The Halloween Photo Hunt: The Real-World, Social Group, Scavenger Hunt, Version

Most of us have done a regular, item-gathering, scavenger hunt at some point. Such a hunt can be fun, but thanks to the proliferation of the cell phone camera, the classic game can be raised to a whole new level. In a photographic scavenger hunt, you don’t need to approach strangers to ask for random objects. You don’t have to buy (much of) anything. You don’t have to manage a growing collection of bits and scraps as the game goes on. You don’t have to race to an object before anyone else gets it.

Instead of counting on luck and the power of persuasion to do well, you can rely on your intelligence and creativity.

(If you lean toward being introverted, or have friends who skew that way, this is the scavenger hunt for you.)


The Halloween season is ideal for a photo hunt. In most parts of the US, September and October are the months most likely to give us gorgeous, temperate days that make us want to get outside and do something. Why not use the hunt as an reason to get out and enjoy the season? After all, the landscape itself showcases objects and vistas that are iconically associated with Halloween. Starting in early September, shops begin displaying seasonal merchandise. By mid-September, towns and neighborhoods may start to decorate. By October first, many of us are fully immersed in a world painted in autumn colors and populated by monsters, ghosts, witches and other Halloween-y creatures.


Organizing a scavenger hunt may be the easiest way to entertain during the season. Because the hunt happens outdoors, in a public area, you don’t have to clean your house or cook. And you don’t need a big group of people to make it fun.

All you need is a list of inspirations, a digital camera or cell, some friends to “compete” with, and whatever amount of time you all agree to dedicate to the hunt.

To make it even easier, I’ve created a printable list of inspirations for you:

HPH short form JPEG


This list is appropriate for all ages. When you print the Halloween Photo Hunt list, you’ll find a couple of blank lines at the bottom. Allow teams to add their own found items, or customize the list ahead of time, to suit the location where you will play. (Here in White Bear Lake, MN, many residences and businesses display polar bear statues and signs, so it would be logical for us to add a bear to the list.)


Create your teams.

  • I suggest keeping the teams small – 2-3 players – and making multiple teams, rather than dividing a large group into just two.
  • Also see the VARIATIONS section below.

Define the time frame.

  • See the VARIATIONS section below.

Determine your rules.

  • How far in advance can participants see the scavenger hunt list? (I suggest each team member have equal time access. If you know everything on the list, you’re already thinking about how to capture some items. Don’t be a cheater; let others think ahead too.)
  • What are the boundaries of the search zone?
  • What method(s) of transportation are acceptable while on the quest? Is it okay to use a car, or will you restrict travel to that which can be done on foot or by bike?
  • Are purchased props acceptable? How much money can be spent to obtain a photograph? (We had set an allowance of $10 to facilitate shots, but we only paid a few cents for an aluminum pie plate during our hunt.)
  • Are videos allowed, or just still snapshots?
  • Also see VARIATIONS section below.


#1 – The Simplest Version – In 2-6 hours.

~For anyone.

This is the most spontaneous way to do the hunt. You only need a few people, a nice day, and a couple of hours. (Plus, of course, enough photo-capable cell phones so that each team has at least one.)

  • Depending on the weather, a hunt could last anywhere from two to six hours.
  • Confine the hunt to a small town, a defined section of a city, a neighborhood, or the site of a seasonal attraction (like an autumn fair).
  • Set up a meeting place to begin and end at appointed times.
  • If you will be out for longer period of time, considering also setting a meeting time and place, for a shared lunch or snack, in the middle of the hunt.
  • At the end, get all the teams together, tally checked-off items on each team’s list, and share favorite photos by passing phones around.
  • If you need to proclaim a winner, base it on total number of items checked off.
  • For extra fun, have everyone send their pictures to one person who will create a digital album or slideshow that can be sent to all participants later.

The following video is the album from one of my family’s photo hunts:


#2 – The Extended Version – In a weekend or other multi-day period.

~For far-flung social groups and/or adults who want to range farther, over a longer time, or who want to create more elaborate pics.

  • This variation is not about getting together with a group, but rather about working closely and creatively with your partner(s).
  • Make arrangements with another team (or several) in which you define a time frame during which everyone is free to obtain photos, wherever they are.
  • Teams will share / compare results after the fact.
  • Make sure all teams know what the goal of the hunt is — Completion? Creativity?
  • This extended version may lend itself to more elaborate photographs, set-ups, costumes, makeups, etc. Make sure teams are on roughly the same wavelength.
  • Emphasis may be placed on satisfying the requirements of the right-side column of the list.
  • Be clear about the length of time for the hunt AND the length of time before photos should be submitted to “opposing” teams. (Make a deadline.)
  • Decide if digital photo manipulation is acceptable.
  • Alternatively, teams could text or email photos to each other as they are taken, through the course of the hunt.

