Some adults relinquish such childhood customs, but Sharon H. Garvey still heeds the call of the Great Pumpkin.
Every fall she scavenges for 40- to 60-pounders (Atlantic Giants, to be precise) at roadside stands or schleps them from fields in a canvas wood-tote (because on a pumpkin "there is really nothing to hold on to"), hauling them to the only room in her Harpers Ferry home that she can make dark enough to light them up to good effect.
Then comes the hard part, because Garvey is a pumpkin sculptor. She's gotten accustomed to the smell of pumpkin, to scraping out the goo, but the eight hours or so of carving each pumpkin can be daunting.
First she sketches on paper, inspired by anything from Jean Cocteau's beast to a Chagall canvas, then draws her design on the pumpkin and finally carves with her favorite knife and the host of other implements she's accumulated over the 12 years she's been taking pumpkins seriously -- etching and woodcarving tools, metal cookie cutters, gouges.
"The most exciting part is when I'm almost done and when I light it up for the first time," she says, though she also rather likes watching them age. "They change, even hourly. It's a wonderful medium. They change even with the height of the candle."
The saddest part? All good jack-o'-lanterns must eventually go to pumpkin heaven -- i.e., the most distant trash barrel.
"A friend has named me 'master of the perishable arts,' " says Garvey, whose artwork also includes such transitory media as cake sculpture and eggshell painting.
This year her pumpkin art -- a veritable ode to the fat orange squash -- is being shown at the Stowel Galleries in Harpers Ferry through November 11. Garvey will be there too, carving new pumpkins for the duration.
But be forewarned: Garvey's jack-o'-lanterns aren't for everyone. Recently she invited a neighbor and her daughter over to view a new creation. "We went into this small, dark room and closed the door, and the little girl said, 'I want to get out.' "