We all have a few favorite Halloween books, the ones we keep out all year on our coffee table or next to our easy chair, and would grab if the house caught on fire. These books, for whatever reason, fuel our imaginations and get us motivated to dream our next year’s decorations for houses and yards. I keep some books just to look at, knowing full well I may never get around to making one project found between the pages. Each person has his own style of books, such as subjects geared toward prop making, themeing, or professional haunting. I have my own subject area as well, but in addition I like some of the more lightweight, crafty books. I routinely scourer Amazon or Half.com for any Halloween book I don’t have, or a book that covers an area of Halloween I want to learn more about. Let’s face it, there is something out there for everyone, no matter what your interest is in Halloween.
During a recent conversation with a fellow Halloweener, I found out she hadn’t read or seen several of my favorites books. She had some I’d not seen before either. This surprised me, but it got me to wondering why I hadn’t bothered to tell her about my favorite books. I had assumed that everyone had seen them since all are older, being published in the 1980s and 1990s. The other reason I hadn’t shared them was because I was moving away from serious haunting and more toward hosting large Halloween parties, and I needed some ideas on decorating the inside of my house. My friend, however, is still into serious yard haunting. So, we swapped books, and our discussions changed from yard haunting as the only way to celebrate Halloween to admitting that there were some good ideas in each of our favorite subject areas. We decided to agree to disagree on which ones were the right kind of books and simply began enjoying both sets. So I hope you, the reader, will keep this in mind as I share my personal favorites with you.
The Halloween Handbook – 447 Costumes by Bridie Clark and Ashley Dodd
Oh my goodness! They listed and photographed 447 costumes that will blow you away, make you snort your soda up your nose, and make you wonder why you hadn’t thought of them yourself. As they say on the cover, “It’s wicked fun,” and it is because they have come up with so many costumes that are based on plays on words, sight gags, and other adult themes. The costumes in this book are not the same old tired ideas or modelled after modern day infamous/ famous people in the news today. I bet there are going to be thousands of Paris Hiltons roaming the street this year.
Listen to these costume headings to get a true feel for the scope of this book: Classics and Classics With a Twist, Play With Your Words, Come Hither Costumes, History In The Makings, Movie and TV Characters, Celeb Sightings, The Sporting Life, Crowd Participation, Around the World, For The Group, A Moveable Feast, Nursery Rhymes, Fairy Tales, and Costumes for the Young At Heart. Not your typical costume book in any sense of the word!
Here are some of my favorite, easy to make costume ideas from this book:
- Black-Eyed Susan, page 27 (she has on a name tag with make up on one eye to look like one heck of a shiner.)
- Head In the Clouds, page 35 (the model has on a sky blue hoodie with cotton balls and gauze that looks like clouds, and they put a lot of it on the top of the hood.)
- The X-Ray Machine, page 234, is a glow-in-the-dark wall decoration skeleton on black poster board with the wearer’s head above the black foam core. Is that great or what?
- Head On A Silver Platter, page 220 is so funny! They covered a piece of cardboard with foil and glued greens, veggies and other food items around the wear’s neck. The wearer’s head sticks out of the tray – Head On A Silver Platter! I love that one!
I could go on and on because there are so many truly grown up costume ideas in this book, and their instructions are very clear and easy to follow. I would walk over hot coals for a copy of this book if mine ever gets lost because I really think this is the best costume book for me.
Dressed For Thrills – 100 Years of Halloween Costumes & Masquerades by Phyllis Galembo
This book has some of the most unusual antique masks I’ve ever seen, from as early as the 1900s up to the 1980s Rubic Cube mask. The photos are brilliant, as she’s a professional photographer and her pictures show intricate details of these historic jewels of our collective past. But most importantly to me, the photos and writings by both Phyllis Galembo and Mark Alice Durant recall a piece of my own childhood – the one-time wearing of a simple puppy dog mask from our dime store turned my love of Halloween into a passion that age and time can’t squelch. I had hoped that I would find my doggy mask pictured in the book, but alas, no. I did see several other masks from my childhood, including the Frankenstein mask on the cover. Seeing that mask was almost as good as seeing my puppy mask because it invoked other memories I’d long forgotten about.
It feels so good to recall those treasured memories from my childhood: giggling as I dashed over wet leaves on the cold, damp night to beat my brother and sister to the next door in my wanton candy gathering, shouting, “Trick or Treat!” Pearing into my pillow case to see the candy that was shockingly sanctioned by Mom and Dad! This book also is helpful to talk to my daughter about my memories of Halloween and help make hers as exciting, even if she does roll her eyes at my puppy dog story! Get this book if you’re in a nostalgic mood or if you’re into the history of costuming and textiles. This book is a rare treat to any lover of Halloween collecting.
