Halloween is traditionally the time for costumed children to indulge in sanctioned blackmail. ("Trick or treat?" Think about it.) But there are plenty of other ways to celebrate All Hallow's Eve.
Modern observances derive from ancient Pagan and Catholic rituals all squished together into lucrative opportunities for retailers and dentists, and as always, the helpful online community is just itching to help you get into the scary spirit.
The Halloween Forum (www.halloweenforum.com) is the virtual, year-round meetinghouse where novice and diehard revelers come together to discuss all things Halloween. The posts range from requests for snacks to terrify guests with (fortunately, "Need Finger Sandwich Recipes" did not elicit any replies that featured actual fingers as an ingredient) to gloating from frighteners with exceptionally tricked-out yards. There are also costume ideas, tips for using your fog machine, and a plea from a guy with a 200-year-old house who wants to make it haunted, presumably without having to off anyone in it first.
The custom of leaving a jack-o-lantern in front of your home stems from an age-old desire to keep evil spirits from crossing the threshold. Europeans originally employed painted or hollowed-out turnips, and when they hit North American shores they began to use our native pumpkin.
But anyone who doesn't relish the notion of being up to their elbows in pumpkin entrails may want to check out the Carve-O-Lantern (www.screensavers.com/landing/halloween.html), a customizable screensaver that allows virtual carvers to neatly fashion gruesome or goofy visages with the help of various templates. There's also a freehand tool that enables you to design your own jack-o-lantern face or leave a passive-aggressive message for nosy types wondering why your computer screen is on fire. Just don't let them smash it.
--- Dayna Papaleo