"The ability to spin fantasies . . . makes bearable the frustrations experienced in reality ." -- Bruno Bettelheim, "The Uses of Enchantment."

Strangers stop Margaret Hamilton on the street daily, in the grocery store or at the bank, and announce: "You scared the pants off me as a child.

"I can hardly go out without it happening," says 77-year-old acress, best known as "The Wizard of Oz's" Wiked Witch of the West. "My typical response is 'I'm sorry.' But most people say, 'Don't be sorry. I loved it.'

"People love fantasy and adore being scared. While there's a certain evil fear about (the witch) that frightens children -- and gives adults a bit of a shiver -- they come to look forward to that tingling excitement. And they love to see her melt. It gives them a feeling of success."

This world of fantasy -- where good conquers evil, ugliness turns to beauty and fairy godmothers right all wrongs -- "is very, very important," says Hamilton. "It allows the impossible to become terribly possible."

"Fantasy satisfactions," says child psychologist/writer Bruno Bettelheim, are a crucial part of growing up.

"Disillusionment may lead to such severe disappointment in himself that the child may give up all effort and completely withdraw into himself, away from the world, unless fantasy comes to his rescue."

Once mused Albert Einstein: "When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking."

Other adults, it seems, also have an occasional need to slip from the bonds of reality and float into fantsy (around Halloween or otherwise).

Here are some thoughts on the subject from grown-ups who often journey from the mundane to the magic:

Christopher Reeve (Superman): "To a child, fantasy is essential. And Superman, Santa Claus and other fantasy figures can be used to lead a child into the adult world.

"Before age 6 or 7, it's great to enjoy Superman and run around pretending to fly -- as long as it's supervised.

"But after a certain age, kids should learn to understand the spirit in which the character in intended. Superman then becomes more than a neat guy in a funny costume.

"He personifies ideas about giving and helping others, telling the truth, having integrity and getting out of being only self-involved. Everybody has those traits, if they want to develop them."

James Earl Jones (the voice of Darth Vader): "Fantasy is responsible for the great appeal of Darth Vader. You can imagine him to be anything under the mask. He also has unusual physical strength . . . and I think a child's fantasies center around a need for strength.

"Children are in a zone where their needs are met by imagination. But I think (fantasy) is a negative thing for adults. It comes when they can't hang onto it all. I've got to avoid the stuff myself."

Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk): "For an almost deaf boy from Brooklyn, starring as the Incredible Hulk has certainly been a fantasy come true. Every child needs a hero, and I feel responsibility to maintain my character in tune with the hero image.

"To adults, the Hulk represents a venting of anger and lashing out against the frustrations of adulthood. Like children, we are also exploring to find ways to cope. A fantasy like this can take the sting out of reality." t

Fred (Mr.) Rogers: "Fantasy is vital. We'd never have any inventions in this world if someone hadn't fantasized first. But the separation of fantasy from reality is a major growth task of childhood.

"'Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood' clearly defines the real from the pretend. We use a trolly as the transmission object to go from the neighborhood to the Land of Make Believe.

"With very young children, no matter how much you say to them that something isn't real, it won't matter. At Halloween, they may put on a scary costume and become afraid that their own inner rage will come through and hurt someone. It's helpful for parents to tell their children that they had trouble separating fantasy from reality when they were little, too."

Mel Blanc: "The pictures and cartoons I make (as the voice of Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird, Barney Rubble, Dino, and about 400 others) are loaded with fantasy. When you see Wiley Coyote flattened like a hotcake, then appear fine in the next scene -- kids know it's fantasy and they love it.

"I think Bugs Bunny is the most popular character of all because he's a real little stinker. He does all the things most people just fantasize about, but don't have the crust to do."

Marcel Marceau: "Everyone has imagination to different degrees, but it's the artist who has the ability to make a fantasy clear and concrete, to make visible what is not there.

"This imagination -- to create The Mask Maker -- comes from the deepest part of myself.How does it start? If I knew the answer to that I'd know the mystery of the world."