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.

Parties and Visits · Vintage Entertainment

Vintage Halloween Party Menu

Halloween menu list bordered by a jack o'lantern, a bet in a spider web, and a cake with a witch on it.

Bring vintage entertainment right into your living room when you host a vintage Halloween party. This is the second installment of a series on throwing a Halloween party, Twenties style. If you missed the first part, you can find it here. This time we’re going to focus on food: adding a vintage Halloween party menu to your plans.

When you plan a vintage party menu, the first thing you have to remember is to keep it simple. Gathering people together for an evening of fun trumped ornate, formal entertaining. Most party hosts bought some crepe paper in the appropriate holiday colors (in this case, black and orange). They then spent a few evenings crafting party decorations at home.

Although paper companies released catalogs and idea books filled with ways to decorate with pre-packaged paper items, most party hosts preferred a handmade touch. While a vintage homemaker might buy a printed crepe paper with pumpkins on it, she would be likely to cut out those pumpkins and use them as part of a larger decorating scheme. It created a handmade I cared enough for you that I made it myself touch. Plus, those preprinted sheets of crepe were eye-crossingly busy. A partygoer could only take so much.

Your vintage Halloween party menu

1924 brings you not one vintage Halloween party menu, but two. The first one is very informal and would welcome breaking into the popcorn table centerpiece mentioned in the first Halloween party section.

Menu One

  • Jack O’Lantern Salad
  • Brown Bread Sandwiches
  • Cake of Fate
  • Orange Ice
  • Witches’ Brew

Jack O’Lantern Salad

For Jack O’Lantern salad, select as many large, red apples as there are people to be served. Cut off the top of each one and scoop out the inside. Carve eyes, nose, and mouth on one side like a Jack O’Lantern.

Chop the apple you removed and mix it with an equal amount of diced celery and chopped ripe (black) olives. Put the mixture back into the shells and serve with a dollop of mayonnaise dressing piled on top.

Note: If you want to keep your apple from turning brown, dip it in a little lemon juice. Mix a small amount, a teaspoon at a time, into the cut apple before you combine it with the other ingredients.

Brown Bread Sandwiches

You can use whole wheat, rye, or any other bread that you think would go well with the filling. A bakery loaf is best for this recipe, because you want it whole when you begin.

Slice the bread very thin (in about 1/4-inch slices) and cut the slices into circles with a round biscuit or cookie cutter. For the filling, use 8 oz cream cheese mixed with 2-3 Tbsp drained, shredded pineapple and 1-2 Tbsp chopped pecans.

The Cake of Fate

1920s illustration of a Halloween cake. Layer cake covered in white icing, with a bat, cat, and owl drawn onto the side with chocolate. On the top a witch cut from black paper flies vertically over the top of the cake which is designed like a sundial.
The Cake of Fate……

To make the Cake of Fate, make a two layer cake from any recipe and cover it with firm, white icing. After the icing sets, pipe or draw the clock face, cats, bats, and owls with either a fine clean paint brush dipped in melted chocolate (semi sweet chocolate chips would work well), or chocolate icing in a decorating bag with a fine round tip. The paint brush and melted chocolate is traditional; the cake decorating bag with tip is a modern application.

The witch decoration for the cake is made from black card stock. Print the illustration below and use it to trace onto the sheet of card stock. Cut two witches, and glue them back to back with a wooden chopstick or skewer between. Stick that in the top of the cake.

Traditionally, three items were placed inside the cake: a ring, a thimble, and a silver coin. They were placed inside after baking, as the cake was assembled. Often they rested in the icing between the two layers.

If you want to continue this tradition, you can cut small pictures of a ring, thimble, and silver coin into about 1″ x 1″ squares. Wrap them in Saran wrap or a comparable cling wrap, and slide them between the two layers in three different places before icing the final covering layer over the cake. If you do this, you must tell your guests to look for a piece of paper in their cake. I don’t recommend using the real items because they are all serious choking hazards for a population not accustomed to looking for metal or plastic items in their desserts.

Another option is to get an assortment of cake decorations in the shape of rings, thimbles, and coins and use those to decorate the top of the cake outside the clock. That way everyone gets a “fortune” and they can see it as soon as they look at their piece of cake.

Witch illustration for the Cake of Fate.

Orange Ice

Mold the orange ice in cone shapes. You can get paper ice cones at Amazon. If you look during the summer you can probably find them locally and stash them away for Halloween ice treats. If you want to use a silicone mold that’s cone shaped, Wilton has one but it forms a cone only 2.5 inches high.

To mold an ice, you will make the mixture by the directions and then pack it solidly into whatever mold you are using. In a pinch, a muffin tin would work. Cover the top of the mold with wax paper and then put it into the freezer to freeze for at least two hours. Unmold by turning the container upside down on a platter and wrapping each section with a towel dipped in hot water and wrung out.

In the top of each cone put a crepe paper (or card stock) cutout of a bat, a witch, or an owl.

