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October 2003 Issue
Celebrating the Ghoul In All of Us
by Ronda L. Halpin
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Halloween has become a favorite holiday of the young and old alike. Perhaps it's because there are few taboos on this scary night. Walk through any department store and you'll be greeted by orange artificial lights, animated witches and tombstones for the whole family. However, just like any other holiday, there doesn't have to be a lot of money around to make the season festive. So, with that in mind, here are some simple and low cost ideas for making this Halloween your scariest yet!

The Art of Lighting

Something as simple as replacing your outdoor and entryway lights with red, orange or green light bulbs can have a stunning effect on Halloween night. Bright white and yellow lights are warm and inviting and while that's what we strive for most of the time, we want there to be an element of fear glowing around and in the house when youngsters creep up to the house for goodies. Just remember, when thinking about spooky lighting, it's still very important to make certain that the lighting is bright enough to keep everyone safe. We want to be spooky -- not dangerous!

Ghostly Projections

A few years ago, my husband and I had the misfortune of having to replace both our garage door and garage door opener in early October. Being in Wisconsin, it was already too cold to paint the white door that we had purchased to match the rest of our home. However, we took advantage of the large white space for Halloween and that experience inspired us to choose the lighter of the two colors we could choose for the door once it was warm enough to paint!

Now you can go to many stores and purchase light projection machines for your decorating needs, but it's so simple to do yourself. All you need is a bright light -- everything from a spotlight from your landscaping kit to a plug-in utility light will do -- and a large piece of cardboard with a couple of fence stakes and some string ... and, of course, some creativity. We chose to draw a scary face on our piece of cardboard -- we actually used one of those pumpkin-carving patterns and I highly recommend doing the same. (You can get ideas about that below.)

Then we cut the negative space out with a sharp utility knife. If you want to be able to reuse your pattern, cover the exposed cardboard with packaging tape to help it withstand the elements. You'll also need to poke at least 4 holes in the cardboard (one on each corner) to allow you to put string through.

Then you need to position your light so that it will shine onto your garage door (or other largely blank piece of the house). Then place two fence poles about 1-2 feet in front of the light and attach the pattern you've made between the poles. Make any adjustments you need to the light, pattern and fence poles and wait for the little goblins to be amazed as the wander up to your home to trick or treat!

Jack-O-Lanterns

People have been making jack-o-lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." Apparently, he invited the Devil to enjoy a beer with him. When the bill came, Stingy Jack, not wanting to part with his money, convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Having turned himself into a coin, the Devil was tricked by Jack, who put the coin into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Eventually Jack freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul.

Well eventually Jack died. As the legend goes, Jack couldn't go to heaven since he had been such a scoundrel in life. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. Instead, the Devil sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The Irish began to refer to him as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern."

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o’lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack o’lanterns.

In recent years, the creativity used to carve pumpkins has spawned an industry devoted to offering people patterns for carving creative jack o’lanterns. But, if you're not up for paying top dollar for a little help, you can download free pumpkin carving patterns here at Jack-O-Lantern.com. Happy carving!

Festive Lollipops

If carving a pumpkin seems like a lot of work, try another trick with those large, orange fruits that are so tied to Halloween. Using a sharp ice pick or the like, punch holes evenly along the surface of a large, blemish-free pumpkin. Fill each hole with a lollipop and then let the trick-or-treaters who come to your door pick their favorite one. If you prepare your pumpkin on Halloween morning, you'll be able to prep that same pumpkin for pie, soup or whatever your heart (or stomach) desires the very next day! Now that's something that you just can't do with your carved pumpkins.

Handy Candy

One of the best tricks I've used to get a real scare out of children of all ages is also one of the simplest. It does, however, require a good actor, a big coat and a flexible arm. Start by sawing a 4-inch diameter hole into the bottom of a large plastic bowl. Make sure your hand can fit easily through it or the trick won't work. (You might want to file the edges of the hole to make them smooth.)

Then, when the trick-or-treaters head for your door, put on a large coat and carefully place your hand in the hole in the bottom of the bowl. Use the coat to hide any evidence of your missing hand. Then pour your treats over your hand so that they fill the bowl. Then, as you're handing out treats, carefully bring up your hand through the candy. It's important that you go along with the joke. Of course, you might want to tame this trick as needed for the really young.

Remember that Halloween is about fun and fright. Have a safe night with a good share of ghosts, goblins and all things scary! After all, 'tis the season!!!



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