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
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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.

19 Every Day Things Science Hasn’t Figured Out

Haydar Dogramaci/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Haydar Dogramaci/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Science has enabled humans to complete some pretty incredible feats, like land on the moon, for example. But when it comes to common things like laughter or hiccups, scientists still can’t quite figure out the reason behind them. In this article, which was adapted from The List Show on YouTube, we look at everyday things that are still a mystery.

1. It's still not understood why we cry.

A woman crying.
Tom Merton/ OJO Images via Getty

Crying is still a scientific mystery. Physiologically, it’s clear what’s happening when someone cries. But, it has been more difficult to figure out the evolutionary reason for tears. We know that babies cry to communicate and get attention. So, some experts believe that adults might also cry for social reasons, like to bond or to warn others that something is amiss.

2. The reason we laugh is still unknown.

A woman talking on the phone laughing.
Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Like crying, we also don’t know why people evolved the ability to laugh, but experts guess it has something to do with communication—and not just that we find something funny. One researcher found that only 20 percent of laughs he looked at were preceded by anything deemed in any way humorous.

It's possible we laugh to let other people know that we’re okay or to bond with each other. A study published in 2016 gave evidence for the latter. Researchers found that an outside observer could distinguish whether laughter was produced between a pair of strangers or a pair of friends.

3. Scientists haven't figured out why we blush.

A woman blushing at work.
fizkes/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Blushing is often telling others things we don’t want them to know, like the fact that we’ve done something wrong or embarrassing. Some experts believe that we may have evolved blushing to show submission to group leaders. Others think it may have something to do with the fact that blushing people have been shown to be considered more likable, so it helps peers look past the bad things we’ve done.

4. It's still unclear why anesthesia makes us pass out.

Doctors putting a patient under anesthesia.
YakobchukOlena/iStock via Getty Images Plus

General anesthesia has been in use in the United States since 1846, but there are still some uncertainties about why the chemicals in anesthetics cause people to pass out. A recent study showed that the drugs affect proteins in the brain and the reason we go unconscious has to do with altering neural activity, but more research is needed.

5. We aren't exactly sure what consciousness is.

A man looking out the window.
fizkes/iStock via Getty Images

Consciousness is frequently defined as how we feel present and alive in the world. But the question is: Why and how do we feel conscious? It’s of interest in both philosophy and science. Scientists would like to know which part of the brain is responsible for consciousness, but it’s still a mystery.

6. It's unclear exactly how medications like Tylenol work.

A woman taking a painkiller.
dragana991/iStock via Getty Images Plus

We don’t 100 percent understand how pain relievers containing acetaminophen give us pain relief. We do know that acetaminophens aren’t totally consistent; they’re more effective in some types of cells than in others. So for now, scientists believe the drugs might be a specific type of enzyme inhibitor.

7. We aren't sure why we get hiccups or how to stop them.

A mother burping a baby.
twinsterphoto/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Scientists don’t know what causes hiccups, what purpose they serve, or how to cure them. A lot of people have favorite techniques, from gargling water to pulling hard on the tongue, but there’s no scientifically-proven way to get rid of them.

In 2002, one researcher tried to get to the bottom of the problem by looking at how 54 hospital patients had been treated for hiccups. They tried multiple treatments, like holding their breath and medication, but none were proven effective.

8. Scientists haven't figured out why tornadoes start.

A tornado in a field.
mdesigner125/iStock via Getty Images Plus

We don’t know why only some thunderstorms create tornadoes and others don’t. Generally, it’s understood that tornadoes come to be when cold, dry air interacts with warm, humid air. But the thunderstorms that result from those air conditions only sometimes cause tornadoes.

9. Scientists also haven't figured out why tornadoes end.

A tornado in the distance.
Jordan Carruthers/iStock via Getty Images Plus

It’s also unclear why tornadoes die—though experts believe that at least sometimes it has to do with the tornado’s interaction with cold temperatures.

10. It's still uncertain why we need to sleep.

A woman sleeping.
monkeybusinessimages/iStock via Getty Images Plus

There are theories as to why we need sleep, but no one knows for sure. It's possible our ancestors slept because it kept them out of danger during the night. Or it could be an energy conserving function. What we do know is that sleep helps us recover from the day, and there’s evidence it changes the connections in our brains.

