25 Brilliant Halloween Life Hacks

iStock
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
iStock

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
iStock

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.

Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40)

- Keurig K-Cafe Special Edition; $190 (save $30)

- Ninja OS301 Foodi 10-in-1 Pressure Cooker and Air Fryer; $125 (save $75)

- Nespresso Vertuo Next Coffee and Espresso Machine by Breville; $120 (save $60)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75)

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $80 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10)

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $16 (save $11)

- HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

- Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31)

- TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

- Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

- Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30)

Video games

Sony

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening; $40 (save $20)

- Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity; $50 (save $10)

- Marvel's Avengers; $25 (save $33)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

- BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

- The Sims 4; $24 (save $20)

- God of Warfor PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

- Days Gonefor PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

- Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250)

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $335 (save $64)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $120 (save $79)

- Seneo Wireless Charger, 3 in 1 Wireless Charging Station; $16 (save $10)

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

- DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Headphones and speakers

Beats/Amazon

- Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones; $120 (Save $80)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $169 (save $50)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earphones; $175 (save $75)

- JBL Boombox; $280 (save $120)

Movies and TV

HBO/Amazon

- Game of Thrones: The Complete Series; $115 (save $89)

- Jurassic World 5-Movie Set; $23 (save $37)

- Deadwood: The Complete Series; $42 (save $28)

- Back to the Future Trilogy; $15 (save $21)

Toys and Games

Amazon

- Awkward Family Photos Greatest Hits; $15 (save $10)

- Exploding Kittens Card Game; $10 (save $10)

- Cards Against Humanity: Hidden Gems Bundle; $14 (save $5)

- LOL Surprise OMG Remix Pop B.B. Fashion Doll; $29 (save $6)

- LEGO Ideas Ship in a Bottle 92177 Expert Building Kit; $56 (save $14)

Furniture

Casper/Amazon

- Casper Sleep Element Queen Mattress; $476 (save $119)

- ZINUS Alexis Deluxe Wood Platform Bed Frame; $135 (save $24)

- ROMOON Dresser Organizer with 5 Drawers; $59 (save $11) 

- AmazonBasics Room Darkening Blackout Window Curtains; $26 (save $5)

- Writing Desk by Caffoz; $119 (save $21)

- SPACE Seating Office Support Managers Chair; $112 (save $116)

- Rivet Globe Stick Table Lamp; $53 (save $17)

- Christopher Knight Home Merel Mid-Century Modern Club Chair; $188 (save $10)

- Walker Edison Furniture Industrial Rectangular Coffee Table; $121 (save $48)

Beauty

Haus/Amazon

- MySmile Teeth Whitening Kit with LED Light; $21 (save $12) 

- Cliganic USDA Organic Lip Balms Set of Six; $6 (save $4)

- HAUS LABORATORIES By Lady Gaga: LE RIOT LIP GLOSS; $7 (save $11)

- Native Deodorant for Men and Women Set of Three; $25 (save $11) 

- BAIMEI Rose Quartz Jade Roller & Gua Sha; $14 (save $3)

- Honest Beauty Clearing Night Serum with Pure Retinol and Salicylic Acid; $20 (save $8)

- WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo and Hair Conditioner Set; $30 (save $5) 

- La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser; $15 (save $5)

- wet n wild Bretman Rock Shadow Palette; $9 (save $6)

- EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Face Sunscreen Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid; $25 (save $6)

Clothes

Ganni/Amazon

- Ganni Women's Crispy Jacquard Dress; $200 (save $86) 

- The Drop Women's Maya Silky Slip Skirt; $36 (save $9)

- Steve Madden Women's Editor Boot; $80 (save $30)

- adidas Women's Roguera Cross Trainer; $40 (save $25)

- Line & Dot Women's Elizabeth Sweater; $74 (save $18)

- Levi's Men's Sherpa Trucker Jacket; $57 (save $41)

- Adidas Men's Essentials 3-Stripes Tapered Training Joggers Sweatpants; $28 (save $12)

- Timex Men's Weekender XL 43mm Watch; $32 (save $20)

- Ray-Ban Unisex-Adult Hexagonal Flat Lenses Sunglasses; $108 (save $46) 

- Reebok Men's Flashfilm Train Cross Trainer; $64 (save $16)

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10 Little Facts About Louisa May Alcott

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Born on November 29, 1832, Louisa May Alcott led a fascinating life. Besides enchanting millions of readers with her novel Little Women, she worked as a Civil War nurse, fought against slavery, and registered women to vote. Here are 10 facts about the celebrated author.

1. Louisa May Alcott had many famous friends.

Louisa's parents, Bronson and Abigail Alcott, raised their four daughters in a politically active household in Massachusetts. As a child, Alcott briefly lived with her family in a failed Transcendentalist commune, helped her parents hide slaves who had escaped via the Underground Railroad, and had discussions about women’s rights with Margaret Fuller.

