TRIED & TESTED / Tricks and treats: Young would-be witches and warlocks sampled various cheap and fearful Hallowe'en horrors to discover the scariest of them all

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IN THE ERA of expensive computer games and hi-tech special effects, do traditional tricks such as false blood or plastic witch's fingernails hold any thrills for kids? We asked a group of child-ren aged between seven and 12 to try a batch of tricks and games for Hallowe'en to see which were the scariest and the most fun. The results show that there are plenty of simple items that don't cost too much and still give a good time. Scaring mum, it seems, never loses its appeal.

According to a distributor of these items, who scours the Far East each year for new variations, 'The more scary I can find, the better they sell.' Read on to see which of them is most likely to send a shiver down the child spine -or to drive an adult crazy.

THE PANEL Elena Harvey (12), Nina Harvey (9); Elliott Felton (11), Amy and Louisa Felton (both 10); Michael Berliner (8); Katie Shippey (8); Henrietta Bedell (11) and Freddie Bedell (7) THE TEST The panel gave the tricks marks for how scary they were, how much fun they were to play with, and how much they would like to buy them.

*THUMB IN POOL OF BLOOD pounds 2.50 Parents were easily fooled by this severed plastic thumb in a plastic pool of blood. 'I left it on mum's dressing table and scared her to death nearly.

It looked quite realistic with just the table lamp lit,' said Michael. But although the panel thought it was realistic and quite frightening, what they could do with the thumb was limited. It was one of the tricks the kids were least eager to buy.

**BLACK FINGER NAILS 75p Most of the kids enjoyed playing with these witch's talons. 'Realistic and fun,' said Henrietta. 'I loved them,' said her younger brother, Freddie. But there were some complaints: 'Quite nice, but they don't fit my thumb. After a while they stop the blood,' said Katie. Michael was not impressed. 'They look like ballpoint pen tops. Not very good at all.'

****FUN BLOOD pounds 1.15

This trick, which must have been around when Jennings and Derbyshire were at school, was a hit with our panel. Although not particularly scary, it was one of the tricks they most enjoyed playing with. 'A good trick, lots of people fall for it,' said Louisa. 'Looks like real blood,' said Elena, while Katie mused: 'I wonder whose blood it is?' But several warned that the gore is difficult to get off. Michael's mother cautioned that, 'it can make a bathroom look like an abattoir quite quickly'.

*GLOW IN THE DARK FANGS 25p Some of the kids enjoyed playing with these, though they were not especially scary. 'I think they are great,' said Katie. Others were cooler. 'Rubbish.

Wouldn't frighten an ant,' said Michael. 'They're too young for me,' commented Elliott, but Freddie (who's seven) said they were 'brilliant'.

'They are OK but could glow more,' said Nina, while her sister, Elena, complained that they were uncomfortable. At 25p, they could be worth a try.

*MYSTIC SMOKE pounds 1.67 The kids who could get this to work found it great fun, but for others, who found it difficult, it was a dead loss. The idea is to rub a glue-like substance between your fingers and then snap them apart to make 'smoke' appear. 'This is great because it really looks and smells like smoke, and lasts for ages,' said Elena. But Michael 'found this very frustrating because I couldn't do it'. It was difficult to remove afterwards. 'The smell and the sticky stuff never come off your fingers,' commented Amy.

*****SHAKING SPIRIT pounds 5.99

While adults might jeer at this toy, which looks like a carton spook in the cold light of day, this was our kids' top choice for spookiness and fun. It lights up in the dark, shakes and makes a wailing noise. 'I gave this 10 out of 10, because I thought it was brilliant,' said Henrietta. 'It is my favourite. I loved its glow and shake,' said Katie, while for Elliot, 'the good thing about it is that it drives my mum and dad crazy'.

****SPOOKY SOUNDS TAPE pounds 1.99

One of the most frightening items in our Hallowe'en selection, this cassette is like the soundtrack of a horror movie, with creaking doors, human screams and werewolf howls. It would be good to play at a party, with the lights out -as long as the children are not too nervous in temperament. 'It scared the life out of me, the first time I heard it,' said Katie. 'This sounded very realistic because the sound seemed to be coming from outside,' said Henrietta. 'I would buy this,' said Elliott.

CHATTERING SKULL 30p This trick was a flop because it simply didn't live up to its name. 'It doesn't chatter,' complained Nina. 'It's boring,' added Elena. 'It wasn't very effective and its mouth didn't open enough,' commented Henrietta. It was neither scary nor fun.


Be the star of your very own horror movie wearing this spooky hand, with its vicious-looking spiky fingers. The panel had great fun with it. 'This was my favourite. It looks like a mechanical monster's hand,' said Michael, although he thought it didn't look strong enough to last long. 'I loved it because it reminded me of Mortal Combat II and it was fun to play with,' added Elliott. 'Good for creeping up on people,' said Elena.

COMB & GLOW pounds 3.20 This sounds great fun - use the special comb to turn your hair green and make it glow in the dark. Unfortunately, most of the kids were disappointed because it didn't work properly. 'You could see a slight glow but nothing like the picture on the packet,' said Michael. 'It ruined my hair,' said Freddie. Although Katie is younger than the target age group - nine upwards -she was the only one who was successful with it. 'I liked it a lot,' she said. 'It really makes your hair green.'

***WITCH MAKE-UP pounds 4.75 Nearly all the panel had fun making themselves up to look like a witch, complete with a stick-on nose with wart. 'Lovely, it could make an old witch scared. I think young children would get frightened, it's so good,' said Katie. Only Elliot didn't enjoy it, writing it off as 'rubbish'. The make-up can be a bit tricky to apply well and is most suitable for the over-nines.

'If mum had not had to help, I would have had more fun,' said Louisa. It washes off easily.

STOCKISTS: Items supplied by Jarroy of London, Lone Star Toys Ltd and Palmer, The Party People. All are available from joke shops, fancy-dress shops and newsagents nationwide.

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