Halloween Party—NOT Martha Stewart Style

Your help is desperately needed…

My husband was murdered at a Halloween party. Suspects include Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, and Mrs. Peacock. I need your help to crack the case. Come dressed in your Halloween best. Bring a flashlight. Prepare to solve the crime.

Yours Truly,

The Black Widow

So goes the invitation I sent out to 20 kids. With a budget of $100.00 and limited time, I threw my umpteenth Halloween party. I had perused Pinterest and Martha Stewart and Family Fun, but none of them had any games or ideas for murder mysteries for kids.

So, I concocted my own.

Party Tip #1 – guests will arrive over a span of 20 minutes or so, and you need to entertain the early and punctual kids while waiting for the tardies.

When the kids were younger, a craft table was the answer. This year, I let them write on the wall. Well, paper taped to the wall. But they got a kick out of being able to do something that “seemed” naughty.

The paper had the names of each of the 4 suspects along with a quote:

Mrs. Peacock, the miserable socialite - “I witnessed the murder!”

Mr. Green, the kid who never grew up - “I’m not saying a word!”

Mrs. White, forgotten child star - “How am I supposed to know who did it?”

Professor Plum, the frustrated old bat - “I don’t know anything.”

Once the kids arrived I told them to guess the murderer by signing the wallpaper.

The devil is preparing her guess...

The guesses on the wall behind that devil…

Other small tasks I had them do while waiting for the mystery to start: Guessing the number of gummy worms in the plastic bag and labeling plastic cups with their names.

Once all the kids arrived, I introduced the suspects.

Party Tip #2 – recruit hapless relatives and friends. If they seem dubious, ply them with tasty beverages. They’ll get into character without fail.

Mr. Green, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, and Mrs. Peacock are introduced

Mr. Green, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, and Mrs. Peacock are introduced

I created bios for each of the suspects. I explained that the suspects had clues to help solve the mystery and that the kids needed to earn as many clues as possible. They had to guess the murderer, the weapon, and the room where the murder took place.

Party Tip #3 – provide fun, challenging games that move quickly.

I came up with 4 games, and held them in the 4 rooms under suspicion (living room, kitchen, dining room, and “the courtyard”–which was really my front yard/driveway). Each of the suspects ran a game: Memory, Bingo, Hit the Buckets, Obstacle Course.

Balancing an eyeball on a spoon while bouncing a basketball.

Balancing an eyeball on a spoon while bouncing a basketball.

Kids were divided into 4 groups of 5, and they rotated from one station to another. The kid(s) who won each game earned a clue to either the murderer, the weapon, or the room. The object was to collect as many clues as possible.

Jack Sparrow earns a clue to the mystery

Jack Sparrow earns a clue from Mrs. Peacock

Party Tip #4 – make fair rules.

With the exception of a few hoodlums I know, kids prefer to play fair and follow rules. I knew there was a chance that some kids would win every game, and some kids would win none. So, I told them if a kid earned 3 clues, he/she had to share future won clues to anyone who hadn’t won a game yet.

Sharing clues

Sharing clues

Also, I gave each kid 3 horse chestnuts, which they could use to buy clues from anyone, anytime.

One clue could be bought for a horse chestnut. There was a lot of wheeling and dealing.

Yes, I made up the clues. 36 total. It was fun. Really. I’m a dork like that.

When all the clues were given out, I gave them a chance to go through their clues. Then we gathered in the living room where they told me their three guesses. There were 7 kids who got all three right. Every kid got a goody bag for playing, and the 7 kids who solved the mystery got an extra treat.

Party Tip #5 – feed the goblins.

I served light snacks like popcorn, Doritos, vegetable platter, homemade mac ‘n’cheese, tortilla chips and guacamole, and a special witch’s brew.

I didn’t worry about tables and chairs. Kids were perfectly fine sitting on the floor. I also didn’t buy fancy halloween-themed paper plates/napkins. I just went with straight, plain white because I am not convinced that kids really care if there is a black cat on their plate.

Halloween 2009 (2)

Party Tip #6 – let the goblins run wild.

I threw them outside to play flashlight tag and to go “booing,” which is when they run around the neighborhood, ringing doorbells, and leaving bags of candy on the doorsteps.