NOTES: It’s perfectly fine to stick to the basic hunt list that I’ve provided above, but if you’re going to do a more elaborate, extended, hunt, you could also work from a more challenging, extended, hunt list which is available in two formats. Please visit: The Halloween Photo Hunt Homepage to locate and print either format of the extended list, if you prefer.

At the homepage, you’ll find another way to play the Halloween Photo Hunt game, AS A TEAM OR AS AN INDIVIDUAL. Check out the option, and consider participating that way too.

Any original photo, taken in the six weeks before Halloween 2015,

inspired by  any prompt, on any version of the  hunt lists,

is eligible to be displayed in a personalized gallery at the HPH Homepage. 

There are some guidelines at the homepage about what I will and will not publish in the galleries.



Halloween Scavenger Hunt: our results.

2015 UPDATE: The 2nd Annual Halloween Photo Hunt is up and running HERE.

A few weeks ago, I developed a photographic scavenger hunt intended for smaller, slightly less “social” social groups. (I admit, I had selfish reasons. My little nuclear family is made up of introverts. When it comes to public outings, none of us want to beg actual items from strangers.)

We got a chance to give the game a full on test run last Friday. We played parents v. kids, in two teams of two. It was chilly, so we limited the game to two hours.

We had a blast. I’d play again in a heartbeat.

While the simple items from the scavenger hunt list are still on display, have a go at it yourself. I’ll bet you can come up with even more creative shots and poses than we did.

My favorite photos:

And here’s a video collage of the whole thing.

Print your scavenger hunt list here.

blogher Blogroll_Large_Oct_2013

Celebrating Halloween for couples, families and / or just a few friends: dates, games and activities, for smaller social groups.

So, what do you do to celebrate Halloween if you don’t want to have a big costume party with lots of stunt food and elaborate costumes? Is it still a party if there’s only three, or five or eight of you getting together? What turns an ordinary date into a celebration of the season? How do you celebrate Halloween with kids that are too old for trick or treating?

I’ve gathered my favorite “fun things to do for two or a few” below. I hope you find an activity that appeals to you and your family/friends.






drama masks

This sounds so trite, but it’s actually fun. When my daughter was about 12-13, we read Arsenic and Old Lace together over several nights. (We each had to do a couple of parts.) We picked up three student editions of the play at the bookstore. Our son, who was just little at the time, participated by charging up and down the stairs every time Teddy did.

Here are some resources for stories and plays I found online. Please preview for content and quality – make sure the material suits your needs.
Play Script: Arsenic and Old Lace
Radio Script: Sherlock Holmes – The Adventure of the Tolling Bell
Play: Edna St. Vincent Millay – Two Slatterns and a King – small cast plays
Browse one-act plays by cast size
Play: Robert Frost – The Witch Of Coos


muder mystery party

I’d really love to try this one.

Free PDF: Merry Murder Puzzle Book
NEW Free printable PDF: Sour Grapes of Wrath by Michael Akers (for 6 or more)
Or purchase and download instantly:
The Murder of Mrs. Whyte (for 4-8 | $14.95) – selection of mysteries with a Halloween-appropriate theme
One too many Witches will Spoil the Brew (for 5-8 female characters | $31.95)





We’re past the age for treats and tricks.

No TP rolls, nor eggs to pitch.

The giving urge trumps prankster itch.

And so our twisted ding dong ditch!



If you’re too old for trick or treating but still want to have a similar thrill, consider turning the tables and GIVING treats to Halloween Heros — households which are upholding the Halloween tradition.

Special note: This is another activity that turned out to be great fun in 2013, so I am creating a stand-alone post with more details about the how-to aspects of the adventure. Please visit:

Twisted Ding Dong Ditch (Reverse trick-or-treating the Halloween Heroes)

The post features:

  • instructions for making a Halloween-y tree  for a prize
  • information about where you can order “Halloween Hero” buttons to give out
  • tips on how to make the activity go smoothly


Here’s how it works: a couple, pair or small group go out together, as they normally would. They do – you know – whatever is standard for them: dinner and a movie, shopping at the mall, having afternoon coffee, whatever – EXCEPT they do it in a famous pair / group costume. Say, the Big Bang gang. Or the Serenity crew. Or Heathcliff and Catherine. Or Dr. Who and Rose. Or Timmy and Lassie. Or, hell, The Brady Bunch.

The goal, of course, is to pretend there’s nothing unusual about the way they look. OR it’s to play the roles to the hilt, as if they really ARE the characters.




Halloween Index