The Big Book of Halloween by Laura Dover Doran
Not a yard haunter’s book, but it’s great if you’re hosting a dinner party or nice gathering. This book is geared to more of the sophisticated decorator or a person that likes to decorate around antique collectables – an area I’m beginning to like. I guess I straddle the middle of the road when it comes to haunting because I love a good scary yard scene, but I also like the more exquisite decorations you see in high-end magazines, too. I hope thse things sparks your imagination like it did mine:
I love the Spooky Spoon Centerpiece, even though when I made it, I left off the spoons and added my own decorations. I used black glitter bat picks instead and curled them so they didn’t stick straight up. I have to say that the gnarled branches coming out of the pumpkin with the Spanish moss looks great, and I liked it because it’s an airy centerpiece you can use if you’re doing a sit-down dinner – you can see through it!
Oh, and I love the Witchy Lamp Shade – it’s on my list of projects to do some day. It’s a lamp shade you make to look like a black pointy hat made out of metal and put on a floor lamp base. I don’t know if I’ll ever get this project done or not, but I love the idea!
Other ideas in this book require sewing or painting, but none of it is that cutesy junk you’ve seen in other books. Check it out if you’re a decorator, crafter, or host parties that don’t rely on kegs.
Halloween Crafts – Eerily Elegant Décor by Kasey Rogers and Mark Wood
This book has a lot of great ideas for decorating the inside and outside of your house in a tasteful way. I love the Creepy Drippy candles they make on the skulls and books. They look very antique and polished, and I can use them all over my house. The directions are good and thorough so you shouldn’t have any problems making the costumes. I also made the Kitchen Witch Night-light and gave it out to friends and family. You take an empty Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup bottle on a wooden base and add an electric candle inside the bottle. Dress her, glue on a small cauldron and plug her in. Really neat for gifts and kids (me included) as a decoration for their rooms.
I think the book is worth it’s price for the exceptionally interesting Red Imps decoration ideas, banners, and the theme of the Goblin King. Patterns for this party are included in the back of this book as well as patterns for glorious banners, the Goblin King invites, and other projects. The gorgeous banners look expensive, and I’ve yet to see anything else like them in any other books.
Give Them A Real Scare This Halloween by Joseph Pfeiffer
An oldie but a goodie for haunting my house, giving class parties, and creating yard ideas. I love his illustrations and cartoons, not to mention I get a kick out of the items he suggests. Here are a few of the subject area:
- How to Scare Trick or Treaters
- Haunted House Ideas
- Halloween Party Fun
- Costumes and Masks, and
- Props to Add to the Horror.
He has many great ideas for you to build on, and his instructions are very clear. His themes are fun and interesting, like the Monster Market you can easily and affordably create for your yard haunt. He has three tables set up like a yard sale with funny signs, such as “Body Parts” with a guy dressed up as Frankenstein and his table covered in body parts. Another table has a person dressed up as a witch, and her table is covered with bottles of potions with funny labels. The last table is signed as a typical monster selling Ghosts In a Can. This is the kind of ideas that gets my brain moving, and this is only one theme he’s fleshed out. This book is simply fun to look at over and over. Tell me you wouldn’t love to grab this book with your favorite beverage on a quiet rainy summer afternoon and dream of autumn?
No matter what you think about Martha Stewart, you have to give her props credit for coming up with some really original spooky Halloween decorating ideas. I love the way she uses those silhouettes and the way she thought to paint roots of plants to look so creepy on the doors of one of doorways they show in the magazine and book. I’ve pulled weeds and bushes up in my yard for years and never thought to paint the roots to use for a Halloween decoration. I keep a copy of all her Halloween magazines next to my chair for quick reference when I did my daughter’s room parties. This is also where I got the idea for the Dragon Egg Treats I give out to my youngest trick-or-treatoer’s. I used her ideas from her papier-mâché pumpkins (Martha Stewart Holiday magazine–page 54, 2004) and followed her directions, but I used black, dark green and gray crepe paper for a creepier look.
I hope you’ve enjoyed one person’s book list, and I know you have many favorites of your own. It’s good to look at books that are different than the ones you usually seek because you never know where inspiration will strike. Feel free to comment below and list your own favorites!