25 Brilliant Halloween Life Hacks

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iStock

Halloween season is here, which means a lot of scrambling to find costumes, navigating fake spider webs, and cleaning pumpkin guts off of your kitchen table. If you find yourself getting a little stressed over the festivities, check out these 25 life hacks that promise to make your holiday prep a little less scary.

1. WHIP UP SOME CONVINCING FAKE BLOOD

A smear of fake blood on a white background
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Need some faux-plasma to add to the atmosphere? Check your cupboards: a mixture of corn syrup, red food coloring, and corn flour not only looks like crime scene spatter, but it’s edible, too.

2. MAKE A MUMMY MUG

Mugs are wrapped in gauze to represent a mummy motif
FaveCrafts, YouTube

Who needs expensive novelty cups, when you can conjure up a convincing mummy mug. Simply wrap a regular coffee mug in medical gauze and add googly eyes with a little Elmer’s glue. Want to give a juice box the same treatment? Use some white masking tape and add another pair of eyes. It also works well on Mason jars.

3. SPOOKY WATER BOTTLES

A water bottle features a decorative Halloween label
iStock

To get bottled water in the holiday spirit, just grab some Halloween-themed decorative tape and wrap it around the regular label.

4. A SEVERED HAND IN THE PUNCH BOWL

A hand-shaped block of ice floats in a punch bowl
All Recipes UK, YouTube

Grab a rubber glove, fill it with water, and place it in the freezer. A few hours later, you’ll have a solid block of hand-shaped ice to drop into the punch bowl for your party. (Just remember to cut the glove off first.)

5. GHOST LOLLIPOPS

Lollipops are wrapped in coffee filters for a ghostly appearance
Emma Craig, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Even the innocent lollipop can become a symbol of the undead. All you need are some coffee filters (or tissues) and string: Wrap the filter around the head of the lollipop, then tie it off with the string.

6. A HEALTHY SPOOKY TREAT

Bananas and chocolate chips are utilized for a spooky snack
iStock

Halloween parties are usually overstuffed with cupcakes, candies, and other tooth-endangering treats. For a quick snack that’s still seasonally appropriate, you can take a banana and stuff three chocolate chips in it to make a face. You can also make a deliberate peel so it resembles a flayed banana. (Just eat it quick, before it turns brown. Otherwise, it’s just a rotting banana corpse.)

7. PEPPER DIP BOWLS

Bell peppers sit in a pile
iStock

Hollow out a pepper and use it as a dipping station for your dressings. The orange tint will give off an appropriately Halloween vibe.

8. A CHEAP, EFFORTLESS COSTUME

Reminder notes are pasted on a person for a low-effort costume idea
iStock

Nothing says “I can’t be bothered” more than sticking some Post-It style notes to your shirt and declaring yourself a bulletin board. Still, it’ll work if you’re pressed for time. (And if you have a pair of costume bear ears laying around, go for the Bear Minimum.)

9. GROSS HAND SOAP

Two toy spiders await their chance to freak someone out
iStock

Want to creep out guests who are looking to wash up? Grab some toy spiders and put them inside a clear plastic hand soap dispenser.

10. A BLOODY CANDLE

A bloody candle can be an effective Halloween visual
athomewithcindy, YouTube

A simple but effective trick: Take a white candle, then light a red candle over it and let the wax drip down to create a blood-dripping effect. Make sure to use caution when operating a lighter.

11. DRYER VENT PUMPKINS

A pumpkin made from a flexible dryer vent
FaveCrafts, YouTube

Taking a metal dryer vent and creating a loop leads to a close replica to a pumpkin: You can paint them in any color you desire and add a fake stem using a cinnamon stick.

12. THE FLOATING CHEESECLOTH GHOST

Cheesecloth is used to create a ghostly decoration
CraftKlatch, YouTube

Want to really spook guests with your apparent mastery of the dark crafting arts? Take a piece of cheesecloth and drape it over a solid object like a large soda bottle with some wires to support where the arms would be. Then, spray it with starch to make it stiff. When you remove the bottle, the cloth will look like it’s hovering by itself.