Throughout her life, she socialized with her father’s friends, including Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Although her family was always poor, Alcott had access to valuable learning experiences. She read books in Emerson’s library and learned about botany at Walden Pond with Thoreau, later writing a poem called "Thoreau’s Flute" for her friend. She also socialized with abolitionist Frederick Douglass and women’s suffrage activist Julia Ward Howe.

2. Louisa May Alcott's first nom de plume was Flora Fairfield.

As a teenager, Alcott worked a variety of teaching and servant jobs to earn money for her family. She first became a published writer at 19 years old, when a women’s magazine printed one of her poems. For reasons that are unclear, Alcott used a pen name—Flora Fairfield—rather than her real name, perhaps because she felt that she was still developing as a writer. But in 1854 at age 22, Alcott used her own name for the first time. She published Flower Fables, a collection of fairy tales she had written six years earlier for Emerson’s daughter, Ellen.

3. Louisa May Alcott secretly wrote pulp fiction.

Before writing Little Women, Alcott wrote Gothic pulp fiction under the nom de plume A.M. Barnard. Continuing her amusing penchant for alliteration, she wrote books and plays called Perilous Play and Pauline’s Passion and Punishment to make easy money. These sensational, melodramatic works are strikingly different than the more wholesome, righteous vibe she captured in Little Women, and she didn’t advertise her former writing as her own after Little Women became popular.

4. Louisa May Alcott wrote about her experience as a Civil War nurse.

In 1861, at the beginning of the U.S. Civil War, Alcott sewed Union uniforms in Concord and, the next year, enlisted as an army nurse. In a Washington, D.C. hotel-turned-hospital, she comforted dying soldiers and helped doctors perform amputations. During this time, she wrote about her experiences in her journal and in letters to her family. In 1863, she published Hospital Sketches, a fictionalized account, based on her letters, of her stressful yet meaningful experiences as a wartime nurse. The book became massively popular and was reprinted in 1869 with more material.

5. Louisa May Alcott suffered from mercury poisoning.

After a month and a half of nursing in D.C., Alcott caught typhoid fever and pneumonia. She received the standard treatment at the time—a toxic mercury compound called calomel. (Calomel was used in medicines through the 19th century.) Because of this exposure to mercury, Alcott suffered from symptoms of mercury poisoning for the rest of her life. She had a weakened immune system, vertigo, and had episodes of hallucinations. To combat the pain caused by the mercury poisoning (as well as a possible autoimmune disorder, such as lupus, that could have been triggered by it), she took opium. Alcott died of a stroke in 1888, at 55 years old.

6. Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women to help her father.

In 1867, Thomas Niles, an editor at a publishing house, asked Alcott if she wanted to write a novel for girls. Although she tried to get excited about the project, she thought she wouldn’t have much to write about girls because she was a tomboy. The next year, Alcott’s father was trying to convince Niles to publish his manuscript about philosophy. He told Niles that his daughter could write a book of fairy stories, but Niles still wanted a novel about girls. Niles told Alcott’s father that if he could get his daughter to write a (non-fairy) novel for girls, he would publish his philosophy manuscript. So to make her father happy and help his writing career, Alcott wrote about her adolescence growing up with her three sisters. Published in September 1868, the first part of Little Women was a huge success. The second part was published in 1869, and Alcott went on to write sequels such as Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886).

7. Louisa May Alcott was an early suffragette.

In the 1870s, Alcott wrote for a women’s rights periodical and went door-to-door in Massachusetts to encourage women to vote. In 1879, the state passed a law that would allow women to vote in local elections on anything involving education and children—Alcott registered immediately, becoming the first woman registered in Concord to vote. Although met with resistance, she, along with 19 other women, cast ballots in an 1880 town meeting. The Nineteenth Amendment was finally ratified in 1920, decades after Alcott died.

8. Louisa May Alcott pretended to be her own servant to trick her fans.

After the success of Little Women, fans who connected with the book traveled to Concord to see where Alcott grew up. One month, Alcott had a hundred strangers knock on the door of Orchard House, her family’s home, hoping to see her. Because she didn’t like the attention, she sometimes pretended to be a servant when she answered the front door, hoping to trick fans into leaving.

9. Louisa May Alcott never had children, but she cared for her niece.

Although Alcott never married or had biological children, she took care of her orphaned niece. In 1879, Alcott’s youngest sister May died a month after giving birth to her daughter. As she was dying, May told her husband to send the baby, whom she had named Louisa in honor of Alcott, to her older sister. Nicknamed Lulu, the girl spent her childhood with Alcott, who wrote her stories and seemed a good fit for her high-spiritedness. Lulu was just 8 when Alcott died, at which point she went to live with her father in Switzerland.

10. Fans can visit Louisa May Alcott's home in Concord, Massachusetts.

At 399 Lexington Road in Concord, Massachusetts, tourists can visit Orchard House, the Alcott family home from 1858 to 1877. Orchard House is a designated National Historic Landmark, and visitors can take a guided tour to see where Alcott wrote and set Little Women . Visitors can also get a look at Alcott’s writing desk and the family’s original furniture and paintings.