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Halloween spirits are on The Web

October 31, 1996
Web posted at: 1:30 a.m. EST

From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman

(CNN) -- Things have been quiet, too quiet, for too long. The blink of your digital clock has an ominous glow. Your lengthening shadow trails behind you, appearing ever earlier as the chill days grow shorter. And your nerves are at the breaking edge, as you realize in terror: You have forgotten how to celebrate a holiday!

Yes, it's true that the last major holiday you hosted a party for was Independence Day. No, that doesn't mean that you have to become the laughingstock of your friends for your less-than-gripping entertainment skills. The World Wide Web is here, once again, in your time of need.

In this story:

Carving a niche: Jack-o-Lanterns Plus

Jack O' Lantern Plus

Carving a pumpkin is fun and not as messy as you remember -- just lay several layers of newspaper on your kitchen floor and check out this web site for ideas that will get your creative juices flowing.

The site provides elaborate patterns you can trace onto your pumpkin (these are not your standard grinning gourds), and lists exactly what tools you will need to complete these fanciful designs (a kitchen knife and a spoon aren't going to cut it.)

When I visited, the prominently-featured article highlighted was entitled "Making your pumpkins last longer." With the amount of effort you'll be putting into your pumpkin, thanks to this site, you'll want it to last.

Once you get the hang of the carving techniques illustrated at this site, you may find that pumpkin-carving occasions don't come around often enough. Instructions and patterns for carving watermelons are also available here.

Halloween o-Webbery great idea source for grown-up celebration

If you are hosting a Halloween bash, this site can help you plan it, from putting together a menu (complete with blood- red hands of ice to chill your punch and person-shaped meat loaf) to selecting a playlist of spooky songs.

The site also links to a wide selection of Halloween-related web pages, covering All Hallows' Eve subject matter from ghost stories to costumes to "mystic games" like a virtual Ouija board and a tarot card reading.

Just for parents: Family Planet's Halloween '96

Family Planet

This family-oriented site, which combines magazine format with Web flexibility to publish new articles every day instead of once a week or once a month, has unveiled a special Halloween section. Its regular Family Planet staff address parents' most pressing questions in this section: can our children trick-or-treat where we work? What do my kids want to do at their Halloween party? What costumes can I make in the next two hours? and What do I do with my kids' candy when they get home?

The site also reviews books and movies, and gives them kid- safety ratings. And, it posts contributions from other actual parents on suggested topics, including -- again -- what to do with all that candy they bring home, and things you and your children can do instead of trick-or-treating, if you are so inclined.

One word on the trick-or-treating question: As a child, adults told me that bad people "often" put razor blades in apples, or put poison into candy at Halloween. As an adult, I have seen few trick-or-treaters in my own neighborhood, and assumed that parents had decided it was too dangerous to let their children go door-to-door.

While checking your child's candy is still sound advice, research has found little evidence to substantiate the legend of the "Halloween Sadist." In fact, a researcher from California State University at Fresno, trying to prove the story, studied major newspapers from 1958 to 1988 to find how often people sabotaged Halloween candy.

For the 30-year period, he found only 78 cases, all of which turned out to be pranks by children, and two deaths. The father of one of the children, who died by cyanide poisoning, was later convicted of the murder of his son. See "Halloween Poisoning" on the Urban Legends site for more information.

Going out: The Official Halloween Safety Game

Saftey Game

If your children are going out trick-or-treating this Halloween -- even if they have gone before and even if you think they know the rules -- it's always safest to remind them. This game is an easy way to do so.

Developed using information from law and safety enforcement agencies, children's hospitals and other resources, the quiz lists a dozen rules of the road, then poses situation questions to which the child must choose the best answer provided. If they choose the wrong one, they learn that "the bogeyman" caught them, and are reminded of the rule they broke.

Ideas for the at-home alternative at Billy Bear's Halloween

If you still don't want your kids canvassing the neighborhood, or they won't be able to because rain is forecast for your area on October 31, you might enjoy planning your children's Halloween party this year. As you might guess from the name, the "Billy Bear's Halloween" site is primarily for younger children.

The resources available on this site allow you to print out designs for Halloween invitations, the design for the "Stick the Wart on the Witch" game, patterns for three different Halloween mazes, and three pumpkin line drawings that children can color.

Kitschy horror at The Monster Manse

Moster Manse

The Monster Manse is by far the most elaborate horror-related web site I visited, and is practically guaranteed to get adults in the Halloween mood. This page's creator is also an amateur horror film producer, and it shows in the site's layout, including clever artwork and mood music that automatically downloads and plays ad nauseum as long as you are on a page.

Among the special features you MUST check out if you go: A "Monster Trivia" quiz hosted by fictional character Howly Harry, which gives you a thumbs up or down and an insult or compliment, depending on whether you answer each question right. (The quiz is purportedly changed occasionally to present renewed challenges to the devoted horror fan.)

An unrelated but nearby holiday: Guy Fawkes Day

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes Day, November 5, is an English holiday commemorating the capture of the country's most notorious traitor, Guy Fawkes, in 1605. Fawkes is burned in effigy in towns throughout England year after year, and his capture is celebrated with massive fireworks displays rivaling those in the United States for Independence Day (the Fourth of July). Learn more about the conspiracy and the tradition at this site.

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Related sites:

CNN Interactive's Halloween 1996 special section
A witch tries to dispel 'misconceptions'
- Oct. 31, 1995
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