A series of bad advice from Joe Borrelli
If there’s one thing that every Halloween party needs, it’s a visit from some ancient eldritch demon or cranky ghost with a grudge.
Séances are a time-honored tradition for seekers into the unknown, and I’ve thrown several over the course of many Halloweens. I’ve found that a good séance adds an eerie mood to the festivities and makes your parties more memorable.
Now, I must confess that I’m something of a skeptic when it comes to the paranormal. I’ve visited my fair share of supposedly haunted houses and invoked my fair share of spirits, but my days remain blessedly free of sinister occult forces.
In this article, I intend to share a few of my secrets and rituals for giving your guests a few scares. Now excuse me while I try to stop the blood from pouring out of my eyes.
Putting the “fun” into “oh my god what is that specter appearing before us, I wish I never came to this amazing and fun party for my soul is now forfeit”
Before I get started, I do think it’s important to make sure that this is the kind of experience that your guests would be open to enjoying. There are people whose spiritual beliefs might put them at odds with any kind of séance ritual or spiritualist game. There are also people who just don’t like being in the center of anything scary. It’s one thing to watch a horror movie and watch a bunch of fictional dummies making bad decisions, but it’s quite another to make those bad decisions yourself.
Finally, there’s the loudmouth to contend with. There are a lot of people whose reaction to fear is to make a joke out of it. Add a couple of cocktails to that kind of person and you’ll have a recipe for a lot of tension-killing interruptions. My general advice is to keep that kind of person out of the mix, but if that’s not an option then I recommend enlisting that person to aid in setting the mood. All the good mediums of yesteryear had an accomplice to rattle the table and shake the chains.
Speaking of cocktails, I’ve found that nothing helps summon the spirits more than getting a few spirits into your guests. I’m a big fan of absinthe-based cocktails, as they are evocative of the era where séances were commonplace, but a nice punch made with Brut champagne, St. Germaine, sparkling water, and fresh fruit is another great party drink. Or just do what I do and get a bunch of pumpkin spice lattes and spike them with rum.
Not to get all woo-woo about this stuff, but there are two key components to hosting a séance party: setting intention and bidding farewell.
Many people who participate in séances have different levels of belief in the supernatural. One openly skeptical person arguing about every step of the experience can derail the entire thing. Whether you’re using Ouija boards, tea reading, cutting up a chicken for some entrails (on behalf of all chickens, please don’t do this), or just a good ol’ fashioned ectoplasmic manifestation, it’s important to emphasize to your participants that they need to believe in the ritual, even if only for a few minutes.
The second part of the experience is bidding farewell. One of the classic tropes of séances is that the spirits will remain behind to torment the participants if they aren’t thanked and wished a safe journey back to the beyond. My go-to is always something like this.
Spirits, we wish to say goodbye
Thank you for your wisdom
Now our time is at an end
Be at peace, and trouble us no further
Whatever you say, be sure to say it in a spooooooky voice.
The Structure of the Séance
We’ve done a few different types of events at my parties. The classic séance is actually one of the hardest to do. It requires a bit of theatrical flair and is one of the easiest to disrupt.
The gist of the séance is that you’re trying to make the environment hospitable to the presence of the supernatural and invite the spirits to attend to you. That means you can’t host a séance in a brightly lit room, which is why this meme is so darned funny:
The success or failure of a proper séance is all based on how well you can sell it. Fortunately, there are lots of little special effects that you can use to heighten the experience, especially if you have a smart home. Nothing adds a few jump scares like a television flickering on and off or the lights fading out. This is a perfect time to enlist a confederate to help set up the scares.
I’m personally a big fan of using Ouija boards. Everyone knows the rules and, since everyone’s hand is on the planchette, everyone feels more ownership over the event. That way, if I’m wrong about all the supernatural stuff, at least you have a chance that the ghosts follow someone else home.
Farewell and Trouble Us No More
Halloween to me is supposed to be scary, sensual, and a little bit transgressive. Hosting a really scary Halloween party is a very rewarding experience that will create great creepy memories between you and your friends.
Just play safely. After all, I could be wrong about the dangers of playing with the unknown.
On the other hand …
Joe Borrelli likes writing scary stuff. Find him at CreatureCast.net.