19 Virtual and Socially-Distant Halloween Programs that are Spooky and Safe

As a violence prevention professional, I speak the language of safety all year, every year.

And now, with a global pandemic lingering well into spooky season, student affairs professionals across the country have had to join me in considering safety 24/7. 

Luckily, there are Halloween safety measures we can implement and programs we can host that will keep students safer — not only from contracting COVID-19 but also in reducing acute alcohol intoxication, sexual violence, and other forms of assault. 

Below, check out my tips and ideas to provide your students with a safe and socially distant Halloween to remember. 

Socially Distant Programs

1. Best Halloween Mask

Turn mask mandates into something fun! Invite students to a Halloween mask contest wherein the spookiest mask wins a grand prize. Students can create their Halloween masks with their own materials at home or you can set up tables outside, maintaining appropriate distance, with decoration materials supplied. 

2. Trick or Treat (From Afar)

Students love getting the chance to act like young kids again. Give them the opportunity to trick or treat safely by hosting outdoor trick-or-treat tables.

Students who host tables can wear masks and pass out candy to their peers in masks and costumes who pop by. Student organizations can sign up to host tables in costumes that best represent their organization. Schedule this event during the day outside of busy class buildings or at night to keep more eyes on students who may otherwise be tempted to party and drink too much. 

3. Costume Parade

The best part of Halloween is the candy and the second-best is the costumes. So, invite students to participate in a costume parade.

The parade can go past major campus buildings as people watch through their windows. Award the best costumes prizes related to social distancing, like craft kits or fancy face masks

4. Movie Night

If you’re lucky enough to have warm weather through October, host an outdoor movie night.

Pick a Halloween favorite like Halloweentown or Hocus Pocus to entice students to attend. If you’re not sure what movies your students will be into, host an Instagram poll before your showing. Set up hay bales at least six feet apart and invite students to bring their own mugs of hot cocoa or cider. Students can also bring their own blankets to keep warm under the stars. 

5. Pumpkin Farm Meetup

Most people love orchard and pumpkin farms, and I bet your students would love to meet their friends there safely. 

Host a meetup at a local farm by having students drive their own cars, prepared with masks and hand sanitizers. Supervise the event to make sure your students keep their masks on and socially distance. 

Virtual Programs

6. Best Spooky Playlist

Invite your students to compete to create the best Halloween-themed playlist. Publish the playlists on your institution or department’s social media accounts and invite students to vote for their favorite. Play the winning playlist throughout October in your campus dining halls and reward the winner with a Halloween-themed basket

7. Scary Film Festival

If you have students who are talented filmmakers, a scary movie contest is an excellent virtual Halloween program. Invite teams of students to make the scariest short films while following campus safety guidelines. Upload the videos to your institution’s s YouTube channel or website and encourage students to vote for their favorite. Reward the winners with new cameras!

8. Halloweens of Yesterday Hangout

I’ve noticed that after virtual staff meetings, our students like to linger and talk about the “old days,” AKA life before the pandemic.

Give them that space through a Halloween-themed online hangout. Have a few prompts prepared, like “What was your favorite childhood Halloween costume?” or “What is the best and worst Halloween candy ?” The students will enjoy having a space to be nostalgic about Halloweens past. 

9. Halloween Trivia

Become a quizmaster and create a quiz on Halloween history or movie trivia that students can play for prizes from home. Check out Kahoot to create your own quizzes. 

10. Zoom Halloween

Weddings, baby showers, and classes have all moved online during the pandemic, so why not move a Halloween party online this year, too?

Invite students to attend a Zoom hangout in their costumes, with a bag of candy and a spooky background. You can plan to have digital games or icebreakers, play spooky music, or simply give students the space to talk to each other. 

Social Media

11. 30 Days of Spooky

Host a Halloween movie countdown on your Instagram or other social media account. If you have student staff, assign them to create Halloween-themed safety content for the month of October. They can post about social norm stats on drinking, how to avoid cultural appropriation in costume choice, and how to maintain safe social distance while celebrating Halloween. 

12. Instagram Reels or Tik Tok Contest

With our shift to online programming this fall, my coworkers at Marquette University and I assigned some of our student staff to create Instagram Reels. We gave them full reign on creativity to post about wellness topics, though they must seek supervisor approval before posting. 

You can adapt this for Halloween by inviting students to create funny or educational Halloween-themed Instagram Reels or Tik Toks for your campus to be entertained by. (Here are some more tips on utilizing Tik Tok or Instagram to engage students.)

13. Campus Haunting

If you work at a campus that has some old, historic buildings, now is the perfect time to tell scary stories about them. Each day on social media, write a new sentence that, when read all together tells a scary story about campus. You could engage with your communications or English department to create content that will keep delightedly spooked. 

14. Professor Costume Contest 

Every campus has professors who are beloved by students. Connect with some of these faculty members, as well as favorite employees, and invite them to show off their Halloween costumes. Share the photos on Instagram and have students vote on their favorites. 

More Great Programs

15. Door Decoration Contest

Residence life can host an autumn-themed door decoration contest. Students can decorate their doors while social distancing and the fun decorations will make their spaces feel cozier. 

16. Crafting

Hand out craft kits for students to pick up on their way home. Knitting, painting, or DIY witches are all great options. If your students love to compete, host a crafting competition via Instagram. Or if you think they would prefer to craft in camaraderie, schedule a Zoom hangout. 

17. Social Norm Signs

As I explained in a previous post, social norm theory is a behavior-change theory that is great to utilize on college campuses. It works by showing students data demonstrating that most of their peers engage in healthy behaviors. For example, 79% of Gen X-ers say they follow mask-wearing guidelines very strictly. 

Social norm theory can be used to change behaviors related to violence, drinking, and other drugs, as well as COVID19 precautions. Use social norm theory data on lawn signs or posters to encourage your students to engage in healthy behaviors. 

18. Spooky Photo Booth

Generation Z students love curating their online presences. So, give them an opportunity to snap that perfect Instagram shot by setting up an outdoor fall-themed photo booth. No need to have a photographer staff it; students will be more than happy to use their own phones to snap cute pics on a haybale. To accommodate students who don’t have phones, have a polaroid camera available. 

19. Flier Campaign

Create Halloween-themed safety resource posters and hang them up across campus to make students aware of what resources are available to them. You can include contact details and programmatic info on your campus police, medical clinic, victim advocacy offices, and any other services your campus or local community has related to student safety. Create digital fliers as well so students off campus can see the information, too. 

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Halloween can still be spooky, yet 100% safe, this year. What are your ideas for keeping students engaged and safe? Share your tricks and treats with us @HelloPresence.

Kacie Otto

About the author: Kacie Otto is the Violence Prevention Specialist at Marquette University. If she’s not knitting or reading a book about feminism, you might find her at a campsite or in a thrift shop. Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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