Parties and Visits · Vintage Entertainment

Vintage Halloween Party Games

Twenties illustration of two jack o'lanterns looking down at the head of a small child who is pretending to look scared.

You’re planning a great vintage Halloween bash. You gathered and made the decorations (in Halloween Party Part 1). You mastered the menu (in Halloween Party Part 2). But what are you going to do? That’s where the vintage Halloween party games list comes to your rescue.

Fortune telling

Fortune telling is, hands down, the favorite activity at 1910s – 1930s Halloween parties. Some partygoers read tea leaves, while others burned chestnuts in the fire in pairs to determine the “fate” of two partygoers. Others used special or not-so-special decks of cards.

An easy way to “tell fortunes” is to come up with a list of silly or serious fortunes. Print them one per line and cut them into strips, then fold them and put them into a bowl or Halloween container. Let everyone pull one and read their fortune to the group.

Another option is to designate one of the participants the Fortune Teller. This person should come dressed appropriately for the role, or assume it right before fortune telling time. A long cape is nice; a dark shawl would work too. This doesn’t have to be fancy to be vintage authentic. If your fortune teller is known among friends as a master of improvisation, then they can wing it with each seeker. Otherwise, providing a bowl of pre-made fortune slips like those mentioned above would help.


Costumes can be fancy, not fancy, or not at all. If the idea of authentic crepe paper costumes interests you, this How to Make Crepe Paper Costumes from 1925 is a treasure of information. This, and several others like it, live at the Internet Archive.

The general idea behind costumes in the 1920s was thrift. Costumes could be made from almost anything as long as the materials didn’t cost too much. Since this usually proved a one-time wearing, the Twenties denizen wasn’t about to spend a lot of hard-earned cash on something that would end up in the fire or in the back of a very narrow closet. Manuals on masquerade from the period begin with a statement on purchasing the cheapest stuff available to make a costume that will only last one night. Whether a Santa costume or a Halloween harlequin, the feeling remained the same.

If everyone wears costumes of some kind, it’s traditional to send them home with some kind of prize. Possible categories include: Best Vintage Costume; Scariest Costume; Funniest Costume; Least Expensive Costume; Most Traditional Costume, etc. A great prize would be a taffy apple on a stick. They’re already taking home candy from the dinner table place settings, if you made the favors from a previous post. Door prizes during the Twenties were useful, ornamental, or edible. Think handkerchiefs, small potted plants, and seasonal food.

Candy pulling

Many autumn and winter parties included candy pulling during the Teens and Twenties, and Halloween parties were no exception. Candy pulling gave partygoers something to do and they took home some of the spoils. Odd as it seems, this is one of the vintage Halloween party games that people looked forward to. Taffy is easy to make and fun to pull with a group. Make sure you have a lot of cold butter on hand, or a nondairy equivalent, to keep the candy from burning your hands if you grab it when it’s too hot.

Here’s a recipe for pulled taffy:

Molasses Taffy

1 1/2 cups Molasses
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons butter

Combine molasses, sugar, vinegar, water, and salt into a large heavy saucepan. Place over low heat and stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil, and keep at a light boil until the mixture reaches 240º F (soft ball stage).

Add the butter. Boil slowly until mixture reaches 265º (hard ball stage). Stir frequently while it reaches the target temperature.

Remove from the stove. Wipe any crystals from the top of the pan and pour the taffy quickly onto an oiled or buttered surface. You can use a shallow pan with sides, a platter, or a marble candy making slab.

Pull that taffy

Let set until cool enough to handle. Everyone pulls off a handful and works it between their hands, pulling it into a strand, folding back upon itself, and pulling again. You will pull and fold, pull and fold, pull and fold until the taffy becomes lighter in color and with a glossy, satin sheen. This will take a while… you and your party guests will pull for about 20 minutes.

If you find the taffy sticky, butter on your hands should help. Laughter and chatter add spice to the candy making time.

Once the taffy is soft, light-colored, and shiny, you can stretch it out into a long rope. Make it the diameter of the candy you want to eat. Use kitchen shears to cut the candy into bite-size strips, and roll in waxed paper squares.

Here’s a great little video that shows the process of making taffy.

Ghost stories

Telling ghost stories at Halloween parties is as old as Halloween parties themselves. Just like ghost stories were a tradition at Christmas time, they also became a tradition for Halloween.

Look no further than Project Gutenberg for more ghost stories than you could use in a lifetime of Halloween parties. Whether you want modern stories from the Twenties by Dorothy Scarborough or traditional stories by Charles Dickens, you have your pick at this Project Gutenberg page. Select a few of your favorites and be prepared to share them with your guests. Or enlist another partygoer who tells tales really well to locate a few stellar stories and share them with the crowd.

A few of these stories, told while everyone waits for the taffy to cool before pulling, will help while away the waiting minutes.

Or gather round the fire, turn the lights low, pass around the Witches’ Brew cider, and tell tales that will make your guests shudder in the half-light.

Best wishes

I hope you have a tremendous time with your vintage Halloween party games as you recreate a truly vintage Halloween party.