back to the Black Table

Halloween used to be a kid's holiday. There was a time when white grease paint, tin foil and a cardboard box was enough to make a totally bitchin' robot costume, one that didn't require a trip to the Halloween costume superstore for latex prosthetics and battery powered flashing lights. Trick or treating was a neighborhood thing, not a shopping mall thing. And parents stayed home and handed out candy instead of donning matching quasi ironic costumes that show off too much of mommy's cleavage.

Now that Halloween has become a fully adult holiday, it is only fitting that we track down the essentials you'll need over this Halloween weekend.


The Egg to End All Eggings

Why waste hours peppering a house with eggs when you can get it over in one fell swoop? Go nuclear this Halloween with ostrich eggs, which have the same amount of yucky yolk as two dozen of those silly chicken eggs found in supermarkets. The ostrich egg is the largest in the entire world, weighing in at four pounds and six inches in diameter -- about the same size as a mini basketball. They're so big it would take an entire hour to soft boil one and 90 minutes to get 'em firm enough for ostrich egg salad. The eggs ain't cheap, at about $15 each, but it'll be worth every penny to see the look on your neighbor's face when fifteen gallons of albumin are collected in a pool on his front lawn. -- E.G.


The Most Terrifying Film Ever

Forget "Rosemary's Baby," the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" or any of those gory slasher flicks, the scariest movie ever filmed is easily "The Fighting Temptations," with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles. There's no question at all. It will chill you to the core. Cuba's relentless enthusiasm is terrifying -- he's like a golden retriever at the Special Olympics. Sure, his dancey, smiley shtick may not seem so bad when he's jumping around at the Oscars, but that's a three-minute moment and this film boasts an unmerciful 123 minute running time. This means when it finally hits cable, HBO will have to reserve a 2 hour, 15 minute time slot at the barest minimum in order to air it. Heaven forbid, when it shows on UPN or TBS, Temptations could easily require three hours, when ads are included. Lastly and most importantly, the film's 'happy ending' involves Cuba's transformation from a morally bereft advertising executive to an INSTRUMENT OF GOD (!!!) then he and Beyoncé get together to CONCEIVE A CHILD. Yeah, "The Omen" was a 'horror' movie about a 'child,' but I think your blemished soul can tell you which is worse. -- M.D.


The Hipster Halloween Accessory

Halloween brooches are suddenly partially, ironically cool thanks to the 'granny chic' phenomenon showcasing afghan shaws and clumsy ponchos. Well, Halloween is the perfect time for aspiring frumpsters to take their game to the next level: Fat Mommy Pins. Sure, there are the more subtle variety -- a decorative tiny black cat or a quarter-sized spooky jack-o-lantern button, but what's the fun in being so passive? Go all out and head down to any suburban fall crafts festival and pick up a clumsy looking witch made of popsicle sticks and black yarn and pin that to your flowered silk scarf. Or pay homage to your nursery school teacher and attach a ghost made of construction paper and a ping-pong paddle to your woodsy cable-knit sweater. -- A.J.D.


The Best Treats in Life Are Big

Kids learn right quick which people in their neighborhood offer the good stuff and the ones who look you in the eye, smile and then give you raisins. People with no children and who, in fact, may never have been children themselves, give raisins. The raisins aren't even tasty; they are sticky and old and not worth the trouble. They are as depressing as realizing you just opened your last birthday gift.

But the best? The best varies depending on age and whether you are the candy supplier or recipient. Wise adults choose candy to hand out based on whether they'll want to eat the leftovers. My house was the only one on the block to offer Mounds and Almond Joy, because they were The Dad's favorites. He did the treat shopping and made sure to get more than we needed for the neighborhood kids.

The best nearly always comes from the rich neighbor. On my street, the house where the mob lawyer lived was beyond generous with full-sized candy bars. You went to the T's house early to insure a good selection. And you were surprised, every year, by how much big candy bars indicated net worth. You walked away a little humbled, a little jealous and wishing your parents had big candy bars. -- A.G.


The Scariest Place on Earth

When I moved to New York -- and, to a lesser extent, when I lived in Los Angeles years ago -- the most common question fellow Midwesterners back home asked me: Are you afraid of getting mugged? The answer, in this post-Guiliani city, has always been no; there are people everywhere here, and even though they might not help you if you're in trouble, you at least feel like there is some sense of order. This differs from East St. Louis, Illinois, which is the closest thing we have to the Old West and is definitely the scariest place on the planet. Located just across the Mississippi River from the Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium, East St. Louis is full of crack houses, lawless strip clubs and, most frightening, no street lights. East St. Louis falls in that crevice where neither Missouri or Illinois want to take any responsibility for it. So it sits there, allowing chaos to reign in the darkness. Every drive through East St. Louis feels like you're peeking out over the edge of the world. If you're ever actually in East St. Louis at night, either you're specifically looking for danger ... or you just made a very costly wrong turn. -- W.L.


A Ghost Story to Keep You Up All Night

It was considered a surprise earlier this month when The 9/11 Commission Report, the detailed-down-to-the-shirt-the-hijackers-were-wearing tome concerning the intelligence lapses on that awful day, was nominated for a National Book Award. It shouldn't have been. The book is surprisingly well-written -- it reads like a Tom Clancy potboiler, only it's real and has fewer shotguns -- full of fascinating details and, most of all, completely freaking terrifying. The hijackers are described in shockingly mundane detail (one forgot to call his girlfriend on her birthday), and the backstories of the victims are vivid and heartbreaking. But the real scare comes from the intelligence lapses. The book makes it horrifyingly clear: We had no idea what was going on, we could do nothing to stop it ... and three years later, we're pretty much in the exact same boat. Ghosts? Goblins? Vampires? THAT'S scary. So ... Boo! -- W.L.