Trick and treat ’em: Halloween decorations

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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.

Let the inexpensive Halloween decoration planning begin!

Masquerade madness

If you want to carry out a spooky theme party at a low cost, 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 and 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 food-grade dry ice.

If you plan on serving a buffet-style meal at your party, make your tabletop come alive. Warner suggests making a ghost or skeleton tablecloth. To make a ghost, take a white sheet, fill it with crushed tissue paper to give the ghost a head, arms and a puffy body and cover the table with it. Then place the buffet on the ghost: one dish on the face, one on each of the ghost’s hands, and the main dish in the center of the ghost’s midsection. Or make your tablecloth with a skeleton. Buy a 5- or 6-foot-long paper or plastic skeleton. Lay the skeleton on the table, and set the food dishes on top or put the plastic bones among the buffet spread.

When it comes to food presentation, Moyle suggests serving nothing but black and orange colored food — anything from grilled cheese sandwiches on pumpernickel to carrot sticks and black olives — or use food coloring on your party favorites. Other ideas Moyle suggests include using plastic foam tombstones wrapped with cellophane as food serving trays. For the food table, she suggests a black table cloth on which you place patches of fake green grass, then dot it with minitombstones and fake cobwebs.

It’s the Great Pumpkin

Don’t forget the million-and-one uses for our favorite gourd, the pumpkin. Hollowed-out pumpkins are great as a means to serve dips or soups, Moyle says. She adds that carving out minipumpkins (called Jack-be-littles) and using them as candle holders is a way to make a great centerpiece for the table. Moyle also recommends taking dead tree branches, spray painting them black and inserting them into a hole made in the top of a pumpkin, and then hanging ghosts from the branches.

It’s a dead man’s party

If your costumed guests are acting like zombies, get some party games going to bring them back to life. Have a pumpkin carving/decorating contest or even a tombstone decorating contest, Moyle says.

Warner points out that guests who go through the trouble of concocting a Halloween getup should be rewarded with a costume contest, judged by either the host or the other guests.

Now there’s no excuse not to get yourself and your “crypt” decked out in ghoulish garb for Halloween.