Looking for a way to entertain your guests? Have a fabulous Boardwalk Empire or Halloween party - 1920s style! These suggestions, from a 1920s book, are presented to an ambitious hostess with the absolute guarantee that no matter what other reactions her guests may have, they will certainly not be bored!
Of course we cannot all be startlingly clever, but Halloween, which comes on October 31st, offers a splendid opportunity for originality and "peppy" fun, 1920s style. The following suggestions are presented to ambitious hostesses with the absolute guarantee that no matter what other reactions her guests may have, they will certainly not be bored at her Halloween party.
1920s Party Ideas
The whole spirit of Halloween is, of course, one of "spooky" gayety and light-hearted ghastliness. Witches and ghosts run riot; corpses dance and black cats howl. "More work for the undertaker" should be the lead motif of the evening's fun. The moribund spirit can be delightfully observed, first of all, in the preparation of the invitations. There was one 1920s party hostess, for instance, who gained a great reputation for originality by enclosing a dead fish with each bidding to the evening's Halloween party. It is, of course, not at all necessary to follow her example to the letter; the enclosure of anything dead will suffice, providing, of course, that it is not TOO dead. There is such a thing as carrying a joke beyond the limits of propriety, and the canons of good taste should always be respectfully observed in planning your 1920s party.
Another amusing way of preparing invitations for a 1920s party is to cut out colored paper in the shape of cats, witches, etc., upon which appropriate verses are inscribed. Such as: "Next Monday night is Halloween, you big stiff." Or "On Monday next comes All-Hallows-Even, my grandmother's maiden name was Stephens." Or, "On Halloween you may see a witch if you don't look out, you funny fellow." or "Harry and I are giving a Halloween party; Harry says you owe him four dollars; please be prompt.” or "Monday night the ghosts do dance; Why didn't you enlist and go to France, You slacker?"
Another novel invitation for a 1920s Halloween party is made by cutting a piece of yellow paper thirteen inches long and four inches wide, and writing on each inch, one of the lines given below. Then begin at the bottom and fold the paper up, inch by inch. Fasten the last turn down with a "spooky" gummed sticker, and slip into a small envelope. When the recipient unfolds the invitation to the Halloween party, he will be surprised to read the following:
Now what on earth
Do you suppose
Is in this
Keep turning ...
Ha ha ha
Ha ha ha
Ha ha ha
Ha ha ha
It would perhaps be best to telephone the next day to those guests whom you REALLY want to come to your 1920s flapper party, and give them further details as to the date and time of the party. Additional fun can be gotten out of this invitation by failing to put postage stamps on the envelopes when you mail them; the two cents which each guest will have to pay for postage due can be returned in a novel manner on the night of the Halloween party by inserting them in sandwiches or stuffed tomatoes.
RECEIVING THE PARTY GUESTS:
On Halloween night great care should be taken in the preparations for receiving the guests in a mystic manner; no pains should be spared in the effort to start the evening of the Halloween party off with a "bang." Several novel ideas are offered for starting the guests off on the right informal spirit. Before they arrive, it is a good plan to take the street number off your house and fasten it to the porch of your next door neighbors, who will, of course, be at home because they are perfectly impossible people whom no one would invite anywhere, even for a Halloween party. Extinguish all the lights in your own house. Your neighbor, as he comes downstairs twenty-five or thirty times in the next hour, will obligingly tell your bewildered friends specifically where to go.
When the guest finally learns from the neighborhood policeman which house on the block is really having the Halloween party, he will discover on your door a sign reading: "If you would be my Valentine, follow please the bright green line." Leading from the door is a green cord which the mystified guest proceeds to follow, according to directions. This cord should guide the way to the coal cellar of your other neighbor who has recently purchased an automatic revolver under the delusion that burglars are operating in the neighborhood. As your bewildered guest gropes his way about the cellar, it is quite likely that he will be shot at several times and by the time he emerges (if he does emerge) he will be quite delightfully full of the informal spirit of Halloween and ready for anything to be found at your 1920s party.
HOW TO MYSTIFY:
At this point, your wife, dressed as a 1920s witch, should unexpectedly rush out at him; there is always the delightful possibility that he will pick up a convenient rock and brain her on the spot—an event which often adds an unexpected touch of gayety to the evening's fun. If, however, no such event occurs, the guest should be blindfolded and led into the house. Once inside he is conducted upstairs to the attic, where he will find three or four earlier arrivals to the Halloween party also blindfolded.
