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Creepy Halloween Family Fun at Home

From eerie decor and costumes to a scary yummy meal, Birmingham, Michigan dad Tom Nardone of ExtemePumpkins.com has some weirdly cool ideas

Wanna gross-up your family's home this haunting season? Halloween just isn't the same without some good old-fashioned bloodcurdling fun – and metro Detroit-area dad Tom Nardone, founder of ExtremePumpkins.com, has just what Dr. Frankenstein ordered. His latest book, Extreme Halloween: The Ultimate Guide to Making Halloween Scary Again, is packed with costumes, creatures, pranks, party food and pumpkins aplenty. Here are five that are sure to make your kids shriek – with delight!

1. 'Talking Trashcan' candy trap

This is Nardone's favorite tactic to scare the bejeezus out of unsuspecting trick-or-treaters (only one has ever cried, he proudly reports). Since his yard lacks the standard bushes to hide in (and leap from), he transformed a benign, rubber trashcan into a wicked clever costume. All it takes is can (with lid), a jigsaw, some rope and screws. Check out his illustrated guide for the how-to.

2. Fake blood

Whether splattered on a costume, creepy pumpkin or the bathroom mirror, this stuff's a must – and making your own isn't rocket science. Try Nardone's recipe:

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • One 32-oz. bottle corn syrup (4 cups)
  • About 20 drops red food coloring
  • About 20 drops blue food coloring
  • One empty two-liter pop bottle (or similar container)
  • A funnel

Directions

  1. With a fork or other handy utensil, mix the cornstarch and cold water in a cereal bowl until cornstarch has dissolved.
  2. In a large pan over medium heat, combine the corn syrup and cornstarch mix, stirring until well mixed. Swirl in red and blue food coloring – a few drops at a time – until you achieve the desired color of blood.
  3. When the mix comes to a boil, turn off the heat and remove from the burner. Let it cool, stirring occasionally.
  4. After your fake blood completely cools, pour it in the empty bottle and screw on the lid securely. It's super-sticky (and attracts flies once it's out of the bottle), but will keep for over a year!

3. Zombie pumpkin grave

Celebrate the undead with this wacky display, perfect for your family's front yard (check out Nardone's version).

Supplies

  • One larger-than-a-human-head-sized pumpkin, carved with a pained or scary facial expression (use a jigsaw or some other carving tool)
  • Old gloves, shirt and pants
  • 2 old shoes (or an old shoe and fake foot)
  • Dirt (3 cubic feet, if you're buying it)
  • Shovel and spade

Directions

  1. Pick a lawn spot visible to passers-by and carefully arrange the pumpkin head, pants and shoes to simulate your zombie pumpkin.
  2. Use 1/3 of the dirt to definite the gravesite boundaries (8 feet long by 3 feet wide seemed to do the trick).
  3. Pour 1/3 of the dirt over the pumpkins head and clothing (your zombie should be almost completely covered).
  4. Now, readjust the clothing slightly, pulling it through the dirt, to give the look of a zombie clawing its way out of the grave.
  5. Mound the rest of the dirt on top of the site for added affect.
  6. "Enjoy your neighbors' alarmed reactions," Nardone says.

4. Veggie cannibal

In Extreme Halloween, Nardone creates a hideous looking – and totally edible – "Roasted Human Being" buffet out of loads of meat. He also makes it a bit healthier with a vegetable version. Arrange the following (raw, roasted, steamed or sauteed) into a human body onto a big plastic-cloth-covered table:

  • Head: Carved spaghetti squash (use fibers for hair)
  • Collarbones: Celery
  • Vertebrae: Sliced mushrooms
  • Arms: Cucumbers and carrots
  • Hands and fingers: Green peppers and green beans
  • Lungs: Dip
  • Ribs: Asparagus
  • Guts: A salad or heaps of coleslaw
  • Pelvis: One-half cauliflower head
  • Legs: Zucchini and summer squash
  • Feet: Banana peppers

5. No costume? No problem

You already have the on-hand goods to whip up a last-minute dud. Whether you're scrambling for your own kids – or tossing a costume party and guests show up unadorned – Nardone suggests wrapping 'em in one of these homemade getups. Try the classic toilet-paper mummy (use one whole roll!), cardboard-box robot (silver paint or aluminum foil are nice touches) or garbage-bag ballerina (use tape and scissors to create a bodice, poofy sleeves and, of course, tutu) on for size.

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