« memo from Karl | Main | want to hear something really scary? »

Halloween S.O.S.

I need your help. If you recall, my kids are having a Halloween party Saturday night. They've already decided on the movies - Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead, remakes both - so the rest is up to me. I need to feed/water and entertain about 12 kids between the ages of 11-14. The movies will do most of the entertaining, but I thought I would add to the night by scaring the living shit out of them. Hey, the deserve it. These kids think there's nothing in the world - no movie, no book, no horrible mask - that could make them lose sleep or, at least, give them the screams for a few minutes. One idea I had was this: during the height of the best part of TCM, I have my husband stand outside the living room window, wearing a leatherface mask and sporting a real, plugged in chainsaw. I'll pull back the curtains and say something like, check this out! and Justin will rev up the chainsaw. I've been warned that social services will be at my door just a few minutes after one of the kids drops dead of a heart attack. So, maybe not. I need your help. I'd love to pull some good pranks on them or find a way to give them just the right amount of scare. Without killing any of them, of course. Well, maybe that one whiny kid. DJ asked that I try to not make the party cheesy. I take it that he won't want to bob for apples, then. Unless, of course, I put razor blades in the apples to make it exciting! Kidding. So, is telling ghost stories considered cheesy? What if I played Danzig in the background? You know, I just had the sinister notion that I should make DJ pay for his doubt that I can throw a non-cheesy party and go all out fromage on him..... Anyhow, I know you people are devious and I know a lot of you just outright hate children, so I should be able to get at least one good scare tactic out of you. Difficulty: rain, no basement. [Speaking of ghost stories, I hope you've been keeping up with Jen's tales this week]


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Halloween S.O.S.:

» Empty Nest Syndrome from Pajama Pundits
My children are all grown up. This makes me misty-eyed for the good old days. [Read More]

» Don't say he didn't warn us.... from The LLama Butchers
Steve Green on Halloween: Suddenly, Halloween is more exciting than it was even 25 years ago. Only now, I don't have to ask Mom for permission, and the hints of hotness you enjoy as a youth will be replaced with... [Read More]


Cut the main power breaker during the most intense part of the movie. Then, after they have had their little freak out session, have hubby do the chain saw thing. Or have him pound on the front door or scratch on it or something like that.

It is unbelieveble how any little tiny sound affect you when you are in total darkness.

When I was 12 I had a sleepover. My mom, the devious wench she is (and I love her for it) decided to scare the bejeezus out of us by telling a ghost story. She had a small table with a candle on it, which she set in front of us. She sat behind the candle to make herself look even spookier and then told the tale:

When SHE was about 12 she and her brother went out to the barn on their farm to play with a Ouija board. They asked questions of a "spirit". When they asked it 'where it was' it started to spell out: H -- E -- so they figure the spirit would say 'Heaven' or 'Hell'. But then it moves to the R -- and then finally on an E...at this point my aunt popped up from behind us and shouted HERE! Really loudly. We screamed, as girls are wont to do and we even knocked over the table with the candle.

So, it started out cheesy, but it was a good scare. Especially if you can get them really into the story and have someone sneak up from behind quietly.

When I'd watch scary movies with my niece and her friends, I'd wait until they were totally absorbed in the movie, then I'd grab them by the ankles and scream (they like to lay on the floor to watch movies) and it sent them into hysterics every time. Then again, they were only about 10 or 11 at the time, so their 'scare threshold' was pretty low.

Put Kerry/Edwards signs in the yard.

That should scare the crap outof them.

Order a bunch of pizzas to be delivered for the party-goers to dine upon, but conveniently disappear at the opportune moment, leavin' that very same group of kids without any means to pay when the delivery driver arrives.

Of course, if ya really wanted to be kosher, ya meet the delivery driver, pay him, tip him really really well, and get him to do all the work, like 'splainin' how he is gonna have to call the cops and have them all thrown in jail if they don't come up with the payola for the pizzas ... that sort of deal. I figure with all the out of work actors in the NYC area, your chances of gettin' a delivery driver with the skills ot pull it off are quite good, what?

real, plugged in chainsaw

Umm, if you're going to do this you might want to think about using a gas powered chainsaw. I'm not sure an electric chainsaw would strike fear into the hearts of the kids.

