Something Festive This Way Comes…

Halloween Fun and Creativity October 16, 2002

Halloween is only two short weeks away, and if you are like most people, you will be scrambling to get prepared, but will end up leaving most of the work until the very last minute. It happens to all of us. Nevertheless, decorating the house and yard can be great fun for parents and children, and even for those without children. There is something about Halloween that appeals to people of all ages.

Unfortunately, the price of Halloween fun is on the rise. Decorations have evolved far beyond the old cardboard cut-out window-and-door-hanging variety that you used to be able to pick up for a buck at the department stores. Years ago, when elementary schools had significant funding for arts programs, children would create decorations at school, and bring them home to hang on their windows. We don’t see many of those today.

Today’s decorations are amazing – 5′ poseable spiders, life-sized plastic skeletons, strings of pumpkin and skeleton-shaped lights, 3-D witches to hang on the door, etc, etc. They look great, but most of this stuff is really expensive, and when you factor in the high cost of candy, you may be reluctant to buy many extras.

It had to happen. All of the holidays are becoming more and more commercialized. Halloween used to be a surprisingly simple, organic, and home-crafted kind of holiday. In the old days, treats were home baked, and hospitality was more important than give-outs. Well, we can’t do that anymore. Unless you know the child who receives your homemade goodies, you can be pretty sure the treats will end up in the garbage. Hospitality is no longer appreciated. Most kids just want to run to your door, get some candy, and be off as quickly as possible so that they can maximize their haul.

Halloween decorations used to be the ultimate in natural, environmentally friendly, waste-free, homemade fun. What could be simpler than cutting a few holes in a big vegetable? Sadly, plastic jack-o-lanterns and painted pumpkins have mostly replaced the strange charm of the homemade kind. It’s a shame. There is something indescribably appealing about a simple pumpkin lantern – even if the craftsman is a child with clumsy fingers and a poor eye for design. Pumpkins look best when their features are mismatched and askew.

A few people still go to the trouble to make the real thing. Pumpkin carving patterns have really upped the artistic value of these creations, too. The only shame is that many of these patterns treat the pumpkin like a bulbous orange canvas, rather than the true focus of the artwork. Thus, jack-o-lanterns with personality are being replaced by innocuous gourds with 2-dimensional luminary prints gracing their shells. Not that these pictures aren’t skill crafted. My neighbours down the street buy a package of pumpkin patterns every year, and they use the entire package on a dozen or more pumpkins which line the walk up to their door. Their work is skilful and precise, but there is nothing creepy about a lantern displaying a large bat figure, or a wolf baying at the moon. They are only pictures.

Real jack-o-lanterns are not crafted for the artistic value of their light-emitting holes. On a real jack-o-lantern, the pumpkin itself is the focus – it is a head, and a face – it has life! People who carve pictures into their pumpkins instead of faces just don’t understand the creepy value of a disembodied, orange-glowing vegetable head on the front lawn. Anyway, there is no way that children can participate in the carving of these intricate designs, and one of the beauties of pumpkin carving is that anyone can create a design, regardless of age or artistic talent. Every one should be unique.

Whether you choose to carve a pumpkin this year, or just hang up a few cardboard ghosts and cats, you may want to check out some of the following links for some low cost Halloween fun:


I recommended this one last year, and it’s still a winner. The Around Caroline Online Haunted House is fun for adults and children alike. Make sure you have your computer sound turned on, click on the picture to enter, and be patient. On low speed connections the house can take a long time to load, and even on high speed you may have to wait a minute or so. It’s worth it. Once you see the house on your screen, have fun clicking on different areas to discover all of the hidden secrets [there are 41 altogether]. The house is located at:

Also check out the Ben and Jerry’s site, listed below.


If you want to try your hand at making homemade decorations using your ink-jet printer, try the following:

Canon Print Planet
has some printable masks [which can also make good decorations], gift boxes, candle wrap, gift tags, and more. If you have a lot of medium or large pillar candles, candle wrap can be a really simple way to decorate the house. Try using pictures from all kinds of sources, such as printable cards and stationary, wrapping your candle, and attaching it with a little tape. You can remove the wrap at the end of the season and replace it with a Christmas theme if you like.

Hewlett Packard’s Creative Projects site has tons of stuff, including masks, luminaria [light covers, and patterns for decorative paper bags you can place candles in], masks, cards [I used some of the card pictures to make candle wrap], pumpkin templates, decorations, and tons more. One of the best sites for printable Halloween ideas.

Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream offers Halloween printables, including a nice skeleton that you can hang on the window. I enlarged the pieces and printed them on several sheets of paper to make a larger one and it looked pretty good. This is a nice decoration as it takes up little ink and does not require colour. This site also has a simple online haunted house.


If you want to make a great jack-o-lantern, try some of these sites for pumpkin carving templates. A fun idea is to mix and match portions of different designs, to make your own custom lantern face.

Start with Pumpkin Carving 101 to get some great tips and ideas for beginning carvers.

For patterns try:

The Pumpkin Farm for some really simple ones.

Byroads Magazine

Pumpkin Masters, which includes a cute one for baby’s first Halloween. for some really unique ones. (I did a variation of Cyclops last year and thought it was very scary, but I was dismayed to learn that Disney had recently made a cutesy monster movie with a one-eyed-blob character in it. My pumpkin apparently looked exactly like it. Most of the kids thought it was cute and that I’d carved it in homage to Disney. I won’t do that one again… sigh.

Hershey’s Trick or, which also has wallpaper and clipart.

Finally, for something really different, see Me On A for software that will convert a picture of a person into a pumpkin-carving template.


Find tips at


Hershey’s Trick or, which also has wallpaper and clipart.

You know Mc Gruff – the safety dog? This site is full of information on making Halloween safe.


For everything else, make sure you visit Halloween This place is an awesome source for Halloween clip art, fonts, links, ideas, everything! One of my all-time favourite sites.

A Spiritual Quest has all kinds of Halloween tips, including ideas for parties and simple costumes:

Finally, try Halloween by to order party favours and other fun stuff:


Elvira – Mistress of the Dark
Rocky Horror
Vampira – the classic Halloween vamp.
Clive Barker online – because Hellraiser is one of the all-time greatest Halloween movies ever
Deadites Online, for fans of the Evil Dead movies – it’s not Halloween without at least one of them.

Last but not least, don’t forget the Halloween movies and music. Classic movie picks would include: Night Of The Living Dead, Psycho, The Pit and the Pendulum [with Vincent Price], anything else with Vincent Price, Re-Animator [if you like your horror to be really strange], or any of the original Universal horrors starring masters like Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Claude Rains, Lon Chaney Jr., Elsa Lanchester, and others. If you like modern horrors, good pics would be A Nightmare on Elm Street, An American Werewolf in London, Hellraiser [not for the weak-hearted], Evil Dead 1 or 2, or #3 – Army Of Darkness [if you like it campy], Lair Of The White Worm [if you like it sexy but absurd], Candyman, Alien, or any of the Halloween [avoid the #3 which is entirely unrelated to the others] or Friday the 13th series [all are equally good, or bad, depending on your perspective].

If you are a Halloween junkie like me, you’ll spend most of October watching horror movies and playing the Misfits back catalogue over and over, and you’ll decorate your Windows desktop with a fully animated and interactive custom desktop theme or ghoulish horror, complete with dancing skeleton screen saver [available at:], but if not, at least try to scare the pants off of yourself on Halloween night. It’s good for you. Really!


Tamra lives in Calgary with her husband and two cats. A fulltime AU student, she splits her free time between her duties as an AUSU councillor, writing her first novel, and editing written work by other students and friends.