Only the stout-hearted need read on.

For the next week, Howard County will be engulfed by orange. Lots of orange. Not to mention ghosts, ghouls, flying funkins and tooth decay.

Halloween is upon us.

To celebrate this bone-chilling holiday,farms, forests and even senior centers are offering everything from spine-tingling stories of headless horsemen to hair-raising costume parties.

And that's not all.

The Haunted Hayride provides what no other 45-minute tractor-drawn hayride can: cameo appearances by celebrity ghouls Freddie Kreuger, Jason and Leatherface. The excursion into fear takes the scenic route through a graveyard and offers encounters with "sinister shadows, ghouls and eerie sounds of the night."

This is the second year that the Haunted Hayride has come to HowardCounty. Part of a national franchise, organizers have been making preparations at Nixon's Farm since Labor Day.

Some new attractions include on-site food, face painting, games for children to win pumpkins and a professional magician performing in the Magical Mystical Tent.

Managers Ginny Mahoney and Carol Sheridan say the ghouls are still the most popular attraction. "We hear a lot of comments about Leatherface," said Mahoney. "It's the last haunt on the ride. It's veryeffective -- if you're into terror. And we're into terror."

Althoughthey recommend the hayride for families, they don't encourage it forchildren under 5.

The hayrides run every five minutes beginning at 7:30 p.m. daily through Saturday at Nixon's Farm.

A trek througha haunted house can be "spiritual." Especially the house that the WAVES Senior High Youth Group is showing from 6 to 10 p.m. today and Thursday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church in Ellicott City.

CiderMill Farm's Halloween Weekend, from noon to 4 p.m. today, will feature that grand dame of dread, the Cider Mill Witch, who will recite her own repertoire of ghost stories. There will also be a costume parade and contest, and a jack-o'-lantern contest. Visitors are invited tocreate their own scarecrows -- but are requested to bring their own tools.

The Candlelight Concert Society's Performing Arts Series for Children will feature a live (or dead, depending on how you look atit) performance of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by the ArtReach Touring Theatre. Performances will begin at 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m. today at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre. Each show is 50 minutes long and geared for children ages 4 through 11.

The Patuxent Theatre Company is offering a rather different adaptation of "Frankenstein." Written by Gary Goodson and Pat Turney-Forman, this contemporary version is set in and around that hotbed of horror and mayhem -- Columbia.

"I wanted to do something bizarre for Halloween," Goodson said. "So I thought it might be interesting to take the slant that maybe the doctor committed the murders and not the monster."

Goodson, who also produces and directs the show, took the unusual step of casting a disabled actor to play Dr. Frankenstein. "That is why he is doing the experiments on corpses, to find a way to get rid of the handicap,"he said.

Performances are at 2 p.m. today and next Sunday and at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Drama Learning Center in Jessup. The production is not considered suitable for children.

An afternoonof family fun is being offered by the Howard County Library. Family Fright will feature gut-wrenching Halloween stories the whole family can enjoy, followed by games and riddles. Children should wear costumes.

Times are as follows:

* Miller Branch Library, 4:30 to 5:15p.m. and 7 to 7:45 p.m. tomorrow.

* Savage Branch Library, 7 to 7:45 p.m. tomorrow.

* Central Library, 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. and 7 to 7:45 p.m. Tuesday.

The Florence Bain Senior Center is throwing a Halloween Party from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday. Costumes are optional for participants, who will partake in "hair-raising ghost stories, hauntedhouse refreshments and frightfully good music."

Through Thursday,daring 10-year-olds and preschoolers alike can walk for free throughthe Haunted Forest at the Woodstock Farm Nursery in Ellicott City, as they listen to a ghost story on the Spooky Green Thumb trail. Prizes await them at the end of the walk.

"Count Dry," that funky flying funkin, also will be there, doing his dastardly best of sucking water out of unsuspecting plants, while witches brew weed stew at a verytony ghost party. Pumpkins and pumpkin painting will be available for a fee.

For those who'd like to put a little kick in their holiday, the PTA of Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Ellicott City is sponsoring a Halloween Dance from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday. A disc jockey will provide music. There also will be beer, setups and chips. Costumes are optional.


The following Halloween events are being offered in the county:

Haunted Hayrides: Begin at 7:30 p.m. daily except for Monday, through Nov. 2, at Nixon's Farm, Interstate 70 and Route 32; rides run every five minutesand are 45 minutes long; admission is $10.95 for adults; $8.75 for children 5 to 12; children under 5 are free when accompanied by an adult; group packages available; participants should arrive by 8 weeknights and by 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Information: (800) 33-HAUNT.

Trick or Treat on Main Street: From 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday for children under 12. Information: 465-1449.

Haunted Forest: 11 a.m to 4p.m. today; 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday atthe Woodstock Farm Nursery at 5505 Waterloo Road, Ellicott City; forchildren age 10 and younger; free. Information: 465-1195.

Halloween Weekend: noon to 4 p.m. today at Cider Mill Farm, 5012 Landing Road off Montgomery Road. Information: 788-9595

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: 1, 2:30 and 4 this afternoon at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre; for children 4 to 11; tickets are $6. Information: 720-1027.

Haunted House: 6 to 10 p.m. today and Thursday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, Mount Hebron Drive, Ellicott City; admission is $1 for students, $2 for adults. Information: 290-8792.

Frankenstein: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; today and Nov. 1-3; at the Drama Learning Center, Suite 206, 10620 Guilford Road in Jessup; tickets are $6.50 general admission, $5.50 for students and seniors. Information: 854-0534.

Family Fright: 4:30 to 5:15, and 7 to 7:45 tomorrow at the Miller Branch Library; 7 to 7:45 p.m. tomorrow at the Savage Branch Library; 4:30 to 5:15 p.m., and 7 to 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Central Library. For whole family. Information: Central,313-7880; Miller, 313-1955; and Savage, 880-5978.

Halloween benefit: 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the La Petite Academy Child Care Center, 8890 Columbia 100 Parkway in Columbia. For children 18 months to 12 years, accompanied by parent; admission is 50 cents. Information: 740-5546.

Halloween at Florence Bain: 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday; fee is $1.Information: 313-7213.

Hallelujah Night: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday for children 2 through 12; free. Information: 465-0993.

Halloween Trick or Treating: Beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday at The Mall in Columbia; for costumed children 12 and younger accompanied by an adult. Information: 730-3300.

Halloween Dance: 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday at 4801 Ilchester Road in Ellicott City; fee is $10; reservations required. Information: 461-3417.

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