Halloween 2021 may be hurtling towards us but there’s still time to throw a spooktacular shindig.
People in the UK spent £474 million celebrating Halloween in 2019, making it the nation’s top profit-generating holiday after Christmas and Easter. This is welcome news. But how can you beat the competition and enjoy impressive ticket sales?
Traditional event venues are fine, but one sure-fire way to impress your ghoulish guests is to be different and hire an appropriately atmospheric venue. Dingy dungeons and derelict churches are popular go-tos, but think outside the coffin for unique ideas that’ll make your event listing stand out. From parties in prisons to scary film screenings in church crypts, the opportunities for eerie events are endless – and that’s before you start on the decorations!
Eventbrite has been hunting out the Halloween venues that’ll get your creative juices flowing. And for guests who would prefer to bring the terror home this Halloween, we have some exciting ideas to help you provide virtual or hybrid options and reach a wider audience.
Halloween event venue 101
Remember that the right event space can often do a lot of promotional legwork. But first, make sure that your venue meets all of your requirements:
Ensure there’s enough room for spooks and scares
If you’ve found a venue that’s crawling with creepiness, make sure it’s actually going to give your guests, performers, and caterers enough room to get their spook on. Be mindful of any extra space that’s needed for equipment and technology, too.
Safety should never be an illusion
You may have hired creepy werewolves to chase guests, but you’ll want to be sure that there are no trips or falls. Carry out a full health and safety inspection before booking any venue, bearing in mind whether it’s safe for the specific activity you have planned for your event. You’ll also want to be able to adapt your venue to make it COVID-19 secure where necessary.
Access all areas
If you opt for an old, spooky venue, it could potentially have harder-to-access areas for guests and staff. Make an assessment of whether exits and passageways can be cleared and/or ramps installed to make the most of the venue.
Make your event scary, not the cost
It can be easy to get carried away by a grand and expensive venue, so make sure to refer back to your budget. There’s always the option of negotiating the cost of bigger venues, or even finding one for free.
11 types of super spooky Halloween event venues
1. Haunted hotels
Prepare your guests for some ghastly goings-on if you choose to follow the advice of Hayley Newbury, owner of the luxury concierge and events company My World VIP, who recommends hosting your spooky soirée in a hotel that is known locally to be haunted and inviting guests to stay over afterwards. This add-on is guaranteed to be popular with young groups of friends or as an inventive date idea!
“Set up a pretend séance to communicate with the spirits and invite a medium to come and host readings as entertainment for the evening,” she says. “Make sure guests are kept up to date with the ‘happenings’ throughout the night and go full Dracula with the décor. One Halloween, we made life-size coffins which acted as photo booths!” You can, of course, adopt a more pared-back The Shining-style approach to the décor – twins optional.
Playing on the hotel’s reputation, there is scope to make this a hybrid event with a livestreamed ghost hunting tour. Eventbrite can help you plan both the virtual and in-person elements of this with Zoom and Vimeo integrations. Lastly, if you’re not hiring out the entire venue, just be sure to not disturb paying guests.
2. Creepy crypts
The Parisian Catacombs have been the subject of many a horror film – with good reason. Churchyards, crypts, and basically anywhere someone has been buried inject instant fear factor. LSO St Luke’s, a deconsecrated Baroque church in the heart of London’s Old Street, has held some of the best Halloween events in the UK, such as horror film nights soundtracked by a live orchestra. Joe Hardy, the church’s marketing coordinator, reckons the venue works so well because of its visual impact from the moment guests arrive.
“They make their way through the iron gates and across an ancient graveyard,” he says. “Once inside, they descend the spiral staircase into our reconstructed crypt, the site of over 1,000 burials, for a subterranean reception, before taking their seats beneath the church’s towering spire to watch a blood-curdling cinematic classic.”
This kind of event has great potential to become a hybrid one via a simultaneous livestream. And remember that these types of spaces have enough grim history for interesting guided tours, whether that’s in person or online.
3. Freaky forests
If you’re looking for Halloween party ideas for children, finding a fearsome forest could be just the thing. Katherine Hudson, founder and events director of The Arabian Tent Company, urges event planners to head into the woods this Halloween. (Note that you will need to apply for a temporary event notice.)
“Risking the British weather might be a gamble but with lots of surreal lighting and projections in the trees, a misty, otherworldly gathering in the forest is hard to beat,” she says. “If rain is forecast, hire a sturdy stretch tent as a cover to keep guests dry.” This is a highly flexible option in terms of audience and is ideal for a kids’ Halloween party – children of all ages will enjoy getting out into nature, whether with family or friends.
“Pepper the clearing with Jack O’Lanterns and carved pumpkins and light a campfire to tell ghost stories around,” Hudson continues. “Burn some sage for that authentic, spirit-banishing scent – unless you want to attract them, that is…”
4. Candlelit cellars
Leading guests underground always sets a creepy tone. It’s also great if you’re low on Halloween party decoration ideas. “I’m drawn to the cellars of crumbling old manor houses, especially ones without electricity,” says Newbury. “Light candles on old-fashioned candelabras for an authentic, secret feel. No plastic pumpkins or dodgy sound effects are required; the shadows that candlelight throws around stone walls and floors are unsettling enough.” Keeping fire safety in mind, flickering faux gas lanterns can also add an eerie feel to underground spaces.
Located in one of Sheffield’s oldest industrial districts, the Kelham Island Museum stands on a man-made island over 900 years old. This year, it’s hosting the Creepy Kelham: After Dark experience, which includes a spine-chilling tour of the old museum’s cellar. Take a leaf out of its book and get your guests to sign a liability waiver before entering cellars. If a steep and/or narrow staircase is involved, advertise this beforehand.
