"Our family and friends have always been a little dark," Bo Ciaverelli said, noting that their son, Cotton, now a college student, preferred building monster models to playing sports as a youth.

Susan Ciaverelli said the family has been observing Halloween with a vengeance since they moved there in 1989 and discovered that the neighborhood seemed a little tame around the holiday.

"Like most bad habits, it started innocently enough: a little creepy Spanish moss here, a disembodied talking head there," she said. "But soon it took on a life of its own. We started planning scary themes."

Cotton would dress as a ghoul and lie in wait for unsuspecting trick-or-treaters, his mother said.

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Now, they carry on the tradition as "a public service," she said. "Besides, kids need to learn that nothing in life is free. They have to really want the candy to walk up to our house."

And this year, children might be even more wary.

"We have a new animatronic that hopefully will bring some angst," Bo Ciaverelli said. He wouldn't say what it is.

The biggest Halloween news in Roland Park is that Judy Dobbs, who has been organizing a neighborhood parade for nearly 30 years, is stepping down as organizer.

The parade, which has drawn as many as 100 families through the years, starts at ends at Park Lane, an alley between Hawthorne and Keswick roads. At the end, Amy Urdang hosts a backyard party with cider and popcorn, while parade co-founder Barrie Sigler treats the children to token prizes and her husband, Richard, compliments them on their costumes as they walk a red carpet.

Now, Dobbs, who has the Herculean task of sending out invitations each year, is stepping aside after this year's parade, on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m., or Sunday, if it rains Saturday. She is asking around to see if someone else wants to take over.

"I'm tired," she said. "I love seeing it every year and I love being part of it, but it's time for someone else to carry on the tradition."

Frightfully good events coming

The following is a partial list of Halloween-related parades and other events in north Baltimore.

Hampden HalloweenFest, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 5-8 p.m., on The Avenue, Falls Road and Chestnut Avenue, with trick-or-treat and costume contests.

Roosevelt Recreation Center Haunted House, 1221 W. 36th St., Hampden, Friday, Oct. 26, 6-10 p.m. Cost is $3.

Homeland Parade at the Lakes, Saturday, Oct. 27, 1 p.m., with a pet parade preceding the children's parade. Rain date Sunday.

Oakenshawe Halloween Parade, Saturday, Oct. 27, 4 p.m., starting at Homewood and Guilford terraces.

Radnor-Winston Halloween Parade and Fall Festival, Saturday, Oct. 27, 11:30 a.m., 4903 Crowson Ave.

Remington Hauntingdon Festival, Saturday, Oct. 27, 5-8 p.m., in the 2900 block of Huntingdon Ave. Rain date Sunday.

Roland Park neighborhood parade, Saturday, Oct. 27, 3 p.m., starting on Park Lane between Hawthorne and Keswick roads. Rain date Sunday.