Another of his Ichabod Crane's sources of fearful pleasure was to pass long winter evenings with the old Dutch wives, as they sat spinning by the fire, with a row of apples roasting and spluttering along the hearth, and listen to their marvellous tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges, and haunted houses, and particularly of the headless horseman, or galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as they sometimes called him. He would delight them equally by his anecdotes of witchcraft, and of the direful omens and portentous sights and sounds in the air, which prevailed in the earlier times of Connecticut . . . From "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving
Washington Irving's classic tale of the headless horseman recalls cold bleak nights of long ago when friends gathered 'round a flickering fire for warmth and a bit of folklore. In this natural theatrical setting of whistling wind and dancing shadows, villagers would dazzle one another with their superstitious stories and tales of derring-do.
Halloween, especially for children, is a time to let some of this fantasy fly. As director of children's services for the D.C. public libraries, Maria Salvadore has some haunting ideas for parents and children to conjure up the ghost of the headless horseman -- among other spooks -- galloping by. Such as:
* For that cobwebby "Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark" feeling, hang threads from doorways. "Kids love that kind of creepiness."
* To cast your own spell, make a "Bubbling Brew" to bubble away on the dining-room table. In a tall jar (mayonnaise or peanut-butter size) add: 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of detergent-type powder and a half-cup of vinegar. Be sure to place a pan or dish underneath the jar as the brew will probably bubble over. This should be done with adult supervision.
* To help put chill in your bones, two popular Halloween records should rattle even the bravest: "Halloween Horrors" (on the A&M label) and "Walt Disney's Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House." The former has a story on one side and side effects on the other: witch's laughter, doors opening and closing, shutters banging, creaking iron gates, pipe organ, storm at sea, thunder and lightning, rain, wind and a monster's roar. The Disney album is seven spooky scenes in sound, plus a side of eerie sound effects. (Both are available at many area record stores.)
* Pretend (if you dare) that you've got -- eeeek -- a corpse. Blindfold children (and brave adults) before letting them feel grapes for eyes, spaghetti for intestines and a wet sponge for a heart. "Older children love it," says Salvadore, "and think it's really revolting."
* To dig up more on the Corpse Game, there's Burton and Rita Marks' The Spook Book, filled with ideas for props, sound effects, costumes and creepy food recipes such as a Vampire Sandwich. They lay out lots of game ideas, "all of which have a slightly spooky twist, but nothing horrifying." What Salvadore likes best about this book is that everything needed can be found at home.
* To ward off the evil spirits, children can draw pictures of witches (who fear their own image) or make their own good-luck charms from homemade play dough. The recipe for 1 1/2 cups of dough: 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup salt and 1/3 cup of water. Let the charms air-dry for 24 hours, then paint or color with Magic Marker.
* So preschoolers don't get left in the dark, have them cut out a pumpkin face from fabric or construction paper and glue it to the pumpkin, adding yarn for hair.
Among books recommended by area libraries and Greenie Neuburg of the Cheshire Cat Children's Book Store: Crafts
* Make a Witch, Make a Goblin by Arnold Dobrin (Four Winds), includes such ideas as how to make scarecrows, jack-o'-lanterns, papier-mache' masks and a Halloween puppet theater.
* Witch, Goblin, and Ghost's Book of Things to Do by Sue Alexander (Pantheon); not so much a how-to book as a resource for involving a child in ideas, such as solving a mystery code.
* Happy Halloween by Phyllis Hoffman (Atheneum), a paperback of make-it-yourself costumes and masks, plus riddles and recipes.
* Things to Make and Do for Halloween by Gail Gibbons (Franklin Watts, Inc.); simple and clear ideas a child can follow himself with graphic color illustrations. Read-Aloud Books for Preschoolers
* A Woggle of Witches by Adrienne Adams (Charles Scribner's Sons); a group of witches goes out on Halloween and is scared by the children.
* The Humbug Witch by Lorna Balian (Abingdon); the near-classic picture book about a witch whose spells won't work, her broom won't fly and her brew won't bubble.
Among newer books:
* Cranberry Halloween by Wende and Harry Devlin (Four Winds).
* Arthur's Halloween by Marc Brown (Atlantic-Little, Brown).
* It's Halloween by Jack Prelutsky (Greenwillow). Elementary School
* Whistle in the Graveyard and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, both by folktale collector Alvin Schwartz (Lippincott).
* Jack-O'-Lantern, an old folktale retold by Edna Barth of how jack-o'-lanterns came to be (Seabury Press).
* Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski (E.P. Dutton). "A pop-up book, with marvelous things to pull out," says Neuburg, "and an awfully good text." Poetry Books
* In the Witch's Kitchen, an anthology of not-too-scary poems compiled by John Brewton (Crowell).
* Riddles That Rhyme for Halloween Time by Leonard Kessler (Garrard).
* Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep and The Headless Horseman Rides Tonight: More Poems to Trouble Your Sleep, both by Jack Prelutsky (Greenwillow).