I didn't even know they made them, so I'd probably just laugh if I saw a pretend Leatherface holding one.

I think the chainsaw thing is a great idea. Not "too much" at all...

only one thing... nevermind the "plugged in" electric one.. you MUST have the gas one.... an electric chainsaw just doesn't have the right revving, scare-the-shit-outta-you sound. More like a wimpy whine.

I have nothing original, by the way... just wanted to add my 2 cents.

There are electric chainsaws but they are not as noisy as the gasoline ones. I'm inclined to recommend against chainsaw pranks, as they are shreeking invitations to Mr. Murphy. Parent slips, drops chainsaw on himself or a neighbor kid, who's tried to protect the other kids, kind of thing. Just say "some other prank", please.

"Not cheesey". I'm sorry, the first thought was a costume accessory. When you bring out the hot dogs or burgers or whatever, add an apron made of cheese slices, stuck to the apron (somehow) in an overlapping fish-scale pattern. I can't figure out how to attach them, though. Even more interesting would be to add pickle planks, tomato slices, onion slices maybe mustard and ketchup packets, ... (starts humming "Cheeseburger is Paradise", Buffett.)

Best prank I ever pulled was faking a hand amputation from a bench saw accident. Lots of fake blood pumping out of my "stump" as I staggered up an unlit stair, holding my left arm stump against my chest with my right arm, holding my fake "left hand" in my right hand.

If you do the chainsaw deal, you need to get someone other than your husband to do it. Have him disappear a little bit before so they think it is him. Then have him show up and go outside to see what's what. A scuffle, red splash on the window, and they'll be wetting themselves. Be sure to put on a screaming hysterical show yourself during all this to give some authentication.

Sure it'd take a little more planning and effort, but they'll remember it forever.

Wait for a quiet part of the movie to be on it's way, slip into another room and slam a back door but have is stay open (duct tape would work here). Then kill the power don't answer when they call for you. A Trail of blood would be good at this point leading to you husband with the chainsaw either just outside or in another room.

Chain Saw, Hockey Mask, both parents present trying to fight off the accomplish so that the kids can escape...

...add just a little bit of fake blood and you've got it!

Your kids will NEVER forgive you.

I second--no, wait--I THIRD, the advice that you must ditch the electric chainsaw and go for a gas model. Borrow one, rent one, whatever. But the noise from the gas engine is crutial.

I like Mob's idea of a third party as Leatherface. To further his idea, I'd remove the chain from the chainsaw (making it no more than a noise-maker), and then have Leatherface 'cut' into your husband, with the 'blood' splashing about.

At this point though, you'll have to rush. The best ideas take some rehearsing.

Do post pictures after the fact!!

just take the chain off the chain saw and it should be safe. That's how they do it at the local haunted house.

Love Mob's idea. That's sure to freak out the kids!

Release a tarantula in the tv watching room? That's send me screaming for the door!

I'm voting no on the chainsaw and mask. If they're watching the TCM movie and then suddenlty the main character appears outside the window, it will be painfully obvious that its a prank. Kids are much smarter than we give them credit.

I would suggest just a strange man (neighbor, friend) in dark clothing with a shiny knife walking past the right window at the right time. The fear will be much more palpable and last longer than the two or three seconds that a chainsaw would cause.

The potential for your husband tripping over the electrical cord at night and really hurting himself is the scary part.

Cheesy? Aside from Cheetos, you mean?

Have everyone dress up as a dancer from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Can you talk Justin into drag?

This is easy.
a) "We gotta go out to the store (or something like that)
b) Friends loaded up for Big Scare outside the domicile's doorstep.
b1) You leave.
c) Doors left unlocked.
d) Friends run in and scare the beejeezus.
e) You walk in and go "Ha, Ha!" in the uttermost sneering voice. (see: Nelson)

Definitely the chain saw. That was the only thing that ever scared the bejesus out of me. Come to think of it, maybe that would be something cool to do to my kids this weekend. Yeah, that's the ticket!

Without the chain of course...

No chain on the bar ... I like that!

