To say I love Halloween would be an understatement.

I am nuts about Halloween. (And now I’m thinking about peanut butter cups, Snickers, and Almond Joy candy bars).

It’s not just the candy that makes me a fan of all things Halloween, though I relish the very idea of a pillowcase loaded with candy. I know it’s greedy. I know a basket brimming over with bubble gum, lollipops, and mini candy bars screams gluttony! But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? For one night a year, people of all ages can be kids again. They can pretend to be superheroes. They can pretend to be the undead. They can pretend they’re not covering their face with their hands when Freddy Krueger or the Babadook pops up on their TV screen.

Halloween means racing around the neighborhood, seeking candy and a harmless scare or two. It might also mean cuddling on the couch with popcorn or attending a party.

I host an annual party called the Haunted Supper. I begin preparing for this ghastly event weeks in advance. I transform my house using cobwebs and life-sized statues, black lights and spooky art. On the big night, I turn on the fog machine and the creepy music.

With every year, there’s a different theme. Zombie Apocalypse, Killer Clowns, Biohazard, Victorian Gothic, and Haunted Woods have been some of my past favorites. Because we invite family from all over, and I don’t want to serve the boys and ghouls the same thing, I change the dishes every year. The menu is written on a tombstone chalkboard, but seeing the food in person always leads to some gasps and wide-eyed stares.

Our supper isn’t all about chills, though. We also have thrills. The adults drink frighteningly delicious cocktails, the kids bob for “poisoned” apples or embark on a Find-Me-If-You-Dare scavenger hunt, and we always have a killer game of Halloween Bingo.

These photos feature just some of the food I’ve made over the years and an image of our dining room as it was decorated for the Haunted Woods Supper. You’ll have to use your imagination for the meat dishes, as I don’t want to offend my vegetarian friends by showing a human body made of sausage, shredded beef, pork ribs, and shrimp. And yes, I’m already working on ideas for this year. I’m trying to decide between Creepy Crawly and Steampunk Vampire. Maybe, I’ll go with Unhinged Mystery Writer.

So here’s to that prickle on the back of your neck. Here’s to full moons and wisps of fog. Here’s to wolf howls, witch cackles, and bowls stuffed with candy. Here’s to kids shrieking in delight and adults shrieking like kids. Here’s to dressing in costume and dressing a table. Here’s to being a little wild and a little loud for one day a year. Here’s to Halloween!

 

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Strangers flock to Miracle Springs hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That’s Nora’s special talent—prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person’s deepest pain. So when a visiting businessman reaches out for guidance, Nora knows exactly how to help. But before he can keep their appointment, he’s found dead on the train tracks . . .

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