Halloween is always an intensely nostalgic time for me. For one thing, we grew up in Sleepy Hollow, as in The Legend of. Every year we would anticipate the town’s elaborate Halloween events, especially the ridiculously fun Haunted Hayride. We would pile onto the itchy haystacks in the back of a trailer and bump along through the famed cemetery in silence. Ahead, we could hear yells and ghoulish sounds coming from the woods where, once we entered, we were taunted with haunted spectacles and the obligatory appearance of the Headless Horseman.
Nearer and dearer to my heart are the Halloween traditions my family developed. Our house always became an explosion of creativity during the Halloween season, and thanks to the genius of my uninhibited mother, our house was the best house in the whole neighborhood for trick-or-treating. Not only were our costumes always awesome and homemade, and our pumpkin carving ambitious and impressive, but we would rig our front door with stunts every year to entertain the kiddos. Favorite pumpkin memories include the political caricatures of Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, and Arnold Schwartzeneger, among others. Favorite door stunts include the spider that flew out from the stairwell, the witch that flew down from the tree on the side of the house, and the Phantom of the Opera that inflated out of a flower pot.
As I think back on a wonderful childhood full of fun, creative memories, I think about the deep impact these traditions have on the way I see the world. For instance, my future children will never be allowed to carve a normal jack-o-lantern. They will be taught, as I was, to seize the opportunity for going above and beyond and being as creative as they can be. I am extremely proud of my family’s zany projects–all of which were before Pinterest, mind you. Likewise, I want to encourage you readers to be as creative as you can be with Halloween, because it is a terrific excuse, assuming you need one, to stretch your creativity muscle. To this end, here are some Creative Halloween tips learned from years of Capo Family goofiness. Enjoy!
- The best costumes are sometimes just pieces of fabric.
A few years ago my dad was getting rid of junk in an effort to sell the house. When he got to the costume bin, all three of us kids intervened. The contents of that bin had proved far too useful over the years for them to be discarded. The funny thing is that there were actually very few complete costumes in there. Most of it was just strips of different colored fabric. We knew from much practice that a few safety pins was all it took to make extraordinary costumes ranging from Lord of the Rings Elves to Egyptian Pharaohs to Renaissance courtiers.
- Pumpkins: How to go the extra mile
You know those pumpkin carving kits that come with those little books of designs? You don’t need those. Just draw or print out whatever you want to carve, tape it to your de-gunked pumpkin, and with a poker tool trace the image with dots to transfer the picture onto the surface of your pumpkin. Decide which parts you want light and dark, then hack away. With this technique you can celebrate the year’s biggest blockbuster or mock the politicians up for election.
My mom was one of those class moms that made all the other class moms jealous. She would come into to class and demonstrate elaborate science experiments or bring homemade comic valentines or, at Halloween, impress the kids with bug sculptures made of candy. She developed a whole system for these bugs. The flies were the most impressive because she would cut out wings from wafer cookies and attach them with icing. Again, she figured this out without Pinterest. Today, as we all know, the internet is full of ideas for this kind of thing, but I encourage you not to be a copycat. Use your creativity and, like my pioneering mother, experiment with your own Halloween themed snacks.
- Get Interactive.
There is nothing quite like the joy of opening up a door to a gaggle of little trick-or-treaters and surprising them with a little trick of your own. I don’t remember how this idea came into my mother’s head, but the original trick we set up involved opening our double doors with fishing twine and having a spider swing out at the trick-or-treaters. I think there was music too. We made the spider out of an old T Shirt and socks stuffed with crumpled-up plastic bags. We rigged it with fishing twine through some i-hooks in the ceiling and pulled it back into the stairwell where it sat, poised, ready to be released for the next victims.
A few years ago we pulled our last stunt at the house where I grew up. It was our most interactive one yet. Here is the video. Enjoy.