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Halloween doesn't always have to be pumpkins and silly costumes. Take a walk on the elegant side and host a Halloween fete that's sophisticated yet suitably bone-chilling with overtures of mad science. Decoupage your house number with skeleton images onto white plates and stack in a plate rack outside your front door. Guests will know they've arrived at the correct house, and they'll get a glimpse of things to come.
Welcome guests inside to a haunting vignette. Display a medical-supply skeleton near the front door as the official greeter. A spooky entry table boasts a framed tarot card and tarnished silver accessories. Gloomy black-and-white prints add to the somber mood.
Set the table with unmatched stemware, mismatched candlesticks, and unpolished silver pieces for a harried effect. A length of velvet fabric with a subtle cobweb design is draped over a white tablecloth.
Slipcover dining room chairs with lab coats (we rented ours from a theatrical shop). Wrap a coat around the chair with the front facing out. Pin the arms of the coat to the front of the chair with safety pins. Make name tags for the coats using notorious Halloween character names, such as Dr. Jekyll, Morticia, and Dr. Frankenstein. Cut small rectangles of black foam-core for the tags. Type names on a computer and print out; cut to fit on the foam-core tags, and adhere them with glue.
Decoupaged chargers stand in as place mats for the spooky place settings.
Inexpensive cloth napkins get costumed for Halloween with iron-on transfers. And unlike seasonal paper napkins, they can be used year after year. For an extra chill, use ring-shape pet store bones as napkin rings.
Customize a menu of dinner favorites with names that fit the party theme. (For example, buffalo wings become BBQ Bat Wings.) Give guests a taste of what's to come by printing menus on white cardstock and cutting them into tombstone shapes. Use plastic skeleton hands to hold the menus. To get the silvered effect, apply one or two coats of gray spray primer to the hands for complete coverage; let dry. Apply two coats of metallic silver spray paint, allowing ample drying time between each coat.
Invite this skull to the table to be the frightening centerpiece. Apply one or two coats of gray spray primer to a plastic skull for complete coverage; let dry. Apply two coats of metallic silver spray paint, allowing ample drying time between each coat. Place the dried skull atop a black cake stand, and coil a black feather boa (available at crafts stores) around it.
Silver wire nests cradling glass eggs become fanciful party favors. Perch a beady-eye black bird atop the nest for a spooky look.
Sand a back corner of an old mirror until it's clear, feathering it at the edge. Print a photo of a frightened face onto translucent paper and again onto white paper. Tape the translucent print to the back of the mirror, then tape the white print behind it, slightly off-center for a ghostly image. Hang silver spray-painted bones around the mirror for a creepy frame.
After dinner, invite guests to linger near the gloomy fireplace, where frightening wares continue the table's haunting theme. The vignette is swathed in icky spiderwebs, which are actually cheap white pantyhose that have been cut, ripped, and stretched, then held in place with puttylike tacky wax.
Editor's Tip: The key to realistic cobwebs is in the stretching. Whether you're using faux webbing or white pantyhose, keep pulling so virtually every strand is visible.
Create a haunted look by dressing your mantel with black candles, a faux raven, tarnished silver accessories, and a skull under a glass cloche. No fireplace? Set up your accessories on a coffee table or bookshelf.
For a Frankenstein's lab-inspired art display, scour your basement, dollar stores, and thrift shops for old white plates and bowls. Search the Internet for free clip art images of skulls, skeletons, and other anatomical prints. (Think images from old medical textbooks.) Print your finds in black-and-white, then decoupage them onto plates and bowls. For this seasonal display, use removable adhesive picture-hanging strips to avoid making nail holes in the wall.