Halloween without the creep factor is just not as much fun. Set up a Creepy Coffin as part of your decor -- a hands-on experience that elicits all appropriate grimaces and squeals. Paint a long cardboard box black, stencil "R.I.P." on the lid and cut hand-sized round holes in it. Inside, set up containers with squishy "body parts" for intrepid party-goers to handle through the holes. Give each guest a checkoff sheet for a Night of the Living Dead postmortem.
Poor Edgar, Dead and Gone
Explain, mournfully, that the undertaker dropped poor Edgar Poe's coffin on the way to the cemetery, and party guests are the undertakers to ensure all the parts are still in the casket before the burial. Tape containers with disgusting food inside the casket and let them feel and identify each item. Start at the feet with mini-franks for Poe's toes. Moving right along, cleaned and dried chicken bones are the shin bones. Intestines are cold, cooked spaghetti -- toss it in a little oil for a nice greasy feel.
Are We Having Fun Yet?
Ah, the liver -- kill them softly with this one. Use a real hunk of calf's liver, or, if you haven't got the stomach for it, half a canned peach. Then you get to use the calf's liver for the heart, or wimp out and substitute a whole canned stewed tomato for the heart. Meanwhile, thin cheese sticks or uncooked pasta make great finger bones, and sliced almonds are lovely fingernails. You can cheat away from foodstuffs a little to scatter some fake nails for those long corpse-like claws. The neck bone from your last turkey is Edgar's skinny neck. Drape a medallion over it for greater authenticity.
Your forensics experts are either fully invested in the game by now or quietly sick off in the corner. So raise the stakes -- no real stakes, Edgar is not a vampire -- and let them find a bunch of loose teeth. Candy corn makes excellent teeth, as does a handful of unpopped popcorn. Dried apricots feel amazingly like ears, and the shape is a ringer, but you can only use two. Monsieur Poe would not be believable at all if he were found to have three or more ears. Wet corn silk clings unpleasantly as the remaining strands of the unfortunate man's hair.
A Hand for the Winners
The eyes, those windows to the soul, are peeled grapes. It's a pain to peel grapes, but the effect is so worth it. Remember, two eyes per corpse. And the piece de resistance, the brain of the deceased, who will party with us nevermore -- it's the climax, so go all out. Brains can be created from blocks of tofu, trimmed to rounded shape; steamed heads of cauliflower; scrambled eggs; an overcooked tangled clump of linguine; or gummy worms mixed into a jello mold.
Wave So Long
Time for a quick hand-washing and a toting up of scores. Inevitably, the hysteria means widespread cheating, so everyone is a winner. Hand out clear plastic food service gloves, stuffed with popcorn, with candy corn in the fingertips. And raise a toast for poor discombobulated Edgar Poe, from a punch bowl with a frozen pink lemonade hand floating in it. The hand is pre-frozen, pre-party, inside one of those gloves. Drape it over a can in the freezer so it is nice and claw-like. Just before dropping the hand in the punchbowl, peel off and discard the glove.
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