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Trick and treat 'em: Halloween decorations

Throw a frightfully wicked Halloween shindig that will spook your guests, not your wallet.

You can host a horribly good Halloween party with tips from our ghoulishly great experts. And here's a treat: It doesn't have to kill your budget!

Halloween decor is now second only to Christmas as a home-decorating industry, reports the American Greetings Corp., based in Cleveland. What's more, pumpkins, greeting cards and other party staples are expected to gobble up $5.77 billion in 2008, says the National Retail Federation in Washington, D.C.

Let the inexpensive Halloween decoration planning begin!

Masquerade madness
If you want to carry out a spooky theme party at a lowcost, Diane Warner, author of "Diane Warner's Big Book of Parties," suggests that you let your costumed guests be the main attraction, and keep the lights dim. Indulge in some inexpensive decorations such as jack-o'-lanterns lighted with black and orange candles. Buy a spray can of fake spider webs, a string of small white Christmas lights and fake spiders.

At the entryway of your house, Warner suggests placing your fake spiders in a Web made of the Christmas lights. For your dimly lit living room, she recommends spraying it with fake spider webs and dispersing the jack-o'-lanterns.

If you want to go hog wild, how about a haunted house, a retro disco or a hippie Halloween party?

For the haunted house, Wendy Moyle, co-owner of, suggests using eerie music, lining the walls with black gossamer material, hanging glow-in-the-dark spider webs, setting up the entrance with mock cemetery gates and black mylar curtains, and creating a maze with the furniture.

For a flower-power flashback, Moyle says decorate with tie-dyed ghosts, skeletons wearing bandanas, and darken the room. Instead of decorating with scary things, hang glow-in-the-dark peace signs, and use a few black lights for a trippy sort of trick.

Double, double, toil and trouble
A creepy presentation of your Halloween food and fixins' can add to the decorative atmosphere of your party.

Concoct a cauldron of witches brew: Rinse a rubber or latex glove inside and out, then fill it with a red juice or punch, secure it closed and stick it in the freezer. Once frozen, cut the glove off and peel it from the ice hand. Then put the ice hand in your punch bowl. For the foamy, bubbling brew, Warner suggests combining pineapple juice with scoops of orange sherbet. Top the look off with the frozen hand.

To add a foggy spin on a witches brew, Jyl Steinback, author of the "Fat Free Living" cookbook series, recommends taking a black bowl and filling it with a cider or orange-tinted champagne and dropping in some dry ice.

Next: "When it comes to food presentation ..."
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