Since you probably don’t have a recipe for Orange Ice sitting around in your household cookbook, here’s one:

Orange Ice Recipe

2 cups sugar 2 1/2 cups orange juice
4 cups water Grated rind of one orange
3 Tbsp lemon juice

  1. Boil the sugar and water together for five minutes.
  2. Cool the syrup mixture, and then add the fruit juices and orange rind. Let stand an hour.
  3. Strain, and then freeze in an ice cream maker.
  4. Pack into molds as described above or place in a freezer-safe container with a lid. Cure in the freezer at least 2 hours before serving.

Witches’ Brew

For the Witches’ Brew, use any cider punch recipe that you have and love. If you need a recipe, you can use this one:

Cider Punch

2 oranges, juice 1 quart grape juice
2 lemons, juice 1 cup sugar
1 quart cider 2 quarts water

  1. Grate some of the lemon and orange peel, and set aside.
  2. Juice the lemons and oranges. Add the grape juice.
  3. Add the peels to the juices.
  4. Stir in the cider, sugar and water.
  5. Pour in a punch bowl in which you have floating a block of ice.
  6. Serve in small punch glasses.

Menu Two

The second menu is a bit more formal than the first.

  • Creamed Chicken in Cream Puffs
  • Apricot Ice
  • Gold Cake with Chocolate Icing
  • Nuts
  • Popcorn Balls
  • Coffee
  • Cider Punch

Creamed Chicken in Cream Puffs

Creamed Chicken in Cream Puffs is the autumn version of chicken salad in cream puffs. If you don’t know where to find cream puffs locally, and you are up for some invigorating stirring, A Pretty Life in the Suburbs posted a good, doable recipe. I have made cream puffs before from scratch, and this looks similar to the recipe I used.

Creamed Chicken Recipe

3 cups cold cooked chicken, diced
2 1/2 cups milk
5 Tbsp flour
1 pimiento cut into tiny pieces (optional. This is a roasted red bell pepper.)
1/8 tsp pepper (feel free to use more if you like)
5 Tbsp fat (oil, butter, ghee, etc)
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon celery salt

  1. Scald the milk.
  2. In another saucepan or skillet, melt the fat/heat oil over medium heat and add the flour, salt, and pepper. Use a whisk to get the lumps out.
  3. Add the milk slowly to the flour mixture. Stir constantly until the mixture bubbles and thickens.
  4. When thick, add chicken and cook long enough to heat the chicken. Add the pimiento last if you are using it.
  5. To fill cream puffs with the creamed chicken, cut the top off the puff, hollow out the puff leaving 1/4 inch or so around all the edges, and fill with a spoon of warm chicken mixture. You can replace the top of the puff or leave it off, as you please.

Apricot Ice

A fruit flavored ice provided a unique, light dessert for the vintage host.

You will need:

1 1/2 cups apricot pulp, 1 20 – 28 oz can or 2 15 oz cans
2 cups sugar
3 cups water
1/2 cup lemon juice

Use canned apricots and put through a coarse sieve. If you have neither the patience nor the equipment for that, give them a whir in the blender or food processor.

Boil the water and sugar together for ten minutes in a large saucepan. This makes a syrup.

Cool the syrup and add with the lemon juice to the apricot puree.

Freeze in an ice cream freezer to a mush. Transfer to a freezer-safe container let stand one hour or more in the freezer to ripen. Or freeze in individual molds as detailed in the Orange Ice instructions above.

Gold cake with chocolate icing

This is simply a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Use whatever recipe you have. Even a boxed cake with canned icing will work. Keep it simple.

Nuts and coffee

Meals like this typically ended with nuts or mints, little nibbles to clear the palate. Serve whatever nuts you like as long as your guests aren’t allergic to them. They can go in a small bowl in the center of the table or into individual nut cups at each place setting.

Coffee is self explanatory. Serve whatever you like, however you like it.

Popcorn balls

The original article offered no recipe for popcorn balls. This recipe from Taste of Home is pretty standard. Popcorn balls last for several days wrapped in cling wrap film, so you can make them in advance.

Cider punch

See the recipe above under Witches’ Brew.

Next time

Now that you have the decorations and your vintage Halloween party menu under control, the next thing we need to discuss is games for the evening. Stay tuned for the next installment!

Parties and Visits · Vintage Entertainment

Host a Twenties Halloween Party

Photo of 1920s dining room. A long table is set for six places at dinner. In the middle of the table sits a large ball of popcorn wearing a large party hat. Windows behind the table provide light into the room.
Host your own vintage Halloween party

Want to get into the true vintage spirit? Host a Twenties Halloween party! Whether you plan a large gathering or merely entertain your own household, you can throw a Twenties Halloween party to delight your vintage-loving heart.

Halloween gatherings were hugely popular from 1910 through the 1950s. Some were simple, others more involved, but all provided a delightful evening of fun. Informal food, games, and decorations ruled the night.

