Hosting a grown-up gathering for Allhallows Eve? Let the godfather of grim, Edgar Allan Poe, inspire the decor. Using affordable accents, it’s easy to reference themes from his chilling tales and cast a squeamishly sophisticated mood.
A 19th-century writer, Poe is known for his macabre stories and poems. So set the tone for a dark, Victorian Gothic vibe by creating the look of a decrepit mansion. Cover tables with black tablecloths or fabric, and drape furniture with white bedsheets.
Distressed, secondhand candlesticks placed atop piles of dusty books will enhance the “abandoned” feel. And don’t be afraid to use an old Halloween standby: cobwebs. Drape artificial webbing over doorways, chandelier frames, and bookcases to give your home that not-lived-in look.
A “Tell-Tale Heart” Table
Decorate a table with items featured in one of Poe’s best-known tales, in which a man is driven mad after he carefully plans, then commits a murder and hides the evidence. Write these short-story quotes on a piece of chalkboard, propped next to each item.
Metal lanterns: “I turned the latch of his door and opened it — oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern …”
An old-fashioned clock set to midnight: “Every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept …”
Heart-shaped cookies (chocolate-flavored or with black icing) set on a piece of board: “I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber …”
A “Raven” Tree
Bring spooky sophistication to your mantel by paying homage to one of Poe’s most famous poems. “The Raven” tells of a man mourning the loss of a love and a mysterious raven that seems to taunt him, repeating the word “nevermore.”
To make your raven tree:
- Place a cube of florist’s foam into a small vase or urn.
- Find or buy a few bare branches and insert them into the foam so that it resembles a small tree.
- Cover the foam with faux or dried moss.
- Set craft-store ravens in the boughs.
- Write “Quote the Raven, ‘Nevermore'” on a piece of chalkboard.
An Eerie “Oval Portrait”
Treat guests to an interactive display that plays off “The Oval Portrait.” In this short story, an artist becomes so obsessed with a painting of his young wife that he neglects her, realizing when the painting is done that she is dead.
Use an inexpensive, oval-shaped frame — just the frame — and leave it at head height in front of a wall, fence, or other attractive backdrop. Then invite guests to pose within the frame for a photo, capturing the “absolute life-likeliness” that Poe describes in his tale.
For extra credit, gather a couple of old-fashioned hats from a thrift store and a fake skeleton for guests to use as props. The photo will be a perfect parting gift for a haunting evening.