Smashing pumpkins is a cliche, and only serves to make a mess. TP-ing a house isn't a good Halloween prank because you can do it any time of the year. And vandalism is downright thuggish, the preference of the slightly imbalanced kid in the group who has to take everything too far. No, a Halloween prank is worth its weight in blood only if it scares the pirate pants off of someone or gives them the willies deep inside their skeleton. Of course, a funny gag played on trick-or-treaters is equally apropos on this night of heightened emotions. Boo!
1. Servin' up over-easies
Handing out inappropriate "treats" to trick-or-treaters is an old classic, but one of the all-time best comes from Geoff "Peter Pan" Dodd (my uncle-in-law), who answers the door holding a spatula and a frying pan full of fried eggs, ready to drop one in the nearest treat bag.
2. Junk drawer treats
A variation on the terrible treat gag: Tell trick-or-treaters that you're sorry but you've just run out of candy. Then say, "Well, wait a minute...I'm sure I can find something here that's good..." Step away from the door briefly (and make voluble sounds of rummaging through a drawer or closet, if desired), coming back with "treats" like an old hairbrush or toothbrush, leftovers from the fridge, one dirty sock...anything you can think of. Be completely earnest and ask, "Who wants what?" to really make them squirm.
3. Living dead scarecrow
This timeless classic requires careful setup, but it scares the candy corn out of trick-or-treaters of all ages. Dress up as a scarecrow or other suitable character so your body and face are completely concealed. Slump down onto a hay bale next to your front door, as though you're a dummy. When visitors have rung the bell and await the door opening, you come to life in any variety of ways: jump up and scream hideously, slump over and moan, say "hello" as though you've been waiting for them to arrive...anything will get a good reaction.
4. Leaf of your senses
A simpler variation on the scarecrow: Hide inside a pile of leaves near the driveway or walkway leading to the front door, and jump out with a monster howl at the appropriate time. You can also scare them coming and going by having a friend hide inside a bagged trash can next to the leaf pile.
5. Rubber rat floating in toilet
This is a simple family prank for Halloween night. Please don't try this unless everyone in the house has a healthy heart.
6. Thick glasses
A funny prank for trick-or-treaters: Answer the door wearing ridiculously thick-lensed glasses (costume or real) and pretend to have extremely poor eyesight, repeatedly missing the mark when trying to drop candy into the treat bags. You'll be amazed at how many kids fall for this and try desperately to move their bags underneath your misguided hands.
7. Caramel onions
Another classic for family and friends: Wrap an apple-shaped onion in a caramel-apple wrap (available in grocery stores this time of year). Add a Popsicle stick, melt the caramel slightly in the microwave for an authentic look, and let it cool. Serve to the sucker of your choice. Credit for this idea goes to Safepranks.net.
8. Double surprise
This one requires some acting ability. Open the door for trick-or-treaters wearing a bathrobe and slippers, with your hair wrapped in a towel (for women). Act completely surprised by the commotion, saying, "Oh, geez!. I forgot it was Halloween. I was just getting ready to take a bloodbath." Follow this with whatever ghoulish behavior you choose-bare your teeth to reveal blood-stained fangs, pull the towel from your head to show a bloody skull cap pierced with a spike or saw blade, etc.
9. Table manners
Set up a card table on your front stoop or concrete stairs with a self-serve bowl of candy, and darken the house as though you've gone out trick-or-treating. Cover the table with a tablecloth, and post a sign that says, "Please take one piece only." Have one person hide under the table while another is in the house secretly watching the bowl of candy, communicating to the table person via cell phone. When the watcher catches a kid taking a handful of candy (as many inevitably do), he signals to the table person, who yells out from his hiding place, "ONE PIECE ONLY!!!" or a similar admonishment. There's also the option of jumping out from under the table to reveal a frightening getup.
10. Sick at work
Women: Instead of taking this once-a-year opportunity to wear a skimpy and/or skin-tight costume to work, show up looking terribly ill and complain of unusual and odious symptoms. Explain to coworkers in confidence that you knew you shouldn't have come to work today but you just couldn't miss the Halloween party. And scratch a lot.