13. SURGICAL GLOVE TREAT BAGS

A pair of surgical gloves
iStock

Take a see-through surgical glove (available at most pharmacies) and stuff with treats. The disembodied hand effect is cooler than a standard treat sack and can be tied off at the top to prevent candy from spilling out.

14. SPOOKY SPAGHETTI

Black pasta is presented on a table
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A little black food coloring added to boiling pasta water can transform dinner into a disgusting feast! The spaghetti will stain, but once cooked, it won’t stain your mouth. And you and the kids can pretend to be eating worms.

15. VAMPIRE BATHROOM OCCUPANCY

Fake vampire teeth sit at the bottom of a water glass
iStock

Fill up a glass of water and use it to store toothbrushes—inside the glass, drop in a set of plastic vampire teeth. It’ll look like you have an elderly bloodsucker lurking in your residence.

16. SEVERED FINGER APPETIZERS

A jar of chicken broth
iStock

Grab a Mason jar and fill it with hot soup of your choice—just make sure it’s transparent. (Chicken broth is ideal.) Then, plop in some chicken sausages that have been cooked and perforated—the curled links will resemble severed fingers when submerged.

17. POOL NOODLE WITCH LEGS

A pair of pool noodle witch legs stick out from a planter
Teri Cumming, YouTube

Want to give off the impression that a wicked witch has met a crushing fate? Take a pool noodle, cover two halves with striped stockings, and add shoes. The prop will make it look like your nemesis has been squashed by a TV stand, potted plant, or sofa.

18. SCARY TOILET PAPER ROLLS

Rolls of spooky toilet paper will haunt your bowel movements
iStock

This cheap hack can make your guest bathroom into a veritable haunted location—and not because of the smell. Use construction paper to cut two eyes and a mouth and tape to your stacked toilet paper rolls for a ghost-like appearance.

19. SNACK-O-LANTERNS

Oranges are cut into Halloween designs and stuffed with treats
iStock

Orange skin actually makes for a credible pumpkin carving substitute. After scooping out the insides, you can use a small carving knife to etch out a face and then fill the orange with small candy treats.

20. A PUMPKIN ICE BUCKET

A pumpkin is full of ice
Leaf, YouTube

Nothing says Halloween like a clean pumpkin, stripped free of its sticky guts. If you grab a spare and hollow it out, you can fill it up with ice and use it to keep refreshments cold.

21. DUCT TAPE YOUR PUMPKIN

Pumpkins that have been decorated using tape
Better Homes and Gardens, YouTube

There are endless alternatives to the mess of carving a pumpkin: One of them is to buy decorative duct tape and use it to tape over the surface of the fruit. No cutting, no gutting, and minimal rotting required.

22. SPIRITED MILK JUGS

Milk jugs are used for Halloween decorations
Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Want a sprawling outdoor display without a lot of work? Take a bunch of galloon milk jugs, draw faces on them, then cut a hole in the bottom. Then, run a string of holiday lights on the ground and place the jug over one of the lights to create a line-up of spooky sentries.

23. DIY SPIDERS

A foam spider with pipe cleaners for legs
Make a Paper Boat, YouTube

Pick up some foam balls, run them through with pipe cleaners for legs, then use some black spray paint. You’ll soon have an army of (somewhat adorable) spiders to do your bidding.

24. PICKLED HEAD IN A JAR

A photograph of a face appears in a jar
Instructables, YouTube

For the ultimate feat of surprise terror, follow Instructables user Mike Warren’s directions on making your face into a pickled head in a jar. Take a panoramic shot of your face (front and sides), then print on a single sheet, laminate, and stuff into a clear jar. Add water with a light green tint and voila—it’ll look like your melon is floating in preservatives.