Fear comes from two things -- knowing there is a threat but NOT knowing what the threat really is (i.e., letting one's imagination do the work), and being responsible for something beyond your control.

That means that mysterious sounds are best, with someone acting as a plant in the crowd to jump to the conclusion that they are all about to be killed. The kids will soon follow along -- the power of suggestion.

Loss of control comes when the phones mysteriously go out (and one of them is asked to make an important call, but can't). Of course, kids these days have cell phones, so you'll have to confiscate those.

For the main event, the chain saw and mask is excellent, but just revealing it all of a sudden is lame. Let them HEAR the saw first, then see an adult get scared by it, then silence to let the fear spread, then do it all over again, then silence. Maybe have someone make thumping sounds to make them think the killer is in Place A, when he's really in Place B.

Having an intruder trying to break in is also great, since it has elements of the unknown, and loss of control.

Also, warm them up with ghost stories. When I was that age, the stories that had the most traction were the ones that had a connection to the real world -- someone who died in or near your house, a graveyard nearby, some disturbance that happens every year, a legend about a murder in the neighborhood every Halloween, etc. It infuses the story with just enough of a real-world connection that it makes it believable. Think Poltergeist -- it was not just a random house, but one built over a graveyard. A ghost story has to have its own internal logic that "explains" the supernatural.

As part of the set-up/background, you could even gin up a phony news story that looks like something printed off a news site on the internet. Official warnings to stay inside at a given time, reports of the annual murders, etc.

God, I can't wait until my son is old enough for this!

Good suggestions overall.

One of the best pranks, in my opinion, is the home invasion. Depending on your level of budget, getting two 'perps' to bust down the door or break a window with realistic weapons and round the kids up for a 'robbery' can make a serious impact on the kids' worldview.

Nice little touches for said prank are having one of the actors rough up an adult or even having a struggle end with the 'death' of said adult.

The most frightening things for kids are things that they hear about on the news.

Fake blood is expensive, and you'll need buckets of it!

The recipe for fake blood is here:


Good luck!

Want to really scare them? Show them pictures of the adults in your family when the adults were the kids' ages (11-14).

Then tell the kids, see, this is what you're going to grow up to be like.

That'll scare the hell out of 'em.

Scary, quiet sound eminates from darkened upstairs. Pause movie and ask one kid to go investigate. Husband (waiting patiently) enlists him/her. A thud/scuffle/ominous sound ensues. Call out kid's name ... silence. Insist fearfully that another must go see. Sucks to be last.

The most frightened I ever was as a kid was when we 8 kids were home alone, watching T.V., fighting, running and sliding down the hall...typical Friday Night Fights.

Dad decided it would be a Friday Night Fright. While we were distracted with our own amusements, thinking the 'rents were out, Dad covered the windows in tinfoil (drapes were closed, we couldn't see)before killing the lights. That way, no ambient street lights could stream in. The total, insular darkness and quiet did the rest. Our over-active imaginations scared us worse than anything else. The dead-quiet did all the work. We imagined worse things than the old man could've ever thought of. The lights didn't come on until the tears started flowing. Damn S.O.B.!!

Edgar Allen Poe's "Tell Tale Heart" is available on Glenn Beck's web site, $6.99 for an MP3 download. I heard it today on Beck's radio show. It's dramatized and has sound effects. A good and scary tale.


Play the dissonance from the shower scene in Psycho REALLY loud just as they are getting ready to goto bed.

Um, big fat NO to the home invasion thing. You want to frighten them, not traumatize them for life.

I really like the pizza guy thing, though. Especially if you give him a hockey mask to pull out at the end of it or something.

I also like the Ten Little Indians scenario. But they'd giggle.

If you have any shrubs or trees near the window of the room where they're watching the movie, how about tieing some thread to a branch and using it to scratch at the window during the movies. Chances are if they even see it, they'll not realize it's just a branch, and they'll be even more scared if they go out to look and don't see anyone there. You could hang a row of individual threads from the ceiling to create some strategically placed 'cobwebs' or have your husband pull the main circuit breaker for the house just after a scary part of the movie. Then grabbing someone in the total darkness will really get the screams going. Have fun!