Party Tip #7 – don’t forget goblins have a sweet tooth.

For the last 10 minutes, I brought them back into the house and served dessert. Having them in one place, contained, makes it easier for parents to pick them up. Plus, what goblin doesn’t want to come inside for Skull cookies, Graveyard cupcakes, and Pirate bones?

Halloween 2009 (6)

Party Tip #8 – recycle!

Halloween is the perfect event to use things over and over. I used things that I already had in my house. For instance, the obstacle course was designed with my kids’ sports equipment, and the Memory game was just household objects. Also, I already had decorations from parties past. I would have loved to add to my collection, but I restrained myself this year.

Springtime, tulips rise from the earth. Halloweentime, bones do.

Springtime, tulips rise from the earth. Halloweentime, bones do.

I keep all the snake skins I find, so that I can use them in my decorating. Creepy, but resourceful!

I keep all the snake skins I find, so that I can use them in my decorating. Creepy, but resourceful!

My biggest expense was the liquor and food I bought for the murder suspects. But, I gotta tell you, without their help there is NO WAY I could have thrown this party.

Halloween 2013 093

49 thoughts on “Halloween Party—NOT Martha Stewart Style

  1. This looks like a blast! Well done! Sounds to me like you could have started a treasured family tradition. Now you have a format–all you have to do is think of next year’s mystery.

    • Hi Naomi,

      I figured the same thing. Even if we end up inviting some of the same kids, having another mystery to solve wouldn’t be a problem I don’t think. Maybe next year I’ll even provide a body! :)

  2. I just might have to show up at your door next Halloween. It sounds like so much fun! That’s a great idea to do games for clues. I love the balancing an eyeball on a spoon while playing basketball one.

    • Hey Sheila,
      You’re certainly welcome to come over — and I’ll turn you into a suspect. ;) I have to admit, I was stumped as to how I was going to provide the clues until I thought of winning games for clues. Once I figured that out, the rest was a breeze.

  3. You are super cool, Kate. I would’ve LOVED the writing on the wall part (once, when I was around 12, my aunt let me and my cousins graffiti her bathroom wall because she was going to paint it–we had so much fun). Your snack table looks great too. So fun.

    • Hey Coleen,

      I am trying to get my husband to agree to my idea of letting the kids have one wall in their bedrooms to doodle on. He doesn’t quite see the benefit of uninhibited creativity like I do, though. ;) So, writing on the wall for the party was the next best thing. Making spooky snacks is fun. I tried to carve a watermelon to look like a brain, but my cuts were all wrong. I’ll try it again next year.

  4. What a great party! I don’t go out much, but I would certainly attend a party like this. Who doesn’t want to solve a mystery? What a great memory you’ve created for your kids as well as the party-goers. And relatively inexpensively at that. :)

    • Hi Carrie,

      Hubs is sooo not a party-thrower. He wanted nothing to do with this, and he’s the one who imposed the $100 budget. He’s like the Halloween Scrooge. Secretly, I think he was hoping I couldn’t make it happen with just $100. I had to turn around and laugh in his face when I was able to do most of the party with stuff I already had.

      As far as his character? I introduced him as Mr. Boring. ;)

  5. FABULOUS! You’re so clever, and I love how this could totally help a writer :) I love that you always do up Halloween so well…I want to be you! Nice work. So, who committed the crime?

    • Hey Amy,

      Thank you! Halloween is easy for me to get into, and so few people throw parties so I don’t feel like I’m adding to the craziness of the holiday season. I like that you think this could help a writer — in what way?

      Mrs. Peacock did the deed.

    • Hi Alarna,

      Most of the work is probably the day of because I have to clean the house. Ugh. The rest of it doesn’t feel like work because I have such fun throwing the party. I don’t really have a big house, but it’s not open-concept. Putting each station into separate rooms helps a lot with the crowd flow. :)

  6. Wow, I wish parents would’ve thrown parties like then when I was growing up! That sounds like the kind of thing my friends and I would’ve loved. And I bet plenty of adults would’ve been willing to play a role if it meant free tasty drinks. ;) Glad it went well, and kudos for doing such a great job with such a reasonable budget. Not everything has to cost an arm and a leg to be fun! (Well, maybe at Halloween that arm and leg could be literal for zombies….)