25. A CLIP TO KEEP CANDY FRESH

A paper clip is used to seal an open candy wrapper
iStock

If you're left with opened bags of treat-sized candy? Clip the open side of the wrapper with a paper binder to save it for a future binge.

11 Things You May Not Know About John Lennon

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Before he was one of the world's most iconic musicians, John Lennon was a choir boy and a Boy Scout. Let's take a look at a few facts you might not have known about the leader and founding member of The Beatles

1. HE WAS A CHOIR BOY AND A BOY SCOUT.

Yes, John Lennon, the great rock 'n' roll rebel and iconoclast, was once a choir boy and a Boy Scout. Lennon began his singing career as a choir boy at St. Peter's Church in Liverpool, England and was a member of the 3rd Allerton Boy Scout troop.

2. HE HATED HIS OWN VOICE.

Incredibly, one of the greatest singers in the history of rock music hated his own voice. Lennon did not like the sound of his voice and loved to double-track his records. He would often ask the band's producer, George Martin, to cover the sound of his voice: "Can't you smother it with tomato ketchup or something?"

3. HE WAS DISSATISFIED WITH ALL OF THE BEATLES'S RECORDS.

Dining with his former producer, George Martin, one night years after the band had split up, Lennon revealed that he'd like to re-record every Beatles song. Completely amazed, Martin asked him, "Even 'Strawberry Fields'?" "Especially 'Strawberry Fields,'" answered Lennon.

4. HE WAS THE ONLY BEATLE WHO DIDN'T BECOME A FULL-TIME VEGETARIAN.

John Lennon (1940 - 1980) of the Beatles plays the guitar in a hotel room in Paris, 16th January 1964
Harry Benson, Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

George Harrison was the first Beatle to go vegetarian; according to most sources, he officially became a vegetarian in 1965. Paul McCartney joined the "veggie" ranks a few years later. Ringo became a vegetarian not so much for spiritual reasons, like Paul and George, but because of health problems. Lennon had toyed with vegetarianism in the 1960s, but he always ended up eating meat, one way or another.

5. HE LOVED TO PLAY MONOPOLY.

During his Beatles days, Lennon was a devout Monopoly player. He had his own Monopoly set and often played in his hotel room or on planes. He liked to stand up when he threw the dice, and he was crazy about the properties Boardwalk and Park Place. He didn't even care if he lost the game, as long as he had Boardwalk and Park Place in his possession.

6. HE WAS THE LAST BEATLE TO LEARN HOW TO DRIVE.

Lennon got his driver's license at the age of 24 (on February 15, 1965). He was regarded as a terrible driver by all who knew him. He finally gave up driving after he totaled his Aston-Martin in 1969 on a trip to Scotland with his wife, Yoko Ono; his son, Julian; and Kyoko, Ono's daughter. Lennon needed 17 stitches after the accident.

When they returned to England, Lennon and Ono mounted the wrecked car on a pillar at their home. From then on, Lennon always used a chauffeur or driver.

7. HE REPORTEDLY USED TO SLEEP IN A COFFIN.

According to Allan Williams, an early manager for The Beatles, Lennon liked to sleep in an old coffin. Williams had an old, abandoned coffin on the premises of his coffee bar, The Jacaranda. As a gag, Lennon would sometimes nap in it.

8. THE LAST TIME HE SAW PAUL MCCARTNEY WAS ON APRIL 24, 1976. 

Paul McCartney (left) and John Lennon (1940-1980) of the Beatles pictured together during production and filming of the British musical comedy film Help! on New Providence Island in the Bahamas on 2nd March 1965
William Lovelace, Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

McCartney was visiting Lennon at his New York apartment. They were watching Saturday Night Live together when producer Lorne Michaels, as a gag, offered the Beatles $3000 to come on the show. Lennon and McCartney almost took a cab to the show as a joke, but decided against it, as they were just too tired. (Too bad! It would have been one of the great moments in television history.)