Wet strings hanging in dark corridors, low enough to drag on face.
Occasional unexplained noises.

I can vouch for the fake blood recipe by Creatively Evil. AHM used it in the stage version of Dracula she did every Halloween for the community kids. When Renfield has his throat ripped out, she slathered a thickened layer on his neck. Under his shirt was an IV bag (if you have a nurse friend it helps) filled with very thinned "blood." A tube runs from bag into the glop.

When Renfield was carried downstage toward the audience, he squeezed the bag taped under his arm. Blood oozed and dripped through the mess on his throat and left a great, bloody trail behind. 11 year old boys who had giggled through most of the play ran like hell from row 1 to row 50.

I like the chainsaw idea if you can get a friend to start it--faintly, then louder and closer. Hubby gets irritated, goes out to look makin' lots of noise. Friend and hubby slap on the goop and blood--hubby staggers back inside, clutching his throat as blood spurts.

The stuff is sticky and irritating. (Renfield got a rash after 4 performances.) But man does it look real!

I went to a church summer camp every year (my father is a minister). Every year there was something cooked up for Thursday "skit night", but one particular year the item that was cooked up was life changing scary.

You can't do what the camp administrator did, because you're out of time, but perhaps part of it could be modified, so I'll tell the whole tale.

The weekend before camp, the administrator (hereafter referred to as TA) enlisted the help of the two oldest campers. This camp was way out in the middle of farm country (think Children of the Corn), but to the south side there were woods (the other three sides were cornfields). The older boys camped out in the woods, made some trails, and created a lean-to shack, which was stocked with some animal pelts (picked up off of the road, and absolutely, absolutely gross and smelly), and looked lived in.

From the moment we arrived at camp, the set-up began. There were unofficial rumors of a "poacher" spotted in the woods (started by the two older boys). At supper, during announcements, a warning was given mater-of-factly, that no one should go onto any woods trails alone. Immediately after lights out on Monday, shots were heard a fair distance away into the woods.

TA who was doubling as the senior boys counselor, left someone in charge of the bunkhouse and went away for a long time. Of course, he left one of the two accomplices in charge, and there was a lot of talk and speculation.

Tuesday, someone not in on the secret stumbled over the poachers camp site while walking a wooded trail. This person decided he would not report it to TA, because he was out alone, but he told almost everybody about it. A group of us boys went to see it, but didn't go to near because of the smell. That night, more shots, but a little latter than the night before. DIscussion in the bunkhouse centered around the technique of spotlighting (shining bright lights into trees to see racoons eyes - so you can shoot them).

Wednesday the cops came. I can tell you now that one of them was best friends with the camp caretaker, and they were off duty, and in on the joke. No mention of this visit was made by TA or any counselors, but enough people saw them meeting with TA to cause intense speculation. Announcements were very serious, don't go into the woods alone. I can assure you that the rumor, speculation, and fright were so thick you could cut it with a knife. No shots Wednesday night, but a lot of people laid awake for a long time waiting for them.

Remember, this was a church camp, and by Thursday morning, there was a lot of praying going on. One camper actually left and went home (which is the part that got TA into trouble eventually). Shots were heard during the day on Thursday, and the two accomplices dashed into the woods at a dead run ("Oh how brave" the junior girls fainted into each others arms). Then in the afternoon, each cabin got together to prepare their skits.

I was in the senior cabin, counselled by TA, and it was at this time that the story was broken to us, since there needed to be a lot of accomplices for the finale. The final version was decided upon, and practiced a little. I have to digress a little here, to explain some relationships. My future wife was in a girls cabin, and her first cousin (a very, very fun guy) was in my cabin. The culmination of the whole story would involve my future wife's cousin, lying in a pool of blood, with a hatchet, stuck through his shirt into a board underneath, lying on a small bridge that had to be crossed to reach the cabins.

