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Host A Victorian Séance

Updated on May 2, 2016

Give Your Guests an Experience, Not Just Entertainment

It's one thing to go out to a party and hang out with some friends, but it's completely different when you all have an experience together. Make your Halloween party one that your guests will not only remember but tell other people about by presenting a Victorian séance. And don't just put on a show for your guests. Make the evening an interactive event for everyone by outlining a dress code, suggesting items to bring for a potluck meal, having a decorating party ahead of time to set the stage and then facilitating a unique moment that's both historical and in-the-moment all at the same time!

That may sound complicated, but it's actually not that hard when everyone contributes a little bit based on their own interests and talents. As the host, your main task will be to be a guide for all the bits and to provide the house where the séance takes place. By not just "being tourists" your guests will have an amazing time. Ready to plan the most interesting party you've ever thrown? Step right this way....

Study Up On Séances - mesmerism, trance, spirits and more

If there is one thing necessary for a good séance, it's a convincing medium. Read up on the history of the Victorian séance and learn about some of the most prolific mediums of the times, how they worked and who was more successful. Then you'll be ready to host your own. I recommend that the main event happen at midnight on Halloween night if possible for the most authenticity.

You have a basic choice here: either conduct a straight-forward séance where you try to contact the spirits and whatever happens will happen... or you can do what many Victorians did and stage a séance that is an intentional performance where your medium does contact the other side. If you have any friends that act or perform, this is a great way for them to get involved.

Setting the Scene - decorating tips and tricks

Victorian image pillow, photo by Relache
Victorian image pillow, photo by Relache

So that you don't overwhelm yourself with the decorating, try to really focus on just one or two rooms. A living room that connects to a dining room is a great space to use. If you have a friend who has a house or apartment that is Victorian, see if that person would like to host the part at their place as their contribution. Friends who love shopping, thrifting, collecting or who work in interior design are your best resources for this part of the party.

Take some time at your local library or doing online image searches to study up on Victorian home décor. You'll want wood furniture, lots of patterned fabrics, and busy rugs. Ask other friends and family if you can borrow pieces of furniture or other household items that fit the look and feel you're trying to achieve. King-size bed sheets in the right patterns work great thrown over modern furniture to change the look for just one night. Vinyl decals put up on the wall imitate the look of elaborate Victorian wallpaper but then peel off easily once the party is over.

Dressing the Parlour

If all that works for your time frame and budget is setting up one end of a room with a period feel and look, that will work just fine. You'll want to have a table where you can seat all the guests if you are having a very small party, or a few key persons if you are having a larger one. This will be where you can have divination games earlier in the evening and then stage your séance at midnight.

Dear Departed Uncle Henry

Dear Departed Uncle Henry
Dear Departed Uncle Henry

Haunted Family Portraits

The Victorians loved portraits. After all, photography was a new technology then, and having pictures of your loved ones up on the parlor wall was a standard part of Victorian home décor. But since this is Halloween, you'll need some haunted portraits. These period pictures show solemn and formal family members until you walk past and then in the changing light, they turn into skeletons and other gruesome sights.

Victorian dress, photo by Relache
Victorian dress, photo by Relache

Recommended Dress Code

not required, but it really adds to the fun

Dress codes help parties in that they expand the idea of setting the scene. I have some friends that regularly organize events that include suggestions for how to dress and they way they put it is, "It's not required to dress up, but you have to admit, when you look around at a whole group and everyone is wearing similar colors or a certain style, doesn't it look cool?!" They're certainly right about that!

So when you send out your party invitations, why not make some suggestions for how to dress? Invite guests to wear certain styles, certain colors and even create a character and name for themselves for the party. The key word here is "invite." You are encouraging people to join in the fun at a deeper level.

What To Wear:

- Victorian period wear. This was often dark suits for men and long skirts with high-necked blouses for women.

- Steampunk costumes. Your friends who are into this will need very little encouragement to break out the fabulous outfits and show up in character.

- Dark colors: black, charcoal, brown, forest green, navy blue, burgundy

- Modern formal wear in the suggested colors.

You might take a weekend afternoon ahead of the party and have people get together to all go thrifting for something to wear together, or work on costumes at someone's house. Connecting the people who love dressing up and the folks who are a bit nervous about what to wear is a great way to exchange knowledge and share resources.

You can encourage dressing up even more by planning to have a camera set up in a corner somewhere to take formal portraits. It's easy to get sepia-toned or black-and-white photos from modern digital cameras. You can post them online later, or even print them out at the party for guests to take home as souvenirs.

Ouija Board

Ouija Board
Ouija Board

Activities for a Victorian Hallowe'en Party - vintage fun for all ages

To help set the mood and get your guests mingling with each other, having some Victorian party games is the way to go.

Bobbing for Apples - It's recommended that you use a really heavy bowl or a large steel "washtub" for this. Put down some drop cloths as water will be split. It can also be nice to provided towels or aprons for guests so they don't get totally drenched. If you want to make it harder, use big apples. To minimize splashing and maximize success, go for small apples. They are much easier to bite.