    • Hey JM,
      I wish my parents threw a party like this, too. We certainly had the perfect house and property for it (it was once part of the Underground Railroad). I am glad that the murder mystery idea went well. I was a little nervous about how to get the clues to the kids, but once I figured they could win clues via games the rest was easy.

      Saving money this year means I’ll get to spend more next year. Right? ;)

  7. Great job Kate! So glad it went so well – the desserts look SO good!!! Looks like it took a lot of work and time to coordinate this. Your kids should know how lucky they are! I gotta say, the snake skins threw me a little, but I bet the kids loved that too :)

    Do tell, who did it?

    • Why Arlene, don’t tell me you’re squeamish over a little snake skin? :) I could go one step further and use the dead insects that I find in my screened-in porch…

      Mrs. Peacock did it.

  8. What a great party! It looks like a blast. I had one for my kids a long time ago, but held it outside and built a haunted house in the garage. I can tell that you put a lot of time and effort into it!

    • Hi Susie,
      I think a haunted house in a garage would be totally awesome. Now, that would be a lot of work to pull off. I did spend a lot of time on the party. As much fun as they are, I always am relieved when the party is behind me because I can get my house back to normal and catch up on other responsibilities. But I still love doing it and never regret it or think that I won’t do it the next year.

  9. That sounds amazing! You are so creative and fun! I hope your kids realize how cool their mom is to do this for them. (They probably don’t, but they should!)

    • I doubt my kids think I’m cool. Maybe they’ll realize it when they’re parents. That’s when they’ll say, “Hey Mom, remember those Halloween parties you threw? Can you help me do one for my kids?”

      And I’ll say, “You gotta call me ‘cool’ first…”

    • LOL. You’re right, I should have told you all the answers! Mrs. Peacock, with the trophy, in the dining room. My sister was Mrs. Peacock, and I asked her first if she minded being the murderer. I figured it was the polite thing to do. :)

  10. Ooh what fun! Glad you found a way to make it work, and looks like everyone had a good time. It’s much more exciting to do something different with a party so that there isn’t opportunity for people to get bored and start misbehaving! And well dome for getting the adults involved too! :)

    • A lot of inner children were released that night. :) I think I can run this theme again next year, so that is a nice thought. Half the work is already done!

      Btw, I tried that cookie recipe idea you sent me. It works best if you only a bake a few at a time, because you have to make the spider effect before the chocolate chips get too cool. They looked awesome though! Thanks again.

    • Martha is too intimidating for me. I don’t think I ever tried any of her ideas. But I do wish I had her knack for crafts and decorating. I think I would need a slightly bigger budget than $100.

  11. I’d been waiting for this update post of yours, Kate. Ever since Hallowe’en eve, I’d been wondering how your party went. It sounds like it was a blast for everyone! :)

    I loved your “Party Tip #4 – make fair rules.” These are all great ideas for balancing the playing field between kids of varying ages and skill levels…and for team-building.

    Also, did you keep your clues? I liked the ones you posted in the picture, but it would be neat to see them all. (Because I’m a dork like that, too.)

    What a happy Hallowe’en this must have been for all!

    • Hi Mayumi,

      I kept most of the clues, but some I couldn’t find. I think a lot of the kids either tossed them or maybe put them in pockets or something. Fair rules is something I believe in across the board. I was the kid who struggled at games, so I know how it feels to be the last one picked for a team or the only one who couldn’t solve the puzzle.

      We did have fun, and I kept all of my pre-party notes so I don’t forget how I pulled off this feat!

    • Thanks, Kourtney. Not so sure about the amazing part. Maybe it’s like writing a book. If we want to do it badly enough, we’ll make it happen, no matter what the obstacle. ;)

      • Very true. When something is important it does become more possible because we make it so. :) Anyway, you did a terrific job pulling this event together and the pictures show that the kids had a great time. Go you!

      • Have to admit, I’m thankful it’s behind me. As much fun as it was, everything else took a backseat! Throwing a party like that is just as bad as blogging. :)

  12. Pingback: Great Blogs and the Winner Is… | Sheila Hurst

    • Well, thank you very much. :) They are a lot of fun, but take a lot out of me. I still don’t think I’m fully recovered. ;) Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

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