11. The reason we dream is still unclear.

A woman asleep.
gorodenkoff/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Similarly, there are no clear answers as to why we dream. Some sleep experts think dreaming doesn’t have a purpose at all. Others have theories, like that we’re playing out threatening situations, like being chased, so that we’re better equipped to handle danger while awake.

12. We still aren't sure why we have the urge to scratch.

A man scratching an itch.
ipopba/iStock via Getty Images

We often understand why we itch. But, we don’t completely understand why we have the urge to scratch. The body has receptors just for itches that are almost identical to those that convey pain, and it’s thought that scratching might interfere with these signals. But at the same time, it might cause the skin to get more irritated, which causes even more itching.

13. Science still hasn't figured out the cure for aging.

An older person and a younger person.
Halfpoint/iStock via Getty Images

Scientists know some things about why we age, but no one has fully figured it out. There’s little evidence for popular hypotheses having to do with things like free radicals and telomeres. Aging is probably the result of a complex group of poorly understood processes, meaning a cure isn’t happening any time soon.

14. Ornithologists still don't know why only some birds migrate.

Birds flying in a v-shape.
FTiare/iStock via Getty Images Plus

It’s also unclear why some birds migrate while others don’t. The ones that do migrate might do it to conserve energy, which might be kind of confusing, since they’re flying great distances and therefore expending a lot of energy to get to their destination. But it’s likely worth it since they’re probably traveling somewhere with abundant energy sources—a.k.a., plenty of available food. Luckily, thanks to technology like tracking devices, scientists are able to track birds more easily and are now learning much more about migration.

15. Scientists haven't figured out the “nature vs. nurture” debate.

A family sitting at a table.
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The question of nature versus nurture hasn’t been settled yet. Technically, we know that our genes interact with our environment to foster characteristics—but science isn’t sure to what extent. A complicating factor is that it varies by trait and individual person. How much your genes are influencing your IQ, for instance, may be different from someone else.

16. We still aren't sure why the placebo effect happens.

Dark pills with one white pill in a pile.
Photoboyko/iStock via Getty Images Plus

The placebo effect is pretty mysterious. It has been proven again and again that sugar pills and other fake treatments can actually make someone feel better. And it’s not just a feeling as scans have shown that placebos affect the area of the brain associated with pain. We still don’t know why. It’s believed that placebos somehow help release endorphins, but experts need more information.

17. It's still unclear why bicycles are able to stay up on their own.

Bikes in a row.
guppys/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Have you ever given a bike with no one on it a push and noticed that it stays up on its own? It doesn’t fall over for much longer than you expect, and we don’t know how it manages to balance itself while moving.

18. How skates work on ice is still unknown.

A woman putting on ice skates.
Akiromaru/iStock via Getty Images Plus

And another mystery of physics: How do skates work on ice? There is a popular theory. We know that ice has a very thin layer of liquid on it. So, a skate moving quickly on top of ice might make more liquid because the friction causes melting. The skate is actually changing the ice itself, creating a path on which to glide.

19. There still isn't a cure for the common cold.

A woman with a cold.
Tero Vesalainen/iStock via Getty Images Plus

We get colds from seven separate families of viruses and those families have sub-viruses. So, to cure the “cold,” there would need to be a cure that acts as a catch-all for about 200 sub-viruses.

6 Surprising Facts About Nintendo's Animal Crossing

Nintendo
Nintendo

by Ryan Lambie

Casting you as a newcomer in a woodland town populated by garrulous and sometimes eccentric creatures, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing is about conversation, friendship, and collecting things rather than competition or shooting enemies. It’s a formula that has grown over successive generations—which is all the more impressive, given the game’s obscure origins. The 3DS version now one of the most popular games available for that system, and the franchise was catapulted into further fame when Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on Nintendo Switch in March 2020. Here are a few things you may not know about the video game.

1. Animal Crossing’s inspiration came from an unlikely place.

By the late 1990s, Katsuya Eguchi had already worked on some of Nintendo’s greatest games. He’d designed the levels for the classic Super Mario Bros 3. He was the director of Star Fox (or Star Wing, as it was known in the UK), and the designer behind the adorable Yoshi’s Story. But Animal Crossing was inspired by Eguchi’s experiences from his earlier days, when he was a 21-year-old graduate who’d taken the decisive step of moving from Chiba Prefecture, Japan, where he’d grown up and studied, to Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto.