5. Banquet halls and ballrooms
It’s cool and creepy to be anywhere with a bit of history late at night. Run ghost tours or organise a murder mystery costume party at a stately home such as the Sensational Penny Dreadful mystery night at Ashton Court Mansion near Bristol. Or why not set a romantic tone with a Phantom of the Opera-style masquerade ball in the evening? It’s a perfect Halloween date night idea for couples.
Cartoony props are best avoided if you want a classy atmosphere. Instead, take inspiration from jilted bride Miss Haversham’s ruined mansion in the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations, with dark Victorian-style flowers, taxidermy, and old furniture. Use a colour palette of black, gold, and oxblood for a vampiric vibe. The more stylish and Instagrammable your Halloween venue decorations, the better, so that guests will share photos on their social media.
Hudson recommends adding “a few scary touches in unexpected places” as these are the details they will remember. “Try a singular red balloon floating in the downstairs bathroom or a skeletal hand peeping out to rest on the arm of a sofa,” she says. “Plus, of course, hundreds of bats and Gothic overtures playing as guests arrive.”
6. Moonlit phantom cruises
Jump on board for some terror on the Thames – or a river near you – this Halloween. Hiring a boat for a themed cruise backdropped by a moonlit city instantly elevates any event to something out of the ordinary – plus there’s something about being stuck on a phantom floating ship until it moors that’ll unsettle even the most cynical of guests.
Halloween party themes could include looking to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies for inspiration, asking actors to dress up like The Black Pearl’s undead. If it’s strictly Halloween party ideas for adults you’re after, try serving devilish cocktails with scary names. “Preferably make drinks red,” says Hudson, “or set up a potion-brewing station dressed up like a treasure chest and invite guests to bring an interesting bottle.”
7. Vast vaults
Vaults are a great – and suitably ghoulish – option when hosting bigger events because they usually ensure you’ve got plenty of space. The beauty of a hybrid or online event is that you can have as many guests as you want, but it’s a decisive factor for in-person event venues. Jacqui Wylde, business development manager for CT Group Travel, warns of getting so excited by how well a venue fits the Halloween theme that you forget about the practicalities.
“Finding an edgy venue with a twist is all well and good, but remember that size matters, especially for large-scale events,” she says. “If you’re hiring performers, make sure there’s room for their stage sets and theming. If you’re hiring themed actors, allow for ample room between tables for guest interaction.”
The Vaults, the labyrinth of tunnels underneath Waterloo Station that is now a multi-disciplinary events space, is a great example of a venue big enough to cater to your wildest visions. This year, it’ll host a haunting production of Jean Genet’s The Maids.
8. Petrifying prisons
Ramp up the sense of unease by captivating guests with horrible histories from the castle dungeon or former prison they are standing in. Immersive experiences, such as venturing into a solitary confinement cell, will be hard to shake off.
Examples of prisons available for private hire include the 17th century House of Detention in Clerkenwell, which was also used as an air-raid shelter in the Blitz, and the decommissioned Victorian Shrewsbury Prison – the perfect place to let the inmates take over. The historic element of these places may well appeal to schools organising fun and educational field trips as well as the general public.
9. Murder in the maze
Companies such as RentaMaze can recreate timber or fully living hedge mazes at any location, inside or out, for events of all sizes. If more elaborate venues are out of your budget, why not re-enact that edge-of-your-seat maze chase scene from the 1980 horror movie The Shining in a local village hall or an empty field? Send some axe-wielding actors in to send your guests’ heart rates soaring – and hand them a stiff drink when they make it out.
Mazes are pretty flexible spaces in that they provide a blank canvas. If you’re running Halloween events for kids, you could set up a child-friendly trail like the Gravesend Cyclopark’s Not So Scary Halloween Adventure.
10. Disused warehouses
These incredibly versatile event spaces are ideal for club events for Halloween. Charlotte Ricard-Quesada, founder of bespoke event planning service La Fete, chills her guests’ spines by searching for spaces with limited or no daylight.
“Disused warehouses are at the top of my list,” she says. “They lend themselves wonderfully to Halloween events as they are full of character with a sinister sense of abandonment. Inside, install dramatic lighting to highlight all the nooks, crannies, cobwebs, and peeling paint and make the place come alive in ghostly grandeur.”
An alternative (and possibly cheaper) idea for Halloween party decorations in a warehouse is to go clinical and strip the space back to look like a hospital, with sinister doctors and nurses in attendance.
11. Fiendish farms
There’s a lot to be said for being out in the country at Halloween. Hosting an event at a farm usually means a lot of space to spread out and less possibility of noise complaints.
By day, the rural setting can be perfect for family trips to the pumpkin patch. But as darkness falls, more sinister adult Halloween events take place. Organised by the Prospect Trust at the organic Snakehall Farm, Spooky Snakehall is one of the area’s most popular Halloween scare events that also raises money for charity.
Make your venue one they’ll never forget
There are so many terrifyingly terrific Halloween event venue ideas that we could go on and on (and on some more), but these are some that really stand out. When making your final choice of venue, you’ll need to consider your specific target audience, the practicalities, the overall vibe you want your event to have, and how you can boost your profit margins.
As well as helping you bring your event to life, Eventbrite can help with the overall planning process, from making venue maps for seated events to helping you reach those ghoulish guests on the other side with marketing tips and tools.