Spirit Boards, aka Ouija Board - Some people are way to creeped-out to ever go near these things, but having an older style board is perfect for a little Halloween eve divination. For those of you who actually do energetic work and want to take protective measures before talking to beings from the Ether, take a moment before you start to state that your group is only there to chat, that only entities who wish no harm are allowed to come through and talk, and that all entities must leave when asked to go. When you finish using the board, make a formal statement that all spirits guests have to go right now and are not permitted to follow anyone home.

If you have any questions about throwing a Victorian Halloween party, don't hesitate to ask! And if you hosted a Victorian-themed party, tell us how it went!

Olde Tyme Hallowe'en - comments and questions

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    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      @TheCozyDinosaur: It takes some effort and a few crazy friends to get something like this going, but if you build it up a bit more each year, the results can be great.

    • TheCozyDinosaur profile image

      TheCozyDinosaur 4 years ago

      Wish this kind of thing was more popular. Thanks for the ideas

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      What a cool idea. I think it would be fun to have a few costume props around for those who didn't dress up so they could fit in. I wonder what the menu would be here? Pinned onto my Halloween board and blessed.

    • profile image

      graphicdesignindia 5 years ago

      Good ideas.. love to read this lens..

    • profile image

      KarenCookieJar 5 years ago

      I've read a few old novels where the characters participated in these, who knew it used to be so popular.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      Lot of innovation ideas. Blessings!

    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      @stylishimo1: Wow! That's both fantastic and kinda creepy. That's why it's a good idea to make some statements first about how whoever comes through only has permission to chat and has to leave when you are done.

    • stylishimo1 profile image

      stylishimo1 5 years ago

      My grandmother, her mother and sisters, and her grandmother used to hold tabletop seances together, my great aunt says that one time my great grandmas eyes rolled back in her head when she was holiding a séance, she shouted "Chase her Johnny" and then the table tipped over and started dragging itself after my auntie who was 5.

    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      @miaponzo: I do have some suggestions included in regards to those sorts of situations.

    • Merstarr profile image

      Merstarr 5 years ago

      Very cool. I'd love to do this one day!!

    • profile image

      miaponzo 5 years ago

      And them be very very careful because you just might call up something you didn't expect! Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      COOL! I added several scenes to my prequel of Dickens' Tale of Two Cities (Sydney's Story) with gypsies and fortune-telling. I think Mr. Dickens would approve! GREAT LENS

    • justmelucy profile image

      justmelucy 5 years ago

      Spooky lens. It gives me the shivers. I've always been interested in this spiritual adventure. I participated in one years ago. It was interesting and I have decided to use caution since then. Great lens and great presentation.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Great idea! We used to do this as kids and loved it!

    • profile image

      bossypants 5 years ago

      Ingenious idea! I love this lens. I'm adding a link to my Handcrafted Halloween lens. If you'd prefer I remove it, please contact me or leave a note on my profile page. Very clever!

    • SarahB709 profile image

      SarahB709 5 years ago

      I want to come to your party! I have the gown and will travel . . . this is a great idea and I think some of my friends would love to come to a party like this. I'm still at bit shaky about pulling out a Ouija Board but the rest of it sounds marvelous. FANTASTIC lens . . . I'll be back often. Thanks!

    • thememorybooksh1 profile image

      thememorybooksh1 5 years ago

      Nice Lens,

    • smorse28 lm profile image

      smorse28 lm 5 years ago

      I think this is my favorite lens ever! I've always been fascinated by the Victorian era. Maybe I'll try this as a party theme some time.

    • wrapitup4me profile image

      wrapitup4me 5 years ago

      Sounds like good scary fun.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Looks like a scary good time!

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 5 years ago from Diamondhead

      Great Idea !

    • schwarz profile image

      Rae Schwarz 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      @IncomeFromHomeT: A steampunk ouija board would rock!

    • IncomeFromHomeT profile image

      IncomeFromHomeT 5 years ago

      HAH! I just saw a Ouija Board for sale at a flea market and this didn't even occur to me! It may be fun to make it Steampunk themed . . . should fit right in!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      This would be a wonderful thing to do on Halloween! Thanks so much for sharing - blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • profile image

      merleannw 5 years ago

      What a great lens. Loved it.

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      This is going to be quite a spooky and interesting experience. Thanks for sharing.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      This sounds like a great idea for Halloween or anytime.

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Great idea for a party!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      This sounds like my kind of party! Love the spooky changing family portraits, very cool. I'd have one on the wall all year round to freak out unwary door-to-door campaigners. ;)

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Now this definitely looks like an interesting way to spend Halloween! *blessed

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great idea for a Halloween party.

    • cgbroome profile image

      cgbroome 5 years ago

      This one sounds like a really fun Halloween activity. Now I'll have to convince my husband!

    • karMALZEKE profile image

      karMALZEKE 5 years ago

      I really like this lens...awesome party ideas!

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      I really like this idea - something completely different. :)