Halloween guests will feel suitably unwelcome in a jail-themed party space. To transform your garage, basement or living room into a creepy prison, use purchased and homemade props inspired by historic haunted jails. As you decorate, keep safety issues in mind: You don't want guests tripping over chains or getting hit by falling prison bars.
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Set the Stage
To begin your Halloween jail transformation, cover the walls with stone backdrops from a party-supply store. You can also paint stone patterns on large sheets of craft paper. If you're truly dedicated to your jail theme, cover the floors with gray plastic tarps. They'll look like stone and protect your flooring from jailhouse mayhem. Use strips of black duct tape to create prison bars on windows. To transform a corner of the party space into a jail cell, use PVC pipe and lumber to erect a divider that looks like prison bars. If your construction skills aren't up to par, apply black duct tape "bars" to a large sheet of clear vinyl. Hang the curtain from the ceiling with removable hooks.
Make It Uncomfortable
No respectable haunted jail has comfy chairs and sofas. Swap out furnishings in your party space for wooden benches and stools. Set up an area for gathering and eating, but keep it simple and sparse. Surround a long wooden table with benches and accessorize it with tin plates and cups so guests can nosh prison-style. The cell area should be even more unwelcoming. Place a cot along the wall and top it with a canvas tarp stuffed with straw. A wooden chair and small table give the cell an authentic look and provide space for prop placement. To complete the creepy jail cell setting, scatter straw on the floor and hang faux cobwebs from the ceiling.
Add Prison Props
Accessorize your Halloween jail with essential prison props. Hang plastic chains, available at party-supply stores, in doorways and on walls. To keep prisoners from escaping, hang an antique padlock--real or a plastic replica--on the cell bars. Display a collection of skeleton keys on a large ring and hang it on the wall near the cell--just out of prisoners' reach, of course. A mug-shot wall provides an authentic backdrop for party pictures. Use markers and poster board to draw a grid of height markings and hang it on the wall. When it's picture time--or as "prisoners" arrive at the party--provide guests with chalk and a slate so they can pose with the aliases they create.
Make It Scary
When it's time to add the fear factor to your Halloween jail, keep your audience in mind. If your guest list includes small children, you might want to limit creepy decor to rubber rats, plastic spiders and a fake skeleton in a striped prison suit. For older kids and adults, you can amp up the horror and gore. In the cell, lay a dummy with a gruesome mask on the cot or hang it from a noose. Wrap skeletons in chains and prop them against the walls. To create a scene of a violent prison break, decorate the space liberally with severed limbs, fake blood and bloodied plastic weapons. When your Halloween jail scene is set, use red and green spotlights to show off creepy vignettes.