Midwinter Macabre

As I mentioned, Mr. Improbable and I threw a party on Saturday night. It was a smash hit, and I’m going to tell you all about it so that you can have, if you like, a Midwinter Macabre of your very own.

From Chaucer to “Lost,” there’s nothing quite like a group of people sitting around telling scary stories. There is, within horror and fantasy, a subgenre called the “club story,” in which gentlemen at a posh club tell each other tales of the uncanny.

This, with a certain additional Goth element, was what I wanted our party to be like. Here is how I described it on the invitation:

Guests are invited to tell or read
a story or poem of the macabre, eldritch, uncanny, Gothic,
grotesque or arabesque

Those who wish may tell a story of their own,
Read one written by another,
Or be assigned a reading by the hostess.

(That everyone may have a chance,
stories should be no longer than five minutes)

Bring nothing but your voice, ears, and imagination

Formal dress
… from any era
… in any state of repair

We served English pub food: sliced roast beef and a cheese plate, with a basket of rolls and mustard and chutney for people to make sandwiches. I roasted some asparagus and pickled carrots. One of our guests made and brought a real English trifle for dessert. After eating and socializing, we read our stories in three groups of three to four readers, and took breaks between for more food and drink.

The whole thing was brilliant. Some people wore simple black, but others got into the Goth costuming: one woman wore a ball gown with a wide black corset belt and a black lace eye mask; another wore a bridesmaid’s gown with long velvet gloves and a bouquet of dead roses in her hair. I had bought a crimson prom dress at Goodwill and slashed it with a razor, so it hung off me in strips.

People chose readings ranging from Greek mythology to Edgar Allan Poe to Sylvia Plath to Tom Waits. It was immensely cathartic, sort of sexy, and very, very fun.

And it was easy. The hardest thing was creating the guest list — we had to keep it relatively small, so that everyone could get a chance to read. But everything else couldn’t have been simpler. Here’s the beauty of hosting a Goth-themed party: you don’t really have to clean all that much. The lighting will be dim, and hey, cobwebs are atmospheric!

You can also make a Midwinter Macabre party as fancy or as simple as you want. You could rent out a British or Irish-style pub and give prizes for the best readings. Or you can do it as a BYOB for about $20 worth of cheese and crackers, and maybe $10 for a black or dark red bathrobe, dress jacket, or gown from Goodwill.

If you decide to have a Midwinter Macabre of your own, let me know how it goes! I can also provide suggestions for readings.

Here I am, doing my reading. One of the Fabulous Bureaucrats came dressed as Mrs. Danvers from “Rebecca,” and held a candle for the readers.

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