When you recreate the Halloween parties of yesteryear, you bring vintage quirky, light-hearted entertainment into today’s drawing room. Or dining room. How do you host a Twenties Halloween party? First, the decorations.

Decorating for your vintage party

An illustrated row of halloween decorations. An owl, a witch, a girl doll wearing an apron with a cat's face on it, and a boy doll dressed like a clown stand in a line. Most of these are made from crepe paper.
Vintage Halloween decorations

Some parties took place over an entire house, but more often the living room and dining room were set apart for the festivities. Then as now, the Halloween party colors were black and orange. You can also throw in some ghostly white, but here are some additional suggestions for Twenties decorating flair:

  • Red or brown autumn leaves
  • Pumpkins
  • Corn stalks
  • Crepe paper decorations

Crepe paper was everywhere. Revelers used it for decorations, costumes, and party favors. Crepe paper used to be available at every five and dime store for party creations. Not so much anymore, but you can still find an assortment of colors at Amazon. Or, if you like, you can also substitute decorations made from card stock in the relevant holiday colors. Card stock is available from every craft store and online.

The table

The table can be as elaborate as you like. In the photo above, the centerpiece is made from popcorn. First you pop a large quantity of popcorn, using salt or flavored salt and seasonings to flavor it (garlic, dill weed, etc — not all at the same time!). If you include butter flavored oil or butter with the popcorn it will become greasy as it sits. Best to make this one simple.

Once you have 1 – 2 gallons measure in popped seasoned corn, wrap it in clear cellophane. Again, Amazon to the rescue. You should be able to find this locally in a party store or craft store as well. Your goal is a ball about a foot in diameter.

When you have the popcorn properly contained in the sealed cellophane (I have no idea how they did this before the advent of clear tape!) you can decorate it. A simple set of round eyes, triangle nose, and smiling mouth are cut from black paper or crepe paper and taped or glued onto the ball.

For the hat, use a large sheet of paper to cut a half circle and roll a cone hat. A sheet of white poster board would work well. If you like you can cover it with crepe paper and use crepe paper for the brim. Since you form the hat from a half circle of paper, you will probably want to make the brim separately and staple it on. Here’s a simple YouTube video that shows you how to make the cone if you’ve never done it before.

Attach the hat at a rakish angle for the full effect of your popcorn head centerpiece.

You can break open the cellophane and share the popcorn at the end of the party.

The favors

The dolls that appear in the second photo are all made from crepe paper and a little card stock. And candy. Did I mention the candy? The doll in the apron and the one in the clown suit both have limbs filled with stick candy. You can use any long thin candy that you like: Tootsie rolls would work well, using two stacked for the leg and one for the arm. Or you can use the stick candy if you can find it.

Snap headed dolls

Originally these dolls would be made with a paper snap, like a Christmas cracker. The snap would be attached between the head and the body. You’d glue the head to one end of the paper snap and a body piece to the other end. Then after the meal all the guests would hold onto one part of the doll, their neighbor the other, and give a pull. Snap! The head comes off with a pop and everyone giggles.

If this idea appeals to you, you can still get cracker snaps from Amazon.

Heavy paper or card stock makes the owl and the heads of the dolls. Draw a circle or oval and sketch the facial features. Then small pieces of crepe paper make up the rest of the dolls. Roll the candy in the crepe paper and tie the ends for arms and legs. The witch is made from a long thin piece of crepe paper that’s gathered at the neck, with a smaller piece gathered for her cape. Hats are cut from paper or crepe paper.

Easy pumpkins

The candy stick pumpkin favor

If you want a simpler favor, cut a circle of orange crepe paper 6-7 inches in diameter. You can use a 6-inch plate as a pattern if you have one. That’s what a vintage host would do.

Cut the circles from the crepe paper. Place something to weight the favor, such as beans, nuts or rice (M$Ms are good!). Gather up the edges of the pumpkin like you see in the illustration, and tie the top with string, ribbon, or another strip of crepe paper. Place a stick of candy in it as a table favor. These can go at each place or around the popcorn head centerpiece. Little pieces of colored paper make the eyes, nose, and mouth.

If you want your pumpkin to be nice and fluffy, a bit of crumpled tissue (facial or gift wrapping) will fluff the top out. You will still need something to weight the ball, though, or the candy stick will make it fall over.

The glimmer

Keep the lights low and set candles around. These add an atmospheric flicker to your room and enhance the vintage spookiness of it all. Your party will be just as nice if you opt for battery-operated candles instead of the real thing. It will also be a lot safer. Although real fire would be truly vintage, the truth is that the Twenties partygoer routinely interacted with flames more often than most of us do. Flameless candles will work just fine, and you can use them again next year. Double win.

Next time: food

Decorating for a vintage party is relatively simple, but it does require some hands-on crafting since none of the original store-bought decorations are still available. In the next installment I’ll give you menu options. Stay tuned, and have fun with that crepe paper! When you host this Twenties Halloween party, people will remember it.