9. HE WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO SING LEAD ON THE BEATLES'S FIRST SINGLE, 1962'S "LOVE ME DO."

Lennon sang lead on a great majority of the early Beatles songs, but Paul McCartney took the lead on their very first one. The lead was originally supposed to be Lennon, but because he had to play the harmonica, the lead was given to McCartney instead.

10. "ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE" WAS THE BEST LYRIC HE EVER WROTE.

A friend once asked Lennon what was the best lyric he ever wrote. "That's easy," replied Lennon, "All you need is love."

11. THE LAST PHOTOGRAPHER TO SNAP HIS PICTURE WAS PAUL GORESH.

Ironically (and sadly), Lennon was signing an album for the person who was to assassinate him a few hours later when he was snapped by amateur photographer Paul Goresh on December 8, 1980.

Lennon obligingly signed a copy of his latest album, Double Fantasy, for Mark David Chapman. Later that same day, Lennon returned from the recording studio and was gunned down by Chapman, the same person for whom he had so kindly signed his autograph.

Morbidly, a photographer sneaked into the morgue and snapped a photo of Lennon's body before it was cremated the day after his assassination. Yoko Ono has never revealed the whereabouts of his ashes or what happened to them.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

11 Facts About Robert the Bruce, King of Scots

Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn
Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn
Edmund LeightonCassell and Company, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The subject of a recent Netflix original movie called Outlaw King, Robert the Bruce is one of Scotland’s great national heroes. Get to know King Bob a little better.

1. Robert the Bruce was a polyglot who loved telling stories.

He likely spoke Scots, Gaelic, Latin, and Norman French, and was an avid reader who loved studying the lives of previous monarchs. According to a parliamentary brief from around 1364, Robert the Bruce "used continually to read, or have read in his presence, the histories of ancient kings and princes, and how they conducted themselves in their times, both in wartime and in peacetime.” In his free time, he would recite tales about Charlemagne and Hannibal from memory.

2. Despite his reputation as Scotland’s savior, he spent years siding with England.

The Bruce family spent the 1290s complaining that they had been robbed of the Scottish Crown. That’s because, after the deaths of King Alexander III and his granddaughter Margaret, it was unclear who Scotland's next monarch should be. Debates raged until John Balliol was declared King in 1292. The Bruces, who had closer blood ties to the previous royal family (but not closer paternal ties) considered Balliol an usurper. So when tensions later flared between Balliol and Edward I of England, the resentful Bruces took England’s side.

3. He murdered his biggest political rival.

John Comyn is killed by Robert Bruce and Roger de Kirkpatrick before the high altar of the Greyfriars Church in Dumfries, 10 February 1306
Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux, Cassell, Petter & Galpin, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

One of the leading figures standing in the way of Robert the Bruce’s path to Scotland’s throne was Balliol's nephew, John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch. In 1306, Robert arranged a meeting with Comyn in the Chapel of Greyfriars in Dumfries, Scotland. There, Robert accused Comyn of treachery and stabbed him. (And when word spread that Comyn had somehow survived, two of Robert’s cronies returned to the church and finished the deed, spilling Comyn’s blood on the steps of the altar.) Shortly after, Robert declared himself King of Scotland and started to plot an uprising against England.

4. He lived in a cave and was inspired by a very persistent spider.

The uprising did not go exactly according to plan. After Robert the Bruce killed Comyn in a church, Pope Clement V excommunicated him. To add salt to his wounds, Robert's ensuing attempts to battle England became a total failure. In the winter of 1306, he was forced to flee Scotland and was exiled to a cave on Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland.

Legend has it that as Robert took shelter in the cave, he saw a spider trying—and failing—to spin a web. The creature kept attempting to swing toward a nearby rock and refused to give up. Bruce was so inspired by the spider’s tenacity that he vowed to return to Scotland and fight. Within three years, he was holding his first session of parliament.

