No one can deny it – technology is rad. The convenience, accessibility and lifestyle enhancing effects it provides are evidenced in the way we, as a society, have latched on almost to the exclusion of all else. No longer do we need basic math or map-reading skills. Hooray!
However – sometimes when we see such a major gain, another concept suffers. Resting firmly on the other side of that coin is the nagging idea that humans simply weren’t wired that way. In my opinion, the exponential popularity of events like interactive immersive theatre represents a counter-response to technology that honors the root of what separates us from other animal species. Living in the moment and connecting face to face are fun ways to nurture the trust and understanding that build community.
Humor me for a second. Let’s take a trip back to 90’s retro nostalgia where scary Halloween games required directed creative input and interpersonal communication. Horrorbuzz combiled a list of ten fun games you could pitch to your children and their friends, should you manage to bribe them away from the video screen. They are ranked in order of increasing intensity, from innocent and kid friendly to mindplay-chilling, so read to the end for the greatest fright!
1.) THE NAME GAME:
via Pumpkin Nook
This is a warm-up, get to know you game for all ages.
Simply print the name of a person or character associated with Halloween onto a 3×5 card, or Post-it note. Pin the card to each player’s back, or stick the Post-it note on their forehead. Do not tell them who is on the card.
Game Objective: To guess who “you” are.
You can ask only one question of a guest, before moving to another guest to ask a question.
Only “Yes” and “No” answers can be given.
Laughing, facial expressions, etc are allowed.
Look for questions which will quickly narrow the quest such as:
Am I a male(or female)?
Am I a real person(versus fictional character)?
If a guest guesses too quickly, give them another name tag.
2.) PASS IT ON – TALES WITH A TWIST:
via Pumpkin Nook
Think Are you Afraid of the Dark’s Midnight Society. Sit around a circle in a darkened room. The first player will hold a flashlight, shine the light upward onto their face and begin the game by saying “Once there was…” filling in the blank with their imagination. Once an exciting point in the story is reached, pass the flashlight on to the next person. The following guest adds their own unique spin on whatever was previously said. Go around the room at least once, using a timer if desired. Try to make the stories scary or gross.
Once there was an old man walking through the graveyard…
Once there was an old lady who look so much like a witch…
Once there was a shadow…
Once there was an eerie sound that went…
3.) GHOST IN THE GRAVEYARD:
Project Playbooks writes,
“Ghost in the Graveyard is played with three or more friends in any outdoor area. It is especially fun at night in the dark. The object of the game is to find the ghost – a player who is hiding. The player who finds the ghost’s hiding spot, yells “Ghost in the Graveyard” to alert the other players. The player who finds the ghost is safe. All the other players must race back to base. The ghost tries to tag someone before they do and that player is IT for the next game.”
4.) THE WITHERED CORPSE:
Thanks to American Folklore for this spooky suggestion.
This is a guessing game where participants begin by sitting in a circle. The game leader will pass around cups or boxes filled with a creepy/gross items while reciting lines which describe the corpse in a menacing voice.
“Here is his brain, which feels no pain.”
Pass around a cup with a wet squishy tomato inside it.
“Here are his eyes, frozen in surprise.”
Pass the second cup which hold two frozen peeled grapes.
“Here is his heart, nevermore to start!”
The object of the game is for the players to write down and correctly guess what they were feeling. Lights out for added atmosphere.
5.) THE SANDMAN GAME:
One person lies motionless, eyes closed, face up on the ground. The group sits around them while another person tells a story. In a form of light hypnosis, they speak of this friend being injured or dying and having the body filled with sand while lightly running a finger along a point of focus. The object of this game is to create the sensation of the “victim” being ultimately too heavy to sit up or move.
Example story: (Scary for Kids has a few others)
“Start by telling the person they died in a horrible way, then were taken to the cemetery and buried. ‘The sandman came to your grave and dug up your body. He slit open your arm and filled it with sand. Then he stitched it back shut. He cut open your leg and filled it with sand. Then he stitched it back shut etc.’ As you narrate the story, your friend lightly touches the person with their finger to simulate the sensations of being cut open, filled with sand and sewn back up. Slice down their arm, pat it like you are packing it with sand, then zig-zag back up as if you are sewing them up. After the person is completely filled with sand, tell them the sandman finished his job and now he’s gone.”
I could see this being effective depending on the person’s willingness to play along/relax. It reminds me of a kids version of Savasana (yoga corse pose). I know I’ve fallen into blissful slumber during the meditation portion of class, so a spooky spin on that exercise might be a treat!
6.) LIGHT AS A FEATHER, STIFF AS A BOARD:
This game is a variant of the epic levitation scene from cult-classic The Craft.
Essentially, the person to be levitated sits in a chair or lies face-up on the ground, relaxed, eyes closed, while the ground gathers around. Each participant strategically places two fingers underneath. The group should chant “light as a feather, stiff as a board” approximately 20 times, until a ritualistic ambiance is created. Now. On the count of three – “one… two… three… LIFT.”
