Halloween can be lots of fun even without trick-or-treating

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How about tombstones?

Those stark gray slabs straight out of Washington Irving that speak of hard lives and hard, early deaths, are good. Make a template of the tombstone of your choice on grid paper, cut it out, trace it onto polystyrene insulation and cut out the tombstone with a jigsaw blade. Sand the edges with fine sandpaper, paint and smudge with gray paint, and paint in a creative epitaph ("Smucky the Cat, He was Obedient," from Stephen King's "Pet Sematary," for example).

Add spikes to the bottom of the tombstone and plant in your front yard. To simulate that freshly dug grave feeling, spread black plastic before it, then cover with dirt and leaves.

As a nice touch toss some pumpkins and other fall gourds around.

Oh, you might wish to add some ghosts: Take a wig head, stick it on the end of a tall stake, cover with an old white

sheet, tie around the neck with twine, and insert the stake in the ground.

Now, for the interior of your home: Arrange spiderweb material around the furniture and make sure to stretch it out - the more stretched out, the better. To place tatters over a window or doorframe staple cheesecloth into the lintel, cut vertical strips in the cloth of varying lengths and thickness, and just sort of mess it up by tugging and tearing. Glue on bugs.

Next, set up a decently ghoulish table. Find some old, large, clear glass jars. Half fill with water, add a couple of drops of food dye, preferably red or green or whichever is the most sickening, and a few drops of milk to make it murky.

Plastic spiders, ants and other invertebrates are great for scattering around or affixing to the spiderwebs.

Martha Stewart offers some amazingly life-like ravens and owls in her Halloween catalog, and these too might be distributed among your rooms. A set of two crows goes for $10, a perched raven is $26, a set of four small owls will set you back $16, while one large black owl with glowing red eyes is $22. Call 1-800 950-7130 to get a hold of the catalog.

Martha, ever the perfectionist, also has a pumpkin carving set for $75, which includes scraper, chip carving knife, hole

cutters in three sizes, linoleum cutters, keyhole saws, double ball scooper, china marker, needle tools, two battery operated lights and an instruction booklet, all in a canvas holder. She also offers Halloween cookie cutter sets. One is made up of bone, spiderweb, raven, broom, cauldron, witch hat and owl designs and the other has ghost, pumpkin, headstone, cat, candy corn, bat and casket designs. Both sets are $38 each. She also offers a CD of Spooky Scary Sounds for Halloween for $9.98.

The website www. also offers haunting Halloween hits.

As for the food, the macabre is in order. Life-sized gummy rats can be had for $3 a rat from The Sweet Life on 63 Hester Street in Manhattan. Serve on the most elegant platter you can find, next to a plate of creepy cookies.

Meringue bones can also be made. Take six egg whites and one and a half cups of granulated sugar. Put it in the bowl of an electric mixer, put the bowl over a pot of gently simmering water and whisk till the sugar is dissolved and the mixture feels warm to the touch. Return to the mixer and beat on high speed until very stiff. Cram the goo into a pastry bag fitted with a decorating tip and squeeze bone shapes onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 200 degrees until crispy (about an hour) and cool on a wire rack.

Or, you might like the Floating Hands:

Fill up a clean surgical glove with water, and tie the top with string or a rubber band. Freeze until solid. Cut slits in the fingers with a razor blade, and peel away the glove, being careful not to break the fingers. Put the frozen hands into a punch bowl - preferably red punch!

There are many games that the kids can play at the Halloween party. For one, there's the "Creepy Crawler Spider Race" -

Make a spider for each team of two kids: Glue two "wiggly eyes" or pom-poms on a black paper plate. Bend pipe cleaners to make eight legs each Punch two holes into the plate and secure a foot-length of string through each hole.

Each team has to "walk" its spider in the race as each kid holds one of the strings. Racing pipe-cleaner spiders is not as easy as you might think!

Your and your kids' imagination is the only limit on the type of games and activities you can have at your party. Just make sure everyone has a lot of treats to take home.

The library has plenty of books to give you more ideas. One is "Holiday Fun Year-Round" by Dian Thomas, which includes 22 pages on Halloween.

Also, the October issue of Parents magazine has several pages of tips for putting together Halloween costumes, decorations, and parties.

The Web has quite a few sites on Halloween, everything from party ideas to how it's celebrated as the Day of the Dead in Mexico. Just key in "Halloween" in your search engine and you'll get a lot of choices.

Happy Halloween!

- with David Glenn

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