Eguchi wanted to recreate the feeling of being alone in a new town, away from friends and family. “I wondered for a long time if there would be a way to recreate that feeling, and that was the impetus behind Animal Crossing,” Eguchi told Edge magazine in 2008. Receiving letters from your mother, getting a job (from the game’s resident raccoon capitalist, Tom Nook), and gradually filling your empty house with furniture and collectibles all sprang from Eguchi’s memories of first moving to Kyoto.

2. Animal Crossing was originally developed for the N64.

Although Animal Crossing would eventually become best known as a GameCube title—to the point where many assume this is where the series began—the game actually originally appeared on the N64. First developed for the ill-fated 64DD add-on, Animal Crossing (or Dōbutsu no Mori, which translates to Animal Forest) was ultimately released as a standard cartridge. But by the time Animal Crossing emerged in Japan in 2001, the N64 was already nearing the end of its lifespan, and it was never localized for a worldwide release.

3. Translating Animal Crossing for an international audience was a difficult task.

The GameCube version of Animal Crossing was released in Japan in December 2001, about eight months after the N64 edition. Thanks to the added capacity of the console’s discs, this version of the game included characters like Tortimer or Blathers that weren’t in the N64 iteration, and Animal Crossing soon became a hit with Japanese critics and players alike.

Porting Animal Crossing for an international audience proved to be a considerable task, however, with the game’s reams of dialogue and cultural references all requiring careful translation. But the effort writers Nate Bihldorff and Rich Amtower put into the English-language version would soon pay off; Nintendo’s bosses in Japan were so impressed with the additional festivals and sheer personality present in the western version of Animal Crossing, they decided to have that version of the game translated back into Japanese. This new version of the game, called Dōbutsu no Mori e+, was released in 2003.

4. K.K. Slider is based on Animal Crossing’s composer.

K.K. Slider with his guitar
K.K. Slider appearing in promotional artwork for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
2020 Nintendo

One of Animal Crossing’s most recognizable and popular characters is K.K. Slider, the laidback canine musician. He’s said to be based, both in looks and name, on Kazumi Totaka, the prolific composer and voice actor who co-wrote Animal Crossing’s music. In the Japanese version of Animal Crossing, K.K. Slider is called Totakeke—a play on the real musician’s name. K.K. Slider’s almost as prolific as Totaka, too: Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS contains a total of 91 tracks performed by the character.

5. One Animal Crossing character has been known to make players cry.

A more controversial character than K.K. Slider, Mr. Resetti is an angry mole created to remind players to save the game before switching off their console. And the more often players forget to save their game, the angrier Mr. Resetti gets. Mr. Resetti’s anger apparently disturbed some younger players, though, as Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s project leader Aya Kyogoku revealed in an interview with Nintendo's former president, the late Satoru Iwata.

“We really weren't sure about Mr. Resetti, as he really divides people," Kyogoku said. “Some people love him, of course, but there are others who don't like being shouted at in his rough accent.” Iwata agreed, saying, “It seems like younger female players, in particular, are scared. I've heard that some of them have even cried.”

To avoid the tears, Mr. Resetti plays a less prominent role in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and only appears if the player first builds a Reset Surveillance Centre. Divisive though he is, Mr. Resetti was designed and written with as much care as any of the other characters in Animal Crossing; his first name’s Sonny, he has a brother called Don and a cousin called Vinnie, and he prefers his coffee black with no sugar.

6. Animal Crossing is still evolving.

A game once inspired by the loneliness of moving to a new town has now become one of Nintendo’s most successful and beloved franchises. Since its first appearance in 2001, the quirky and disarming Animal Crossing has grown to encompass toys, a movie, and five main games (or six if you count the version released for the N64 as a separate entry). All told, the Animal Crossing games have sold more than 30 million copies, and the series is still growing. In late 2017, the mobile title Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released for iOS and Android—it was a big step for the franchise, as Nintendo is famously selective about which of its series get a mobile makeover. And in March 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizon was released on Switch, selling a whopping 1.88 million physical copies during its first three days on the market.

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