Social distancing means that a lot of traditional Halloween activities are out of the question for 2020. Hayrides are difficult to manage. Narrow corridors of haunted houses are too cramped. Trick or treating is questionable, and bobbing for apples is a recipe for disaster. It figures this would happen on a year where Halloween falls on a full moon, and a Saturday. Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I am determined to not feel deprived. Can you still have fun with your friends for Halloween? Yes. Have you considered having a Halloween podcast listening party?
Sharing scary stories with friends is always fun. The podcast world has plenty of entertainment, and nearly all of it is free. Many podcasters create special Halloween podcasts, because October 30 is World Audio Drama Day, and the anniversary of The War of The Worlds broadcast.
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Let Your Guests Choose the Entertainment (to an Extent)
Invite your guests using Evite, Punchbowl, or another online party-planning tool, and include a poll. Choose some Halloween podcast entertainment (we've got some recommendations below to get you started). Then, let your guests vote on the final selections. Picking two or three short podcast episodes mixes up the overall tone of the evening, and makes room for your guests to converse around the entertainment. Make sure the episodes you want to share are downloaded and ready to play. You can set up a playlist or queue in your favorite podcast listening app in advance. This way, you can just hit play and focus on having fun.
Socially Distanced Halloween Podcast Listening Party
October is still a relatively mild time of the year, weather-wise, for much of the world. Even if it's chilly, there are lots of ways to have an outdoor party with your friends. You can stay safe, and share Halloween fun. For example:
- Bonfires are a great Halloween tradition. Build or obtain your own fire pit. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher, bag of sand, or garden hose nearby, just in case.
- Set up outdoor chairs at a reasonable distance from each other, or ask your friends to bring their own.
- Have extra masks on hand, and tell your guests to wear theirs unless they're eating or drinking. Chances are good that they'll let the mask protect them from woodsmoke and chilly breezes.
- Provide extra-long sticks for your guests to roast marshmallows. If you want to provide chocolate and graham crackers for s'mores, provide small, individually wrapped pieces of chocolate, and separated graham crackers. Make sure you have plenty of disposable serving utensils, paper towels and hand sanitizer.
- Pair a Bluetooth speaker with your phone or tablet, and make a listening zone. Many podcasts are best experienced with headphones, or at least in stereo. You don't have to hook up studio monitors, though that would be an optimal listening experience. But, it's a party, not a dissertation, and you don't want someone to spill apple cider all over your Mackies.
Some options for sound equipment are:
- Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II – Limited Edition, Midnight Blue. The silicone exterior makes it water-resistant and durable. Plus, you can pair two SoundLink speakers together for “party mode or stereo mode.”
- The JBL Flip 5 bluetooth speaker is meant for pool parties (it's waterproof up to three feet), so it's safe for any kind of weather. You can pair two JBL speakers or link them, with Party Boost, to share the sound across a wider area.
- For a more haunting look, the ClearClick Retro AM/FM Radio with Bluetooth – Classic Wooden Vintage Retro Style Speaker has a vintage design reminiscent of 1930s radio sets, a glossy walnut-look finish, and a curved cathedral design that evokes Gothic style.
This is the kind of party where some of your guests will sit around and listen, while others will, hopefully, stroll to a respectful distance to converse. As long as you're all happy and healthy, you'll be fine.
Halloween Podcast Virtual Listening Party
Zoom happy hours and parties are everywhere now, but you can make your Halloween podcast listening party stand out from the rest. Here's how.
Use Zoom, and use Screen sharing to make your podcast app of choice a guest at the party. Guests can communicate using the chat feature and the others can still listen. Zoom has a particular way to do this.
- Tell your guests to mute their microphones, but invite them to use the chat feature. Mute your own as well. This keeps the sound from everyone's microphones from feeding back the computer audio.
- Click on the icon at the bottom center of your Zoom client window to share your screen.
- A window comes up asking which screen you want to share. If you have your phone plugged into your computer, you can share your phone's screen. If that's where your podcast listening app lives, great! Select that one. Or, you can open your podcast app on your computer, and share your desktop.
- In the bottom left corner of this window, there's a box that says, “Share Computer Sound.” Click it and make sure it's checked.
- It never hurts to test this with a buddy before showtime.
More ways to make your podcast listening party stand out are:
- Have contests for best costume or background. Zoom helps users set up virtual backgrounds, which are really fun. You should probably have a separate prize category for best literal Halloween background. If someone decorates their space to spooky effect, that deserves recognition.
- Decorate your own background! Put a few flickering LED candles and a skull on a shelf or side table. If you're running short on time, a big jar of quick pickled radishes looks like a mysterious specimen, and makes for a great snack.
Halloween Podcast Listening Recommendations
There are tons of great scary podcast series. For a Halloween podcast listening party, though, you probably want a few stand-alone episodes. Bear in mind that horror tends to fall into Apple Podcasts‘ “explicit” category. Some audiences might find these episodes thrilling and chilling, others might get upset.
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- Campfire Radio Theatre is a consistently high-quality independent horror audio dramas. This anthology show has plenty of stand-alone episodes.
- 11th Hour Audio issues an annual challenge to audio drama creators, to make a horror audio drama in less than a month, and share it for World Audio Drama Day. This podcast has a selection of tales as widely varied as the creators.
- The Truth, “The Death of Poe,” is the result of a request for listeners' stories about Halloween and elections. This brief, chilling adventure explores the theory that Edgar Allan Poe may have died in a voter fraud attempt.
- A Scottish Podcast, “Fish Supper Over Innsmouth” A going-away party seems like a mildly awkward family encounter, but dives into Lovecraftian chills.
Halloween Podcast Fun for Kids
Listening to stories is a great way to celebrate the spooky season with young folks, while staying safe. Build a blanket fort, load it with pillows, snacks, and some crayons and Halloween coloring pages for fidgety types (like me). A Bluetooth speaker with LED lights, like this Shava portable wireless bluetooth speaker nightlight, gives an otherworldly atmosphere while being much safer than candles or a fire pit.
- Try out Quirky Voices' Bogies and Ghoulies series, with episode such as “Mirror Boy,” “The Well,” and “Little Totem.”
- Another fun (and enlightening) family-friendly Halloween podcast listening option is Unspookable. Try out “Ghost Ships,” “Book of The Dead,” or any of the other episodes in this podcast, for spooky thrills and sharp critical thinking.
What Doesn't Spook Us Makes Us Stronger
Sharing scary stories at Halloween is a great way to get your heart racing, lift your spirits, and defy our sense of mortality. We might not be able to eliminate winter's gloom, and we might not be able to be close to our friends. But, we can rage against the dying of the light.
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