A perfectly frightful tea party

Natasha Roffe offers some tricks for treating your little horrors on Hallowe'en
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The Independent Online
For those wary of sending their cherubs turned cackling witches and wizards on to the streets for a night of trick or treating on Hallowe'en next Tuesday, the alternative is to treat the little monsters to a party at home. In America, Hallowe'en has always been big business but, if the pounds 150 pumpkin-shaped china soup tureen at Tiffany's in Old Bond Street is anything to go by, Britain is also cashing in on this pagan festival as a pre-Christmas sales pitch.

Commercial gripes aside, children love Hallowe'en, so we are offering a selection of things freakish, from pumpkin cutters to electronic ghosts, all guaranteed to generate shrieks of gleeful horror.

Once you've lured the kiddies to the Hallowe'en festivities with Hannibal Lector-inspired "Come Over For a Bite" Hallowe'en invitations (Marks & Spencer, pounds 4 for 12), throwing a tea party is merely a question of stocking up with the best range of eerie edibles available from supermarkets and department stores. Tesco's Gasp the Ghost cake (pounds 7.99)is disarmingly charming, while Marks & Spencer does bright orange pumpkin-shaped cakes (pounds 4.99) or a set of four mini-pumpkin cakes for pounds 1.49.

The Beverly Hills Bakery is doing baskets (from pounds 21) of pumpkin-flavoured muffins, chocolate cookies, brownies and jam, all cellophane-wrapped and finished with a distinctive green ribbon and Hallowe'en greeting - an inspired way to say thanks for a ghoulishly great night out. Millies Cookies is also offering toffee apple flavour muffins (90p).

For visting trick or treaters, the Book of Spells and Spices (Tesco, pounds 2.49) - complete with an edible tarantula that would dangle nicely out of young jaws - contains all that's necessary to traumatise toddler and teeth alike, while witch's head or skull-shaped chocolate lollipops (Tesco, 99 pence), marzipan witches (Harrods, pounds 3.20), striped candy climbers featuring cats or witches (Harrods, pounds 2.80), moon- and bat-shaped fruit gums (Marks & Spencer, 49p) are all ideal.

Toys to make toddlers tremble - and parents cover their ears in horror - include a plastic rocking witch who cackles as her bright green eyes light up (Hamleys, pounds 24.99), a 24in animated sonic vampire (pounds 34.99), voice- activated ghosts and pumpkins (Hamleys, pounds 14.99) that cackle on command and, for goody bags, Hamleys also does glow-in-the-dark sickly green monster gloves (pounds 8.99), skull mask (pounds 3.49) and walking monsters (99p). If cackles aren't enough, a larger, and even wickeder, witch (pounds 49.99) not only rocks but also responds to noise, warning: "I'm going to get you, my little pretty." Dorothy, eat your heart out.

For post-tea entertainment there is a good range of non-edible activity books, including the House Haunting Kit (Random House, pounds 8.99), which contains Abra Cadazzle spells, a cassette of terrifying sounds and a stage bloodkit; a Creepy Kokey sound book (Heinemann, pounds 6.99) - a horror story that children can sing along to - and, for the more creative child, a Hallowe'en Fun book (Kingfisher, pounds 3.99).

Another find for a nocturnal do is a pumpkin lantern (Harrods, pounds 24.99) with a pair of matching black candlesticks with raised pumpkins wrapped around their middles (pounds 2.50 a pair, also from Harrods). If you'd prefer to make your own candlelit pumpkin, Selfridges has a fine range of pumpkins (60p a pound) up to 200lb in weight, as well as pumpkin cutters (pounds 5.99) to ease the process.

Hamleys 0171-734 3161, Tesco 01992 632 222, Marks & Spencer 0171-935 4422, Tiffany's 0171-409 2790, Millies Coookies 0171-240 0194, Beverly Hills Bakery 0171-584 4401.