On these slides, we face some frights, turning them into terrifying tablescapes and delightfully gruesome party decorations. You might just find that the thing that plagues you becomes a harmless thrill once it's rendered in chocolate or plaster. In any case, we think these ideas make for a haunting good time.
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If anything is worse than having everyone's eyes on you, it's the feeling that one person is following your every move. The plates, glasses, and pitcher here (adorned with our clip art eyeballs) capture that fear in extreme close-up. You can stare down those cold, soulless eyes as you nosh on cocktail onions tossed in blood-orange juice or other slippery round snacks. But whatever you do, don't blink.
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Those wiggling, groping appendages at the end of your arms seem to have a life of their own, and the sight of other people's hands causes you to break out in a sweat. On Halloween, consider taking your fear in hand and making five-fingered candleholders and tabletop ornaments. These are made of plaster and get a ghoulish gray cast from a brush with black gouache. At the end of the evening, if you're still repelled by the frightful limbs, take them outside and smash them to bits.
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A door suddenly closes. Someone is crying, or laughing, or whispering in your ear, but no one is there. Or is there? Stage your own ghostly encounter and you'll know exactly who is in the room. These hollow-eyed wraiths are constructed from foam mannequin heads and layers of tattered cheesecloth. Suspend a group of the vaporous characters from the ceiling before your guests arrive.
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The sound of shattering glass is the stuff of nightmares. You shudder at the sight of tiny slivers and great cracked pieces glinting devilishly in the light, ready to slice at anything that comes near. But fashion your own "glass" from pale, thin caramel, and you'll have the last laugh -- the pieces will melt on your tongue, sweet as the sugar they are. We like to use caramel shards to top cream-cheese-frosted, spiced cupcakes, with a drizzle of cherry preserves to resemble spilled blood.
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They skitter over the kitchen counter under cover of darkness. The boldest among them don't scurry away even when you flip on the light. It's time to turn the tables on cockroaches and make them the main ingredient in your own feast. This cake, though revolting to behold, is actually quite delicious. To prepare it, remove a wedge of the chocolate layers before frosting with ganache and adding (fake) bugs crawling in and out. Malted-milk balls in the filling add convincing cockroach crunch.
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Swarming Cheese Plate
"Leave it alone and it won't bother you," friends say. You don't believe that for a second — menacing, angry bees are always after you. When their wings are made of gauze, however, you can freely invite them to the party. This cheese plate, featuring three kinds of cheese (from top: aged goat, Humboldt Fog, and blue), toasts, and honey in its comb, is buzzing with the stinging bugs -- in this case, millinery bees from a crafts store. We used wires to make them hover over the food.
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Others might see birds as friends and toss them crusts of bread, but you see them in a more sinister, Hitchcockian light. Why not disarm the foul fowls by turning some of them (and their nest) into a frightful candy holder? Ours is constructed with grapevine wreaths and filled with Spanish moss, rotten-looking tea-dyed eggshells, and birdseedlike sesame candy. The birds themselves are faux pheasants, with heads painted an ominous black.
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The sight of blood makes yours run cold. But not all dark-red fluids are true blood. This cocktail is merely a quencher for a particularly villainous thirst. Each vial holds a serving of blood-orange cocktail; ours is made with liqueur for grown-ups, but a juice-only version for kids would be just as gruesome. Our printable clip-art stickers seal the stoppers and include vital information.