The only thing freakier than fright night falling on a Saturday when it’s a full moon? Add in a pandemic.
Halloween has not been Covid-cancelled — Downing Street has said trick-or-treating is allowed to go ahead, provided that the rule of six is followed and people do not step inside other households when knocking on doors. Coronavirus was always going to up the scary stakes for Halloween (and throw a spanner in the works of party plans), but if you look on the bright side, in many ways it’s the ultimate pandemic celebration: everyone is already covering up their face with a mask and 2020 brings more outfit inspiration than ever. From pimping your pumpkin to Covid-proofing your trick-or-treating, this is your guide.
Frocky horror show
You are spoilt for choice on the scary-costume front this year. Sales of medieval plague doctor outfits have rocketed, while other virus-themed looks include a “sexy” hand sanitiser outfit and banana bread dress, in a nod to pandemic baking.
No time to buy an outfit? Your mask is a canvas. Create your own blood-spattered surgical mask or match it to your outfit. Asos sells a range of skeleton, joker and pumpkin-themed face coverings that will arrive next day; Etsy has a Harley Quinn mask with pre-painted lips; and Claire’s sells one with drawn-on vampire teeth. Restricted to Zoom parties? One advertising director left a ninth square on the Zoom call black and labelled it “next victim”.
Pimp your pumpkin
The scariest things play on real-life fears, like the horror of Zoom calls.
See the four-person split-screen pumpkin created by sociology professor Alex Barnard’s mother. Extra points for the pumpkin heads instead of faces.
Trumpkins also feature highly in the 2020 carving charts (the fake tan is done for you), while pandemic pumpkin designs include virus cut-outs, jack-o’-lanterns with masks on and Matt Hancock’s face.
To take part respectfully, think outside the box. Sweets can be germ magnets so avoid sticky hands in communal sweet packets by hanging paper bags from a witch’s broom through the front window or hanging sweets from trees and bushes. If you’re shielding, tech agency Rehab has a digital edition: an AR concept called Treat Street that lets you go trick-or-treating on a virtual street to collect 3D AR treats such as pumpkins and cauldrons.
Torch lit trails
Families are being encouraged to follow a pumpkin trail around the neighbourhood — think of it as the Halloween edition of the NHS rainbow hunt you did in spring. How to plot your route? Reignite the street WhatsApp group you made in lockdown and encourage each house to fix up a jack-o’-lantern or spooky window display.
If you live near SW19, download the Mobile Adventures app and take part in Love Wimbledon’s fancy-dress pumpkin hunt around the town centre.
In Mile End, Cemetery Club is hosting lantern-lit tours of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park at 7pm tonight and tomorrow, while Eltham Palace is taking over-16s on ghost tours around its art deco mansion in Greenwich for the next two evenings. Bring a torch.
Forget tricks, treat the kids to a weekend of themed activities to celebrate the end of half term. The Postal Museum reopened yesterday, with a special Where’s Wally? Spooky Museum Search! included in the admission price until Sunday; London Zoo and the Natural History Museum are both putting on terror trails; and Brixton’s Chocolate Museum is hosting workshops for creating spooky chocolate truffles.
If you’re staying at home, The Royal Parks has free virtual activities, from creepy storytelling to live craft-alongs.
Ghouls night out
The curfew might be creeping on your evenings, so start the revelry early. Bar Elba’s Day of the Dead bottomless brunch kicks off at 11am, Neverland London and Brixton Jamm both open for creepy cocktails and fancy dress competitions from midday, and Vauxhall Food and Beer Garden’s Halloween soiree includes a two-hour bottomless brunch with a live Mariachi band.
Double your day of the dead antics with an evening session. Coffee and Cocktails in Peckham is hosting zombie basketball until 10pm, Phoenix Arts Club in Soho is putting on a Halloween-themed cabaret show, while
X Factor star Jack Remington is hosting a spooky (virtual) pop culture quiz, Trick or Tweet, via live event platform socialeyes.club from 7.30pm. Clapham Grand’s drag queen Halloween ball is on Sunday.
If you’re staying in, Netflix and give yourself the chills. The Haunting of Bly Manor just landed on Netflix, from the creators of hit horror series The Haunting of Hill House, and the BBC Taster website has just released a new audio thriller, Monster, that immerses you in the drama with surround-sound effects when you hook up your laptop and phone.
If you prefer perching on the edge of your seat in public, the capital has a multitude of spooktacular screenings. Peckham’s new Forbidden Forest Cinema’s Halloween line-up includes Scream, It and Hereditary; the drive-in film club at Alexandra Palace is showing Ghostbusters, Hocus Pocus and Friday The 13th; and Luna Cinema’s drive-in theatre at Allianz Park has screenings of The Shining, Goosebumps and Joker.
Popcorn won’t cut it, this is a chance to mix up the menu. Lost Boys Pizza in Camden is throwing three costume balls with spooky slices and freak-themed cocktails, The Bosporus in Leicester Square has a Turkish fright night Halalween menu; while Pasta Remoli is serving up a pumpkin ravioli and a pumpkin and hazelnut cheesecake.
For something sweet, Konditor bakery is selling skull-splattered and cobweb-iced cakes while all-American bakery chain Hummingbird has a range of treats (and tricks), from pumpkin pies to a bat-themed piñata cake with Smarties that flow out of the middle.
Or get hands-on: this year, Biscuiteers is selling a DIY sugar skulls tin for icing your own fright night biscuits at home.