IT'S THE TIME of year when it gets dark by dinner time and the moon casts long shadows over the landscape.
Kids play "ghost in the graveyard" in the old cemeteries that dot Northwest Carroll, and pumpkins sit on every doorstep.
There's an autumn mood in the air -- Halloween is next week -- and some of us know how to celebrate it better than others.
Cindy Putman of Clear Ridge Road has been welcoming the season for years with elaborate ghoulish decorations on her front porch and yard.
From the battery-powered ghost banner on the door to the Dracula leaning over the railing, each character is an original design that has been handcrafted by Mrs. Putman.
There's the Grim Reaper, ready to capture you in the front lawn. A mummy and Dracula, arms outstretched, lean over the porch railing. "I tried to get the effect that they're coming after you," she said.
A black cat, with its back arched, stands by the front door, ready to pounce. A spider web stretches across the porch and tombstones litter the front lawn.
"I started this for the kids," she says, "But I guess I haven't grown up yet."
Her sons, Michael, Chris and Joey, are teen-agers who have lost interest in building the sculptures that give spooky life to the yard.
Mrs. Putman has made many of the projects from papier mache, and has recently discovered the ease of working with PVC pipe for the forms; she can label the pieces to reassemble the ghouls easily year after year.
The dismantled characters are stored in boxes in a shed between Halloweens.
Mrs. Putman has tried to add a new sculpture to the display each year -- no small task for a woman who is raising three sons, works at Carroll County General Hospital as a nurse's aide and monitor technician, and is pursuing her nursing degree at Catonsville Community College.
She makes the work of creating a Halloween yard sound like child's play, but the scene she creates is very realistic -- and scary. Some children are even too frightened to go to the porch to trick or treat.
Halloween dance slated
The Ladies Auxiliary of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8806 in Union Bridge is sponsoring a Halloween dance Saturday, starting at 8 p.m. in the post's hall on Penrose Street.
Disc jockey is Ken Jenkins; admission to the dance is $5, and there will be a cash bar. Information: 775-2160.
Taneytown's spooky parade
Taneytown Halloween Parade forms on Middle Street at 6:30 p.m. Halloween, for costumed participants and floats. The parade begins at 7 p.m.
Prizes will be awarded in age and theme categories, from prettiest and most elaborate, funniest and most comical, to scariest and ugliest. Rain date is Nov. 1. Information: Taneytown Recreation Council, 756-2809.
Consider taking a ghost walk this time of year. Carroll County Public Library offers a self-guided walking tour of haunts in Westminster, from Carroll County Historical Society to Ascension Church and Cockey's Tavern.
You'll find a tour brochure at any public library branch.
Nearby Gettysburg is famous for its ghosts, from the soldiers who light campfires in the battlefield to the mysterious moaning heard from the wounded and other unexplained sightings.
According to the "Ghosts of Gettysburg" brochure, the town that is just minutes away from much of northwest Carroll "may very well be, acre for acre, the most haunted place in America."
Several tours are available; call (717) 337-0445 for information and reservations.
Turkey, oyster dinner
The women at Messiah United Methodist Church in Taneytown are sponsoring their annual turkey and oyster dinner from 12:30 hTC p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, at Taneytown Activities Building.
Cost is $9 for adults, $4.50 for children 4 to 12 and $9.50 for carryouts. Information: 756-6085.
It's impossible to imagine, especially for those of us who haven't yet made our children's Halloween costumes or carved the jack-o-lantern, but Christmas bazaar season is upon us.
On Nov. 4, Sam's Creek Church of the Brethren kicks off the season with a holiday bazaar at the church on Marston Road. The event starts at 8:30 a.m. and lasts until 2:30 p.m.
Toys, door decorations, tree trimmers and handmade gifts will be for sale, and a bake table, doughnuts and coffee will be available.
Every Tuesday evening, I get together with a group of women at the New Windsor Middle School cafeteria and together we bend, stretch, lift light weights, do low-impact aerobics and complain to the beat of lively music and the instruction of our certified exercise teacher, Karen Boger.
The mood is great, and the price is right -- $3 a class.
This effort wouldn't be possible without the sponsorship of New Windsor Recreation Council. The group, run by volunteers, is looking for a few good folks to fill leadership and support positions to keep things running.
The council also is selling holiday wreaths and swags as one of their fund-raisers. Information: 775-2407.
This weekend is "Fall Backward," time to reset the clocks so you'll get an extra hour of sleep, or throw your body clock into a temporary state of confusion.
Local firefighters also recommend changing the batteries in your smoke detectors with the change of the clock. They also remind us to clean fireplace chimneys now, to ensure a safe winter.