Creating a haunted house for Halloween was a big deal when I was growing up, and the neighborhood kids were always coming up with ways to try and out-do each other when it came to this frightful night. One beloved game was to blindfold the participants and play the Withered Corpse.
This American classic involved telling a story about some poor guy who met a horrific end and whose dead body was rotting. You'd then stick your hands into bowls or be handed some item of food that resembled said rotting body part. After all the "body parts" have been passed around, the players remove their blindfold and try to guess just what they were handling.
Kids especially tend to love this game, although I'd say don't play it with anyone below the ages of eight or nine. True youngsters might take it too much to heart and have nightmares for days—especially if your haunted house's ambiance is equally spooky.
Get the rhyming story to use for your Withered Corpse game. If you like, you can make up your own version—rhyming or non-rhyming—just be sure to really describe all those "body parts" as you pass them around!
You want foods with a lot of texture. Dried-out, gooey, sticky: all of these work to mimic a decomposing corpse (in good fun, of course). For eyeballs, peeled grapes will do the trick. Some folks like to freeze them for an extra-special touch. My personal favorite is to use canned lychees—they have a very realistic "fleshy" feel. Peeled kumquats would also work in similar fashion.
Drained, canned tomatoes in a bowl are effective as brains. Thawed frozen mango chunks also work to mimic a decomposing brain, as does a couple of ripe bananas, mashed.
For rotting flesh or maggots, you can try a bowl of cooked, cold spaghetti, but I personally prefer using udon noodles or something thicker to get that really "maggot-y" consistency.
In days of yore, before we all become so understandably germaphobic, some people would use cold, raw meat to depict a heart, but I don't think that's such a good idea these days. Also, meat is expensive! In its place, I'd suggest using a big lump of Play-Doh that's been covered in oil so it feels properly gruesome.
You can use corn silk for hair, but that isn't easy to come by in October. Instead, use that sticky, tacky fake cobweb stuff most people put up for decorations and wet it down to make it feel extra gross. Dry rice vermicelli noodles, available at Asian grocers, also work well because they're so brittle.
For fingers, I liked to take beef jerky and cut it down to shape. That dried-out texture is really effective at freaking people out. Try using prunes for toes. Meanwhile, the classic choice to use for a cut-off ears are the dried apricot, although I think large sun-dried tomatoes nicely mimic the whorls and curves of an ear.
Most versions of the game say to use thinned-out ketchup for blood, but I say go the whole nine yards and make some non-toxic, food-based fake blood. Or if you're feeling lazy, open up some canned gravy and tint it red with food dye.
About.com also has fun ideas for food substitutions for body parts, including passing off corn tortillas as skin or half a boiled head of cabbage for a brain.
Have more suggestions? Be sure to post them on our Facebook page or add them in the comments below.
Want to master Microsoft Excel and take your work-from-home job prospects to the next level? Jump-start your career with our Premium A-to-Z Microsoft Excel Training Bundle from the new Gadget Hacks Shop and get lifetime access to more than 40 hours of Basic to Advanced instruction on functions, formula, tools, and more.