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On Halloween night, spirits wander as ghost and goblins, children roam the neighborhood in costumes and masks, houses are done up in all sorts of scary ways, jack-o'-lanterns light the, way and treats are handed out as prevention against naughty pranks. Halloween is indeed a time to let your imagination run wild. It's a night for fun, a night for transformations. Change who you are by putting on a costume. Transform a jumble pumpkin into a light filled goblin. Disguise you home as a scary haunted house or simply make it a place to welcome the little monsters who will spare you a trick if you hand out a treat.
Today Halloween is a celebrated largely as a joyous, frightful occasion for the kids, but it gives grown-ups an excuse to let down their hair as well. The holiday has also become and opportunity for families to spend time doing creative things together. Making costumes and decorations, carving pumpkins, planning for trick-or-treatersthese activities are enjoyed by both children and adults. You don't have to believe in ghosts and goblins to observeand create anewtraditions of the scariest night of the year!
When it comes to decorating for Halloween, whether for a grand party or for simply scaring the neighborhood goblins, look to the icons of the holiday for inspiration. Their simple shapes are instantly recognizable: a carved pumpkin, a witch on a broom, ablack cat, a flying bat, a giant spider. These are the stuff of costumes, cut-outs for windows, party invitations, even cookies. To set the stage for your Halloween house, start with the jack-o'-lantern, the most enduring Halloween symbol of all and the beacon that guides trick-or-treaters to the house where a welcome is waiting.
The traditional produce of fall can be a large part of decorating for Halloween, whether you live in a city or miles from civilization. Indian corn, gourds, pumpkins, and other fall vegetables from a farmers' market are so evocative that they can become a simple, beautiful centerpiece, mantelpiece display, or porch still-life with little or no adornment. Sheaves of cornstalks attached to fence posts, porch railings, and house pillars, though today seen as merely decorative, actually represent the coming of winter and all that Halloween originally stood for. Consider these other ideas for bringing Halloween atmosphere to your home:
-Create an arrangement of hollowed-out crown-of-thorn squash and bottleneck gourds to hold candles.
-Cornhusks and branches with autumn leaves and berries or dangling apples celebrate the harvest season and are fetching hung at door-ways, room entrances, and around mantels.
-Moss, spread out with fall-colored leaves, makes a fitting centerpiece on a serving table. Hollowed-out cabbages, pumpkins, and turnips are fun vessels for Halloween treats.
-Arrange tall bare branches in pots strategically placed around the room-they'll look like spooky "skeleton hands" reaching out.
-Fake spider webs make everything appear musty and old. For instant creepiness, pull them around bare tree branches, a musty thrift shop portrait in a distressed frame, or a junk shop candelabra.
-Glue-gun fall leaves, or cutouts of ghosts, skeletons, and witches, onto sheer black fabric and hang in a doorway to create a dramatic entrance to a haunted room.
-And that old-fashioned broom in the corner-was it left by a guest, or . . .?
The most exciting thing about fixing up a house for Halloween is that so many ideas can be executed with things found around the yard and house (be sure to look in the basement,garage, and attic). Leaves, branches, and a rake; clothes from an old chest in the attic: cardboard boxes, tin cans, and broom sticks-all can add to sour Halloween decorating plans. Even a haunted house can he created with everyday things from tile pantry (think cold cooked spaghetti, globs of gelatin). Once the lights are dimmed, people's imaginations go a long way.
Outside, don't make it too easy for little goblins to demand their treats: Create a mystery by illuminating the pathway to the house with a ghostly glowsmall carved pumpkins or paper bags block-printed with Halloween figures, all giving off flickering candle light. Or turn the yard into a creepy setup for whatever waits on the other side of the door: A well-situated tree is just where ghosts like to hang out. If there's not a convenient tree, drape a white sheet over a pumpkin set atop two bales of hay. Sheets or large white pieces of construction paper cut in ghostly shapes and tacked over windows will fill all who approach with apprehension, especially when the only light inside Comes from a Candle (hot too close to sheets or paper, please).
Creating a house of horrors is a wonderful opportunity to) let the trickster side of your decoratingimagination fly. A tiny special effects in a darkened room are simple to concoct. But keep. in mind that young children scare easily and on Halloween they are especially susceptibleit is best to set an age limit, as the noises and surprises might be too frightening for smaller children. Plan on the walk-through taking only a minute or two, and pick a spot that is easy to enter and exit. Ask kids and friends to share the work; the more ideas and the more people to carry them out, the more creative the results. And try some of the suggestions on the following pages.
© 1999 by Hearst Communications, Inc.