Calling all witches, goblins, ghouls and ghosts! Creak open a cyber-crypt this month with a spider’s "Web" full of fright sites. Take a break from scarecrow-stuffing, caramel apple-dipping and frenzied costume-planning to have a mad, mad time online this Halloween season. Whether it’s virtual haunted houses you seek, pumpkin carving tips or Halloween music, you and your offspring can surely “dig it up” online. Point your mouse in the right direction for ideas on decorating, cooking, costuming or just being kooky. But only enter if you dare! Each website has been kid-tested and parent-approved. Happy haunting….
• 13 Pumpkin Avenue Costumes and Masks: Costumes, masks, and makeup recipes can all be found at this comprehensive site. Want to be a pizza slice, a '50s guy, a sumo wrestler, tea bag (white linen fabric and crushed autumn leaves!), a member of the FBI or, um…a ghost? More than 50 homemade costumes are illustrated and described. For the disabled, there's also a page of ideas for trick-or-treaters in wheelchairs (cover you and the chair with a bright orange trash bag to become a pumpkin).
• Halloween Recipes: Need a little something incredibly edible for a school party, Halloween bash or just an October weekend treat? This stop is one of the best for Halloween fare. Look for directions on making "glowing" Jack-O-Lantern cookies, wormy apples, ice cream vampire bats, or delicious Monster Bread. Need a little something that’s super spiffy? Check out the Broomstick Cake or Monster Mash Party Mix. Recipes range from super-easy to 'adult supervision necessary.'
• The Hauntfinder: You can almost feel a chilly autumn wind blowing when you stop at this cyber-haunt. At the very least, you and yours will get some goose bumps at this online guide to haunted houses, Halloween haunts and October attractions. The finder was created to help the truly brave find attractions in their area during the Halloween season and is searchable by state. Or simply stop in and send a haunted telegram to those you dare to scare.
• Halloween Kindercrafts: Make a pasta skeleton, a pop-up Halloween card, egg carton bat or a paper scarecrow at this crafty site for the entire family. Look for an assortment of great hats you can make for costumes, a bevy of eerie edibles; as well as bat, spider, skeleton and pumpkin printouts and templates. This is a super, non-scary site for younger kids.
• Pumpkin Carving 101: Get out the carving knife and your imagination. Who knew so much about a pumpkin could be found online? Learn about the history of pumpkin carving and exactly what constitutes a Jack-O-Lantern. Find out about great tools of the trade, learn how to carve pumpkins with stencils or the old-fashioned way, and find out how to extend the life-span of a punkin’. Parents will like the tips on photographing your creations, while the younger set will undoubtedly love the advice on creating a pumpkin burial tradition. Fun stuff!
• Billy Bear’s Halloween: For younger kids, stop at this site for Halloween mazes, online games, PC wallpaper, screensavers and desktops. Plan to stop by the 'post office' to create stationery, invitations, e-cards or fun sheets to print out. Carve a Jack-O-Lantern online, and get instructions on how to whip up scary doorknob tags or ghostly decorations. Young kids will get a kick out of the cartoon witch on a broomstick that zooms around this page.
• Halloween on the Net: Boo! This site features eye-catching animation of cartoon-like ghosts. All aspects of the site may not be suitable for young children, but there are a plethora of ideas for older kids and adults. Find Halloween audio files, learn about the story of Halloween (Romans, Christians and Druids . . . oh my!) and go pumpkin picking in a virtual patch. Crafts and coloring pages are here for younger kids.
• Halloween Tricks and Treats: Monster Mash, anyone? Check out the music on the Spooky Jukebox at this site. Other fun activities include Halloween carols and poems, and goblin games including Spooky Attic, Pumpkin Lotto, and more. And you’ll find the recipe for edible eyeballs that you’ve always wanted! Parents will appreciate the tips on taking great Halloween snapshots.
• Scarecrow, Scarecrow: This cyber-site is intended as a ready-made teaching unit for instructors but is a nice tool for parents of preschoolers and homeschoolers of young children. No scare factor here, but you’ll find some delightful ways to celebrate autumn with scarecrow songs, poems and crafts.
KATHLEEN E. CONROY is associate editor of 'Charlotte Parent' magazine, and the mother of two young ghouls.