If you are starting to read this at breakfast, don't.
It's about how to have a perfectly disgusting and very scary Halloween using things that you have on hand. An instant House of Horrors.
Razor blades in trick-or-treat apples and candy-bag muggers make it hard to have a good, old-fashioned time. The point of Halloween always has been that you scare yourself to death, not that someone else does it for you.
Whether the terror lay in the fear of getting caught while soaping someone's window or in challenging the world's crabbiest neighbor to produce a treat, it was self-induced. So let's get the children out of the mean streets and back to the safety of home, which, with a little effort, can be turned into a very eerie place.
To set the scene, make a dummy by stuffing some of your old clothes with rags, using gloves for hands and socks for feet and a hat to hide the face. Take the dummy out to the front yard and hang it in a tree, letting it swing back and forth so it will glide into view as the young guests come up the walk.
If there is a particularly obliging person in the house, station him or her in a hedge with a flashlight. When someone comes up the walk, the person points the flashlight at his own face, makes a terrible grimace and switches on the light. One old man did this every single Halloween of my childhood and, no matter that we knew he would do it, each year when that grotesque face popped out of the bushes, we screamed and ran.
As your guests gather, give them masks made out of crumpled tinfoil. Something about the shiny silver glinting in the light is particularly menacing. Screw blue light bulbs into the overhead fixtures and let that be the only light, hard and cold with no warmth at all.
For background music, put a record on the phonograph but play it at the lowest possible speed so that it sounds like a voice reaching out of the grave. And hang large mirrors all around the room so that the silvery masks seem to extend on into eternity.
After all the young guests have arrived, take them one by one through the House of Horrors.
As the victims step into the maze, they must close their eyes. The tinfoil mask is removed and in its place a blindfold is tied on. The victim takes the hand of the guide and is led into the first enclosure, where he must stick his hand in a bowl of worms. (The worms, of course, are simply spaghetti cooked a bit too long and then put into the refrigerator to chill.)
After the victims have screamed and dropped the worms, they must hold out their hands, palm up, to receive two eyeballs (peeled grapes).
Ah, but it's not over yet. Next comes the Chinese Water Bug Torture, when they must plunge their hands into a paperbag full of squirmy water bugs (all those slimy pumpkin seeds which you have removed from the jack-o'-lanterns.)
And in the next room is Dracula's breakfast--a bucket full of blood (egg whites at room temperature have just the right viscous texture) which the victim is told to taste.
But Dracula is not the only monster in the House of Horrors. The next room holds Frankenstein's head, and the blindfolded person is invited to put his hand inside and feel Frankenstein's brain (an old basketball with a hole cut out and filled with chopped up pieces of gelatin).
Yuck! The last stop in the maze is the Room of Snakes, the final ordeal before the victim is allowed to leave the House of Horrors. It is the only way out, and unless the person can bring himself to walk across the snake-writhing floor, he'll be trapped inside forever. (A collection of old extension cords, rubber hosing, ropes, etc., all packed in piles on the floor so that when someone walks on them they all wiggle.)
And when the maze is run and the victim emerges, congratulations for making it through comes from a corpse, who holds out an icy hand to shake (a rubber glove filled with ice water and tied securely shut.)
Then the guide removes the blindfold and leads the victim to a bowl where, with soap and towel, he is able to remove Frankenstein's brain and Dracula's blood from his hands.
On the far side of the House of Horrors there is warmth and safety, a room lit with candles shining out from friendly, smiling jack-o'-lantern faces, a tin washtub full of water and afloat with apples to be bobbed for, another apple on a string, swinging from the ceiling with a quarter stuck in it, which the children, hands behind their back, must retrieve with their teeth (and if they do, of course, they get to keep it).
Apple cider to drink, bowls of popcorn to eat and individual treat bags full of a fine selection of tooth-rotting candy, prizes for the scariest ghost story and for the best costume that can be put together out of a pile of old clothes that have been left on a couch and, for everybody, a badge saying, "I Survived the House of Horrors."