Thought this year couldn’t get any more apocalyptic? You ain’t seen nothing yet, with zombies still preparing to take over the neighbourhood – or at least their own lounge rooms – this Halloween.
While traditional trick-or-treating may be a genuinely terrifying prospect in a year where a pandemic is raging and personal hygiene is of utmost importance, there are plenty of other ways to get a little devilish on October 31.
At “Halloween House” in Melbourne’s Williams Landing, Natalie Mitchell and her young family aren’t known for holding back on the horror.
Out the front, a skeleton called Anna counts down the days to Halloween, while gargoyles, giant spiders and a Grim Reaper loom ominously nearby.
The Mitchells have installed temporary fencing so passersby can enjoy their otherworldly delights – including husband Maxwell’s pumpkin and raven mural – from a distance.
While Mitchell admits she went a little overboard on the online ordering this year, much of it still en route, the family already has plenty of props to play with.
“We’ve got some groundbreakers coming through, so the zombies that look like they’ve just broken through the ground,” she says.
Meanwhile in Sydney’s East Ryde, the residents of Melba Drive – unofficially known as “Halloween Street” – are gearing up for a slightly more sedate October 31 than usual.
During a normal year, 500 or so kids would trick-or-treat their way down the street in a community event that’s become “bigger than Christmas”, says local Siobhan Reynolds.
However all is not lost, with a loosening of NSW restrictions meaning that Reynolds and her husband James can now host a Halloween party for 20 in their back garden. Their daughter Niamh, 11, plans to transform herself into a zombie schoolgirl, while Callum, 10, is going all Grim Reaper.
“We’re mad keen on it, go and buy new costumes every year,” says Reynolds. “The more ridiculous the better generally.”
Andrea Beattie, co-founder of new magazine Hallozween, says while this year’s Halloween might be different for families, there’s no reason it can’t be “faboolous”.
“Obviously with COVID, I think the safest thing to do this year is to have a Halloween party at home,” she says. “But that also gives you a really good opportunity to get a bit creative as well.”
Beattie says many families are taking to the idea of “reverse trick-or-treating”.
That’s where Halloween-lovers pop a flyer in nearby houses, asking other families if they’d like an adult to deliver some treats on the day – rather than kids knocking on doors themselves.
“So adults are getting dressed up as a witch or a vampire and going to people’s houses and dropping off obviously pre-packaged, sanitised lollies to those kids, so they can still get a bit spooky,” Beattie says.
She knows of one mum who’s going to get her kids dressed up and do laps of their street. “Every time they pass their house, her husband’s going to dress in a different costume and bring treats out for the kids,” says Beattie.
Of course, there’s heaps of spine-tingling stuff you can do indoors with your little monsters. Organise a trick-or-treat treasure hunt at home.
Or, play a game of "ghost tenpin". Grab a Jack-o'-lantern pumpkin from the supermarket and turn empty cardboard rolls (kitchen towel or toilet paper) into ghosts by painting them white and drawing on some eyes.
“The pumpkin just rolls all over the place, it’s really fun for kids,” Beattie says.
Mitchell – mother to Maxwell, 12, Roman, 8, and Harvey, 5 – also has plenty of ideas to create a day worth screaming about.
She suggests starting with a trick-or-treat at different doors within your house.
Then, hit the kitchen to create gingerbread skull cookies or Halloween cupcakes. That could lead into a Halloween-themed Lego competition, a scary movie and a beastly bite, says Mitchell.
“There’s so many different ideas for Halloween foods out there, including where you stick the hot dog in the bun and you cut the top off and it looks like a severed finger.”
Mitchell hopes that this Halloween will provide a welcome slice of entertainment during a year that’s been a little lacking in magic.
“I think people want something to happen. They need something to happen I think, just to kind of break the monotony of the whole situation that we’re in.”