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 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:
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- 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
- With a fork or other handy utensil, mix the cornstarch and cold water in a cereal bowl until cornstarch has dissolved.
- 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.
- When the mix comes to a boil, turn off the heat and remove from the burner. Let it cool, stirring occasionally.
- 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).
- 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
- Pick a lawn spot visible to passers-by and carefully arrange the pumpkin head, pants and shoes to simulate your zombie pumpkin.
- Use 1/3 of the dirt to definite the gravesite boundaries (8 feet long by 3 feet wide seemed to do the trick).
- Pour 1/3 of the dirt over the pumpkins head and clothing (your zombie should be almost completely covered).
- Now, readjust the clothing slightly, pulling it through the dirt, to give the look of a zombie clawing its way out of the grave.
- Mound the rest of the dirt on top of the site for added affect.
- “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.
This post was originally published in 2010 and has been updated for 2016.