Halloween has now come and gone. Again. And it was not without yet another party to celebrate my most favorite holiday and time of year.
Since I am a born-and-raised Southern girl, this year I decide to go with a Southern Gothic theme. I set out to think of all of the things that are creepy about living in the South (swamps, decaying plantations, voodoo and hoodoo, deep woods, old abandoned cracker houses, Spanish Moss-strewn ancient oaks, hell and damnation religions, rows upon rows of disorienting tall pines, not being able to walk a few steps without possibly encountering something poisonous or deathly, you know, stuff like that…)
Then I started out with a few mood boards to set the tone.
I penned an invitational poem:
Invited are all ye grotesque and disturbed
To an evening of moonshine, vittles, and word
Through the pines you will follow the dusty red roads
Yonder past crick and fields of sugar cane rows
For our gathering a place most ghastly do expect
A decaying plantation left to rot from neglect
So many buried secrets and specters of old
Can damn your soul and make you’s blood run cold
Hoodoo and voodoo in the murky swamps, y’all
Myth and fact pickled in humid tales so tall
Gospel on the wind to tame the wicked folk
Blows through the bearded moss on the big Great Oak
Repent, says the preacher man, hands full of snakes
Your bones start to rattle as you ponder your fate
So stay for a spell ‘mongst the possum and coon
Sip some sugar-tooth tea on the porch under moon
Don’t bother to holler as you feel the chill
If the gnats don’t get you, the boogeyman will
To get invitees inspired and in the mood, I posted quotes daily from writers in the Southern Gothic genre in the week leading up to the event.
I created a music playlist that was a combination of scratchy blues recordings, dark country, old baptismal hymns, haunting folk melodies, and raunchy foot-stomping blues-rock. I played it simultaneously with a recording of wetland nature sounds.
This year Mr. Bones made an appearance as a depression-era launderess. (Yes, even in death there is still laundry to be done!)
I collected buku amounts of Spanish Moss, zapped it in the microwave, and hung it from chandeliers, door frames, the bookshelf, etc.
I wanted the house to have the feel of a spooky swamp, so I placed large Saw Palmetto fronds around the house, and I borrowed a fog machine from a friend. I wanted to keep the fog low to the ground for as long as possible, so I created a fog chiller using these awesome and easy instructions: https://youtu.be/MfGBbLusXQ0 (Basically, you just freeze several water bottles, get a 4-6’ hose with a 4″ diameter, put the water bottles in the hose, and place the hose up to the output of the fog machine. Soooooo easy!)
I reprised my collection of creepy family photos for the mantel but added giant pinecones and dried bundles of potion-making thistle and herbs that I collected on a walk in the woods.
For beverages, in addition to a selection of beer and wine, I offered Apple Pie Moonshine shots and a Southern Comfort, cherry cider, cranberry juice, and lemon-lime soda concoction I named “The Red, Red Dirt”. I served it from a galvanized tin dispenser and offered a collection of jelly jars and tin cans to drink it from.
I hung Dollar Tree skeleton strands behind one of the drink stations and turned a few them into voodoo dolls using scrap fabric, sewing pins, and a little moss for stuffing.
The menu was a nod to Southern classics:
- Panhandle Caviar (a Black-eyed Pea and Shoepeg Corn dip)
- Field Pea Hummus
- Pimiento Cheese
- Cheese Grit Bites
- Boiled Peanuts
- Mini Moon Pies
- Kettle Corn
- Crispy Crunchy Okra
- Cornbread Crisps
I used a handful of deer figurines and wire-wrapped rocks (with mini clothespins) as my buffet card holders.
The buffet featured a Saw Palmetto arrangement in a vintage milk jug that my sweet mother made for me, and I created a montage of creepiness as the centerpiece with more moss, real bones, animal skulls and shells, antlers, snakes and insects, rocks, pinecones, cotton swags, and nods to voodoo and spellbinding (including coiled snakes in a jar, cemetery dirt, potion bottles, etc.)
I wasn’t very good about playing photographer once the party got going, but here are pics of a few of the attendees:
And more details and close-ups:
Overall, I had so much fun bringing this theme to life! Now, it’s time to start planning the next one… 😉