If done correctly, there are scientific reasons why this trick should work. Having played this in my youth, I can burst that bubble by admitting that more often that not, it doesn’t. That never stopped us from trying though, and to this day I remember it as one of my favorite mood-invoking party tricks.
7.) HORROR IMPROV:
via The Top 10 Blog
Think Whose Line is it Anyway. This one is best played at a large party and is great for creative types and/or actors.
Divide players into teams. In the center, place a large box filled with props for each act to choose from. The props can be adult or child oriented and include anything from toy knives, stage blood, plastic skeleton bones, old clothes, costumes, mannequin or doll body parts, swords, axes, etc.
The teams are invited to use props to create a scene within a certain amount of time. The scene voted scariest and/or funniest wins a prize.
8.) SEEK AND KILL:
via The Top 10 Blog
“This is a young adult hide-and-seek game with a difference. One player is chosen as ‘Michael Myers’ and is sent to another room to wait. Players are given 3-5 minutes to hide. The Killer then dons a Michael Myers type Halloween costume and hunts the players. The lights should be turned off and each player has a flashlight (including the killer). Each time a victim is discovered/killed he or she let’s out a blood-curdling scream and goes to the center of a room, designated as a the cemetery, to lie on the floor and wait until the end of the game. Whoever is left last is declared the winner. Put on scary Halloween theme music to heighten the fear-factor!”
As scary Halloween games go, Ouija Boards rank higher on the intensity scale simply due to the “not-sure-what-we’re-messing-with” factor. I can’t fully condone them, as most professionals more familiar with spirituality and the occult do warn against them. Ouija boards are potential portals to the unknown and magnets for negativity. Historically, they were used to communicate with the dead.
With that disclaimer out off the way, let’s be real: In today’s world where information and science can explain away most unnatural occurrences, ouija boards are fundamentally a game. They are made out of cardboard and plastic, manufactured by Parker Brothers/Hasbro, the same company who brought us hits such as Clue, Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit. They are a cool way to trip your mind out without invoking any real harm. Probably.
1.) Take it seriously.
2.) Always say goodbye at the end.
3.) Never use the Ouija Board in your home. (If it does attract negative energy – which fear is – this is not something you want to invite into the place you’re supposed to feel most at ease.)
4.) Never use the Ouija Board in a graveyard.
5.) Never use the Ouija Board alone. (Combined energy is more effective for a response as well as easier to control.)
Ghost Walks published a great write-up on the finer details of play; including effective group organization and how to best conduct an interview with
thin air the dead.
Fine print: Horrorbuzz cannot be held accountable for any possessions, demons or lords of the underworld you may encounter during or after using said Ouija Board. This is only a suggestion. Proceed with caution.
10.) MIDNIGHT MAN:
As the story goes, “don’t try this at home,” but if you’re going to anyway, home is exactly where it needs to take place. This is a role-playing game for slightly older kids (16-19) due to the late hours and degree of involvement (it lasts throughout the night). If you’re anything like me and would rather live in your imagination than attend the typical teenage parties, this could be the game for you.
“The Midnight Game” is an old pagan ritual used mainly as punishment for those who have broken the laws of a pagan religion.
While it is mainly used as a scare tactic to not disobey the gods, there is still a very real chance of death to those who play the Midnight Game. There’s an even higher chance of permanent mental scarring. It is highly recommended that you DO NOT play the Midnight Game.”
Thank you to the Ghost in my Machine for detailed how-to instructions as well as the following objective:
“The Invitation welcomes an entity known as the Midnight Man inside your home. The goal of the game is to avoid meeting the Midnight Man in the dark. Continually moving about your home will make it more difficult for him to find you; should you stop moving at any point, he will catch you. Accounts differ as to what befalls players caught by the Midnight Man. Some claim he will induce a hallucination of your worst fear until the end of the game; others claim he will remove your organs one by one. Both outcomes are to be avoided at all cost.
Indications that the Midnight Man is near include, but are not limited to, the following:
Sudden drops in temperature.
The sound of a soft whisper with no discernible source.
The appearance of a humanoid figure within the darkness.
The candle going out.”
Thank you for joining me on this venture into scary Halloween games for kids and adults alike. It is always fun to explore what playful worlds can be created using only the mind.
This is not to discredit the equally valid gaming opportunities that technology affords. Perhaps as we move forward, we will see an increase in game designers and theatre companies combining technology with live in-the-moment experiences. The ‘Alone: An Existential Haunting’ event this past spring did exactly that, creating an all-day scavenger hunt that required players to research and solve puzzles. Each staged location led to the next where scenes were acted out. Another recent example was marketed by Oculus Rift on their Insidious 3 promotional tour. This experience included the best of all worlds, inserting 4D technology into a situation with live actors and role playing. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.
Until then, I hope you’ve enjoyed this nostalgic throwback perspective. Happy gaming!