25, 2012:
I think this is my favorite lens ever! I've always been fascinated by the Victorian era. Maybe I'll try this as a party theme some time.
wrapitup4me on September 25, 2012:
Sounds like good scary fun.
anonymous on September 24, 2012:
Looks like a scary good time!
Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on September 24, 2012:
Great Idea !
Rae Schwarz (author) from Seattle, WA on September 24, 2012:
@IncomeFromHomeT: A steampunk ouija board would rock!
IncomeFromHomeT on September 24, 2012:
HAH! I just saw a Ouija Board for sale at a flea market and this didn't even occur to me! It may be fun to make it Steampunk themed . . . should fit right in!
JoshK47 on September 24, 2012:
This would be a wonderful thing to do on Halloween! Thanks so much for sharing - blessed by a SquidAngel!
merleannw on September 24, 2012:
What a great lens. Loved it.
jlshernandez on September 23, 2012:
This is going to be quite a spooky and interesting experience. Thanks for sharing.
Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on September 19, 2012:
This sounds like a great idea for Halloween or anytime.
LynetteBell from Christchurch, New Zealand on September 19, 2012:
Great idea for a party!
flycatcherrr on September 19, 2012:
This sounds like my kind of party! Love the spooky changing family portraits, very cool. I'd have one on the wall all year round to freak out unwary door-to-door campaigners. ;)
Angela F from Seattle, WA on September 19, 2012:
Now this definitely looks like an interesting way to spend Halloween! *blessed
anonymous on September 18, 2012:
Great idea for a Halloween party.
cgbroome on September 18, 2012:
This one sounds like a really fun Halloween activity. Now I'll have to convince my husband!
karMALZEKE on September 18, 2012:
I really like this lens...awesome party ideas!
SheilaMilne from Kent, UK on September 18, 2012:
I really like this idea - something completely different. :)