Being past the age of socially acceptable trick-or-treating doesn’t have to limit students’ Halloween options to crowded fraternity parties and the requisite freshman-year trip to the Village Halloween Parade. New Yorkers know how to do many things well, and All Hallows’ Eve is no exception. The holiday brings an almost overabundance of ways to celebrate, from a "Mad Men" costume competition to a David Bowie sing-along, historical graveyard visits, and period-themed tea socials. Columbians can make the process of choosing an activity easier by focusing on their favorite aspect of the holiday: the well-planned costumes, the campy movies, or the traditional goosebump-inducing haunts.
Contrary to what the current proliferation of pop-up Halloween stores might make students think, not all costume-centric events have to be cheesy. In fact, there are some downright classy, vintage-themed events that provide the perfect excuse for style-conscious Columbians to dig up that thrift store ensemble that’s been sitting unworn in the back of the closet. Combine the high style quotient with food and drinks that are more upscale than the usual candy corn and punch and this unexpected variety of Halloween events can be pretty hard to beat.
Columbians can don their best Betty Draper or Jackie O getup at the Spirits of the Golden Age Halloween Party. Their ‘60s vintage will look marvelous with candy cigarettes, cocktails, and a big live band. Emulating ‘60s style icons might win the “Mad Men” costume contest, but there’s no loss either way—the event, from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Saturday at Opia Restaurant & Lounge (130 E. 57th St. between Park and Lexington avenues) is free sans the cost of classic martinis to match the mod suits and Mary Quant mini dresses. A black-and-white photo booth will keep with the classy-period atmosphere (think swinging ‘60s London).
For a less specific (but also free) excuse to bust out a prized vintage find, the Harlem PoP (2035 Fifth Ave. between 125th and 126th streets) is hosting a Vintage Tea Social. Fashion aficionados can either come in any “high tea”-appropriate vintage attire or play dress up with the sample fittings provided by sponsor and lifestyle brand Harriet’s Alter Ego. The Harlem PoP, a weekend pop-up experience shop, offers an art gallery, a marketplace for emerging fashion designers, an eatery, and a performance space; for this event, complimentary portraits will memorialize everyone’s period costumes and cupcakes from Brooklyn bakery Love Joy Sweet Treats will be provided from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday.
Of course, to many students, no Oct. 31 is complete without a few screams, and luckily there’s no shortage of events across the city sure to scare even the pickiest Halloween traditionalists. Additionally, students less inclined to dress up or go the costume party route will find that there’s no monster mask, witch hat, or devil outfit required outside in a dark graveyard or deep in the halls of a haunted house.
Halloween frights abound at the city’s historical cemeteries, which may or may not be creepier than the transvestites in tights in the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The Woodlawn Cemetery at Webster Avenue and East 233rd Street (Bainbridge and Jerome avenues) in the Bronx offers Halloween cemetery tours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Joseph Pulitzer, Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis might be the biggest graveyard celebrities here, but many of the other bodies here have more gruesome claims to fame, and their stories are highlights on the tour. Tickets are $5 for students and hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
On Friday, Trinity Churchyard on Wall Street at Broadway will raise its glasses to toast Columbia alum Alexander Hamilton, who was buried there after his untimely death in a duel. Learn about the burial ground’s residents from 4-6 p.m., have a drink at the church’s Haunted Hamilton Happy Hour from 5-7 p.m., and then sit in the candlelit Gothic church for a screening of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” This 1920 silent horror film about a deranged doctor, his somnambulist minion, and a collection of insane asylum patients will be musically accompanied by organist Robert Ridgell. The evening of events is entirely free.
Even more horror can be found at the Vortex Theater’s Halloween Haunted House (115 W. 27th St. between Sixth and Seventh avenues), where creators Josh Randall and Kris Thor transcended the usual concoction of eerie music and Halloween characters to create a haunted house that focuses on heightening fear on an individual level. The intensely interactive experience, in which a visitor wears a mask and carries a flashlight alone, lasts around 20 minutes and requires signing a waiver before entry. The house’s website warns more specifically that “you don’t just walk through it—you live it. And yes, you will be touched.” Tickets vary in price from $15 to $30 depending on day, hour, and capacity and are available in advance through TheaterMania online.
Students who want to spend Halloween laughing rather than screaming should head to screenings of classic cult films, which offer lowbrow humor in lieu of genuine frights. After all, the “Nightmare on Elm Street” genre isn’t for everyone, and the holiday has plenty to offer for students whose brand of horror is more kooky than creepy.
For some downtown drunken revelry, the “Labyrinth” Sing-Along and Costume Party (200 Hudson St. between Canal and Vestry streets) offers beer and spandex galore. Choose a favorite Bowie persona to channel and sing-along to ‘80s fantasy film “Labyrinth,” starring David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, and a host of surprisingly disturbing puppet characters. The $13 ticket for the 10 p.m. event on Friday includes one beer, which the owners of the 92YTribeca location suggest on their website will be useful in helping attendees admit that they do know the words to the songs.
Get tickets early for the perennially-popular “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at Chelsea Clearview Cinemas (260 W. 23rd St. between Seventh and Eighth avenues). Nearly everyone has seen the film adaptation of the British musical before, but there is a reason why it’s the longest-running theatrical release in history: In the 1970s, audiences began participating with the film in theaters. “Do the Time Warp” with Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Riff Raff, and the cast that performs alongside the cult film at the Clearview. Tickets are $9 for the midnight shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Alternatively, Oh! You Pretty Things: The “Rocky Horror Picture Show” 35th-Anniversary Bash at 9 p.m. on Sunday will be staging a full “Rocky Horror” musical revue as well as a fashion show, costume contest, and performances by gothic rockers Kayvon Zand and cabaret act The Flying Fox. The $25 tickets to this Halloween spectacular are pricey, but the party includes an exhaustive night of mischief at Le Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker St. between Thompson and Sullivan streets). DJs will be spinning glam, goth and, postpone, and Jane Doe Makeup will be offering ghoulish glam makeovers all night.