Skit time arrived, for some reason it had been scheduled later in the evening this year than other years (HA), and evidently because God was playing along, a thunderstorm arrived at about the same time we all crowded into the dining hall to entertain ourselves. It was decided that the skits would go from youngest to oldest, so the junior girls started their skit. They finished their skit. The junior boys did their skit (it was terribly gross but it wasn't scary, if you've been to camp you probably remember the old everybody brush your teeth, spit in a cup, and the last guy drinks it, but it's been swapped for milk, or something? This was like that, only they didn't swap the cup, I'm not kidding). The senior girls started their skit, and unknown to them, the senior boys started theirs at the same time. Shots were heard out of doors, far away. Everybody heard them, but nobody said anything. Shots were heard closer. Murmurs ran through the crowd. Shots were heard maybe two hundred yards away, and things got exciting.

A designated senior boy looked out of the designated window, and saw something. Other senior boys looked too. One of the boys got up and went over and whispered with TA. TA casually got up, sauntered to the window, took a look, and did a perfect, shocked reaction.

He stopped the skit in progress, put another counselor in charge, and took off into the rain at a dead run. The entire female population of the camp panicked. Now, it was our job to make it worse, so we did for a while. I have since read about contagious hysteria, but that night I saw it in action. When the TA came back with a huge machette knofe, and a bag of something that looked like animal skins, the entire group imploded. Senior guys that were in the KNOW started thinking it was real.

The grand finale? The girls all took off for the bathrooms, which were concrete block, and had a door that was very thick, and could be locked securely. All of them. Thy locked themselves into the bathroom and three particularly hysterical girls started hyperventalating (SIC?), and one senior girl had a full blown asthma attack.

The TA wisely ended the joke at this time, shouting through the door attempting to explain, sent ME to get the kid off of the bridge, knowing that there would have been CORONARIES if the girls had broke for the cabins instead of the bathrooms, and spent quite a while talking them into unlocking the door. Everyone was escorted to their cabins, after producing the camp caretaker with his rifle to explain the shots, and explaining the entire story. Two girls went to the hospital, one with an asthma attack, the other with a severly sprained ankle.

The final verdict on the whole episode wasn't written until two weeks later, when the state church assembly met. TA (who happened to be president of the assembly at the time) was severely reprimanded. In no undercertain terms it was made known that he would never be involved with youth camps again, the caretaker came perilously close to losing his job. TA had already sent everyone who attended that camp and their parents a personal letter of apology, which I kind of helped him write, since he was my DAD!

The worst part? I was in on the joke from the start. The best part? There was considerable remark on the fine character and level headedness of a certain young lady, who was the one who finally unlocked the bathroom door, and really helped calm things down. It came in handy a few years latter when we announced we were getting married (it offset talk about the punishment she had received earlier in the week for sneaking out of her cabin after lights out, the punishment of course, was to clean the bathrooms - and NO, I wasn't the one she was sneaking out to meet).

Hatchet in back though shirt into back looks really scary. Set-up, set-up, set-up. Start now.
(I apologize for the long post, but maybe my story will inspire you).

Wow! Shot down by Meryl Yourish! You just can't ask for any better compliment! I'll stop using exclamation points now.

I did this to my sister when she was 10 and SHE STOPPED BREATHING for a (very looonngg)minute or so. (I was 15) Home alone together, she was watching TV. I went to the back of the house, covered my face with a layer of vaseline, covered that with a layer of white bath talcum powder, covered my head and whole body in a shroud of white sheet with only the hideaous face showing, then I just stood in the hall and quietly waited...When she came around the corner, her hair literally stood on end. When I saw how (much too) scared she was, I felt terrible and blurted out her name. When she heard her name, she started screaming and it took awhile to wipe off my disguise and calm her down. Your group of kids may be too old, but I promise the effect on 7-10 year olds should be interesting. As for me, I'm haunted by guilt and always get her the best Christmas present in the family.

Thad - great story! I can't help but imagine it told in the voice of that girl from American Pie...."And this one time, at band camp...."

When I was about 12, I went on a church overnight w/ some friends. Two of the dads decided to scare us. They got a tape recorder with an extra long-playing tape, and recorded some awful noises on the last 5 minutes. When it got dark, they started the tape and hid it out of sight, then began telling ghost stories around the campfire. When the noises started about an hour later, most of the girls got hysterical. Remember as well, softer noises you have to concentrate on to hear can be much more effective than loud ones.
Good luck.

Judging from my parties, I'd have assumed that Danzig would be playing regardless of the event.