The hands and feet of these four are then securely tied and they are told that they are to be left there all evening. This is really a great joke, because they do not, of course, at the time, believe what you say, and when you come up to untie them the next morning, their shame-faced discomposure is truly laughable.
The "green cord into neighbor's coal cellar" joke can be cleverly varied by taking the lid off your cistern and making the green line lead in that direction. Great care should be taken, however, to keep an exact account of the number of guests who succumb to this trick, for although an unexpected "ducking" is excruciatingly humorous, drowning often results fatally.
Great fun can be added to the evening's entertainment at your Halloween party by dressing several of the guests as ghosts, witches, corpses, etc; these 1920s costumes can be quite simply and economically made in the home, or can be procured from some reliable department store.
An "old-fashioned" witch's 1920s costume consists of a union suit, corset, brassiere, chemise, under petticoat, over petticoat, long black skirt, long black stockings, shoes, black waist and shawl, with a pointed witch's hat and a broomstick. The "modern" witch's costume is much simpler and inexpensive in many details.
After the guests have sufficiently amused themselves with the ghosts and witches it will be time to commence some of the many games which are always associated with a 1920s Halloween party. "Bobbing for apples" is, of course, the most common of these games and great sport it is, too, to watch the awkward efforts of the guests as they try to pick up with their teeth the apples floating in a large tub. I know of one hostess who added greatly to the evening's fun by pouring twelve quarts of gin into the tub; the effect on the bobbers was, of course, extremely comical, except for the unfortunate conduct of two gentlemen, one of whom went to sleep in the tub, the other so far forgetting himself as to playfully throw all the floating fruit at the hostess' pet Pomeranian.
Most Halloween party games concern themselves with delving into the future in the hopes that one may there discover one's husband or bride-to-be. In one of these games the men stand at one end of the room, facing the girls, with their hands behind their backs and eyes tightly closed. The girls are blindfolded and one by one they are led to within six feet of the expectant men and given a soft pin cushion which they hurl forward. The tradition is that whichever man the girl hits, him will she marry.
Another game based on a delightful old Halloween tradition is as follows: A girl is given a lighted candle and told to walk upstairs into the room at the end of the hall where, by looking in a mirror, she will see her future husband. Have it arranged so that you are concealed alone in the room. When the girl arrives, look over her shoulder into the mirror. She had better go downstairs after ten minutes, though, so that another girl can come up. This tradition dates from before William the Conqueror.
No 1920s party is complete, of course, without fortune telling. Dress yourself as a wizard and have the guests led in one by one to hear their fortune told. Hanging in front of you should be a caldron, from which you extract the slip of paper containing the particular fortune. These slips of paper should be prepared beforehand. The following are suggested:
"You will meet a well dressed, good looking man who understands you better than your husband. How about Thursday at the Plaza?"
"You are about to receive a shipment of Scotch whisky that you ordered last month. And it's about time you kicked across with some of your own."
"You will have much trouble in your life if you lie about your golf score as you did last Sunday on Number 12."
Still another pleasing Halloween game, based on the revelation of one's matrimonial future, is played as follows: Seven lighted candles are placed in a row on a table. The men are then blindfolded, whirled around three times and commanded to blow out the candles. The number extinguished at a blow tells the number of years before they meet their bride.
For the older members of the 1920s party, the host should provide various games of cards and dice. In keeping with the ghastly spirit of the occasion, it would be well to have the dice carefully loaded. Many hosts have thus been able to make all expenses and often a handsome profit out of the evening's entertainment.
If the dice game goes particularly well, many hosts do not hesitate to provide elaborate refreshments for the guests. Finally, when the guests are ready to depart and just before they discover that you have cut cute little black cats and witches out of the backs of their evening wraps and over coats, it would perhaps be well to run up stairs and lock yourself securely in your room.
Excerpt from: Perfect Behavior, A Guide for Ladies and Gentlemen in All Social Crises by Donald Ogden Stewart; 1922.
Find 1920s Style Costumes
Explore the sophistication of 1920s dresses as you plan your fancy dress or masquerade costume. What could be more fun than 1920s style fashions and millinery creations, all featured in wonderful color pictures. Also find a 1920s dress chart advising the debonair gentleman on how to dress for a variety of social situations.