The right costumes and candy scare up some fun on Halloween.
Give makeup artist Ken Wheatley some Karo syrup and he can really cook.
Add a dash a red food coloring, liquid latex and some facial tissues and he'll concoct Freddy Kruger or a mad scientist, perfect for an instant Halloween costume.
"With something horrific, you can just go for it," Wheatley said, molding a piece of nose and scar wax into a small "injury."
"This is a really easy thing," he said. "You can put it on, and drip blood from it. It blends in real well."
Wheatley has worked on countless television and movie crews, including "Married to the Mob" and "Miami Vice," and can easily create scary monsters and severed limbs. He's just as likely to experiment with more subtle costume designs.
"The main thing is getting the colors right," he said. "For old age you take a dark pencil and darken the lines around the face, or you can use purple eye shadow if you're doing a ghoul."
With a little makeup and a lot of imagination, anyone can create interesting costumes, Wheatley said.
Wheatley uses powder blood, crepe hair, bald caps, spirit gum and household supplies for his costumes. Cotton balls become eyebrows and mustaches, while Band-Aids and plastic milk bottles make good fingernail extensions.
"The main thing is to come up with an idea of what you want to be," he said. "I made a pirate costume for my son one time and it probably cost me $5 to $6. I bought a patch and sword, drew on a mustache and the rest were clothes I took out of the rag bag.
"The great thing about makeup is that you don't have to be real. You just have to suggest, and in dim light you can get away with a lot."
Wheatley uses inexpensive supplies that can be purchased at local stores and improvises to put costumes and makeup together.
"Clothing is going to do as much as the mask," he said. "It's as important as any makeup you put on your face. Sometimes I buy material and glue or staple it together. You don't need a sewing machine."
And you don't necessarily need a mask, Wheatley said.
"Kids hate 'em," he said. "They're too big, they can't see, they're hot and they won't keep them on. Painting is better, especially for younger kids."
Lawrence mom Brenda Frankenfeld agrees. She makes costumes for her son, Cypress Frankenfeld, 4.
"We do a whole lot of face painting," she said. "I really like face paint because children can help."
Frankenfeld said creating homemade costumes is cost-effective and more fun.
"I really enjoy being creative and resourceful," she said.
Over the years Frankenfeld has turned old socks into ears and tails, converted a skirt into a cape and put glitter sparkles in her hair.
"Nothing I've made has ever been thrown away," she said. "The cape seems to be a favorite thing that children like to wear. It was really easy to make and it's been passed around. It's something you can use over and over again."
Once the little monsters, lions and celebrity impersonators have donned their attire, the search for the Halloween bounty begins.
Like adults, children have specific preferences on which kinds of candy are worthy of consumption.
A national survey revealed that 90 percent of trick-or-treaters sort candy into "good" and "bad" piles, with chocolate topping the list of favorites.
A survey of Sunflower School first-graders shows that local youngsters fit in with national trends.
Among those polled, 100 percent ranked Snickers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups at the top of the list while 86 percent were fond of Tootsie Rolls and M&M's. Sweetarts, bubble gum and suckers also fared well, but hard candy and mints fell to the bottom of the flavor barrel.
Most children refuse to eat undesirable candy.
"The candy we don't like, my mom and dad eat," first-grader Lauren Roth said.
Too much of a good thing
But parents aren't too greedy. Only 14 percent of first-graders said their parents ration the amount of candy they eat. Eighty-six percent said they are left to serve up their own portions of the sweet stuff.
And that can lead to problems, said Lawrence pediatric nurse practitioner Kathryn Nelick.
"The key is for parents to take control and spread it out," she said.
Nelick recommends one serving, or about two bite-sized candy bars, per day until the Halloween loot has disappeared.
"They're all bad in their own way," she said of the sweets. "They're all empty calories, and chocolate is high in fat."
Nelick urges parents not to panic when children overindulge.
"Just make sure to treat their symptoms and give them water," she said. "And stay away from more sugar."
Nelick said Halloween can be just as fun with treats that aren't overly sweet.
"Sugar-free gum is good," she said. "Or coupons, movie passes, toothbrushes and stickers ... anything inexpensive, but no small toys because small children could choke on them."
- For more Halloween ideas, consumers can call M&M's Haunted Helpline at 1-800-865-4406.