5. He went to battle with a legion of ponies.

For battle, Robert the Bruce preferred to employ a light cavalry of ponies (called hobbies) and small horses (called palfreys) in a tactic known as hobelar warfare. In one famous story, a young English knight named Sir Henry de Bohun sat atop a large warhorse and saw Robert the Bruce mounted upon a palfrey. Bohun decided to charge. Robert saw his oncoming attacker and stood in his stirrups—putting him at the perfect height to swing a battleaxe at the oncoming horseman’s head. After slaying his opponent, the king reportedly complained, “I have broken my good axe.”

6. He loved to eat eels.

Robert the Bruce
iStock.com/fotoVoyager

Robert the Bruce’s physician, Maino de Maineri, criticized the king’s penchant for devouring eels. “I am certain that this fish should not be eaten because I have seen it during the time I was with the king of the Scots, Robert Bruce, who risked many dangers by eating [moray eels], which are by nature like lampreys," de Maineri wrote. "It is true that these [morays] were caught in muddy and corrupt waters.” (Notably, overeating eels was considered the cause of King Henry I England’s death.)

7. His underdog victory at Bannockburn proved that quality could defeat quantity.

In 1314, Robert the Bruce defeated King Edward II’s army at Bannockburn, sending England (as the popular anthem Flower of Scotland goes) “homeward tae think again.” It was a surprising victory; the English had about 2000 armored horsemen and 15,000 foot soldiers, compared to the Scots's 500 horsemen and 7000 foot soldiers. But Robert the Bruce used geography to his advantage, forcing the English to attempt crossing two large and boggy streams. The victory was a huge turning point in the Scottish War of Independence and would help secure Scotland's freedom.

8. He’s firmly intertwined with the Knights Templar mythology.

Treasure hunters speculate that in the 14th century, the Knights Templar fled to Scotland with a trove of valuables because they received support and protection from King Robert the Bruce. Thanks to his help, they say, the Knights were able to hide gold and holy relics—from ancient Gospel scrolls to the Holy Grail—in secret spots across the country (including in Rosslyn Chapel, of The Da Vinci Code fame). But there is little evidence to support these colorful myths. Templar scholar and medieval historian Helen Nicholson said that any remaining Knights Templar were likely hanging out in the balmy climes of Cyprus.

9. He’s still donating money to a Scottish church.

Robert the Bruce and Elizabeth de Burgh
Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux, Cassell, Petter & Galpin, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

After the death of his second wife, Elizabeth de Burgh, Robert the Bruce decreed to give the Auld Kirk in Cullen, Scotland—now the Cullen and Deskford Parish—a total of five Scots pounds every year. That's because, in 1327, Elizabeth had died after falling off a horse, and the local congregation generously took care of her remains. Robert was so touched by the gesture that he promised to donate money “for all eternity.” To this day, his bequest is still being paid.

10. Parts of his body are buried in multiple places.

Robert the Bruce died on June 7, 1329, just a month before his 55th birthday. The cause of his death has been a source of much discussion, and disagreement, but most modern scholars believe that he succumbed to leprosy. His funeral was a rather elaborate affair that required nearly 7000 pounds of candle wax just for the funerary candles. Following the fashion for royalty, he was buried in multiple places. His chest was sawed open and his heart and internal organs removed: The guts were buried near his death-place at the Manor of Cardross, near Dumbarton; his corpse interred in Dunfermline Abbey; and his heart placed inside a metal urn to be worn around the neck of Sir James Douglas, who promised to take it to the Holy Lord.

11. His heart was the original “Brave Heart.”

Unfortunately, Sir Douglas never made it to the Holy Land: He got sidetracked and took a detour to fight the Moors in Spain, where he was killed. Before his attackers reached him, Douglas reportedly threw the urn containing the king’s heart and yelled, “Lead on brave heart, I’ll follow thee.” The heart was soon returned to Scotland, where its location was forgotten until a team of archaeologists discovered it in 1921. It’s now interred in Melrose Abbey.

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