Have you felt it? The shiver on the heels of the morning air? The slow creep of orange and yellow up the hillsides? The mischievous anticipation of tricks and spooks just around the cobwebby corner?

At the cemetery up the hill from my home, the air has gone crisp. The green grass plots are already turning yellow, dying, at the edges. The leaves wrestle with the chilled wind whistling down from the canyon.

Back home, my pumpkins have reached a full happy plumpness. They sit hiding under leaves and seem to peek out and wink at me as I walk past. Cobwebs cover the old rotted roots, my neighborhood spiders catching their store for the cold coming months.

Inside, we gather around bowls of steaming butternut squash soup heaped with parmesan and nutmeg. Our feet are slippered, our hands pulled into the sleeves of our sweaters as we scoop baguette crusts through the steaming stew. Warm pumpkin cookies still crackle on the cookie sheet as we pull them out, mitten-handed. And the sun, so eager to go to bed these days, leaves us hours of darkness. These long evenings we sneak to the porch, wrapped in blankets, sipping ginger teas and telling stories by candlelight.

Here are some of our favorite ways to create spooky (and wholesome) October vibes all month long:


When the sun goes down, only use candlelight: a candlestick as you go downstairs, a row of tapers along the dinner table, a candle in a jar casting shadows on the ceiling as you brush your teeth for bed. We have a few favorites here.

Cider on the Porch at Night

A good way to wind down, brew yourself a cup of tea, hot cider, or even just warm apple juice with cinnamon, and in sweaters and slippers and blankets, sit on the porch or in a windowsill, cup in hand, and watch the dark night. You might retell the scary stories you used to tell as children, regale each other with tales of supernatural sightings (everyone has a good UFO or Big Foot story), or try your hand at improvising your own scary story.

Pumpkins in Windows

While flipping through an old children's picture book last year, I came across a charming sketch of a row of homes at Halloween, all with pumpkins of different shapes, sizes, and faces alight in the windows. It seems like such a fun precursor to the Christmas lights that my house will don come November, the glowing grins a small delight for those who drive past my house at night. 

Scary Stories before Bed

We talk about this tradition a lot at Heirloom, but only because we love it so much: read a classic scary story the month of October. This can take many different forms: you might gather with friends each night, snuggled in blankets, with nothing but the light of a candle casting shadows, while you read a chapter a night of And Then There Were None. Cuddle up under the covers with your children reading A World Full of Spooky Stories by flashlight. Or light a fire in the fireplace, turn on a haunted music loop and spook yourself with the tales of spectres Roald Dahl hand-selected in his Book of Ghost Stories.

Last year, Dracula was what we all read to get the spooks. This year, it's The Hound of Baskervilles and Woman in White.

Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe comes from one fall I spent with friends in Switzerland. The butternut squash were sun-baked and sweet straight the garden, the cream fresh as only Swiss dairy can be. We cooked this soup while it stormed outside, the lightning illuminating the craggy alps all around us. To this day, I find this the simplest and most delicious way to warm up during October:

  1. Cut a butternut squash in small cubes.
  2. Boil in water till squash is soft.
  3. Drain off all but a little of the water, and blend squash and remaining water in the blender or with a hand mixer until creamy. 
  4. Add heavy cream and milk until soup is as thick or thin as you like it.
  5. This is the important part: Add salt, black pepper, nutmeg, and chili powder. This step requires a lot of taste-testing :) If you really want to take your soup (and all your baked potatoes) to the next level, invest in the Swiss herb salt, Herbamare. 
  6. Top with torn basil and thickly grated white cheddar. Serve with warm bread.

    Old Black and White Movies

    I've never been much of one for horror films, but I love classic suspense and mystery. Alfred Hitchcock films are standard fare in my home this time of year: Vertigo, To Catch a Thief, Dial M for Murder. Then there are equally jumpy ones like Wait Until Dark and Charade (and isn't Audrey lovely in both?). For just a spot of spine-tingling chills, try an episode of the 1959 Twilight Zone, and for kid-friendly, family laughs (and still really good jump scenes), try the classic, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken or our family favorite, The Cat and the Canary.

    Blankets Everywhere

    There's something about the safety of wrapping yourself in a thick blanket on a cold night that brings with it a bit of goosebumps all the same. I like keeping a pile of blankets in every room, so at any moment we can cozy up and ward off the chills! whether we're curling up to a movie, sipping some cocoa, or telling ghost stories, we have a way to instantly feel protected!

    Slow Simmer

    Keep a large pot of water, orange slices, cloves, and cinnamon on the stove all month long. Light the stove and warm to a simmer anytime you want to feel like you're living in a Victorian-era Halloween dinner party.

    All Eyes on You

    Nothing creates a slow-simmer sense of spooks better than the feeling that someone is watching you. With the right sets of eyes peeping from every corner of your home, .... A few of our favorites are this impressively realistic skull tidy, and our owl cuckoo clock, whose eerie tick-tick accompanies his eyes moving back and forth, side to side.

    Scare People

    Sharing is caring, and there's no better way than sharing frights this time of year. Already one of my favorite activities, use the month of October as a reason to scare anyone and everyone, all 31 days long. Find a good mask or just a dark corner and jump out at people as much as you can. Video compilations of people's reactions make for good laughs later on. 

    Spooky Sounds

    Wind whistling, wolves howling, thunder crashing, doors creaking, clocks ticking... What are the sounds the raise the hairs on the back of your neck? Put together a playlist to have in the background while making dinner or cleaning the house.

    October 02, 2020 — Carolyn Carter
    Tags: Halloween


    Maddie V. said:

    I love these ideas! What a beautifully written post as well.

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