IT COULD have been called Frighty night. On Friday, the first evening of the Halloween weekend, east Columbia kids of all ages warmed up for Sunday.
In the village center of Kings Contrivance, a line of brave souls wanting a good scare stretched halfway from a haunted tent to the parking lot. Inside the tent, Hammond High School students in ghoulish costumes did their best to accommodate the crowd.
It was hard to tell who was having more fun -- the screaming teen-age zombies or their startled guests.
The Haunted House, supplied by the merchants' association, was a fund-raiser for the Hammond music department.
"The kids really enjoy working with the show," said Scott Sines, 16, Hammond's band president, as an actor portraying a blood-splattered Mad Dr. Igor raced out of the tent in pursuit of his victim, brandishing an oversized plastic sickle.
Faculty band director Christopher Winters burst out laughing at his students' antics.
At the tent's exit, sophomore Gwyn Mitchell, 15, dressed in medieval garb, handed out candy to the survivors, while other cast members took a break nearby.
Abbey Keller, 16, was the lone vampire among zombies Eileen Schaub, 15, and Alice Burnett, 14. They stood and chatted as mayhem went on around them.
The young customers judged the show to be a great success.
"It was really scary," said Scott Karas, 6, with a smile. "There was flashing lights and a guy jumped out and scared me."
Scott was dressed from helmet to cleats in an authentic, kid-sized Pittsburgh Steelers uniform, with shoulder pads and black greasepaint under his eyes. He was carrying one of the sacks of candy that village merchants gave to trick-or-treaters.
"Tomorrow, we are going to hang out at home eating all the candy," Scott said.
"We are going to brush and floss a lot during this holiday season," added his father, dentist Keith Karas.
At nearby Amherst House, the village community center, Daisy the Clown put on a quieter show.
With her cheerful painted face, curly red wig and blue apron over a billowing polka-dot shirt and baggy pants, she stepped around in big clown feet performing magic tricks for rapt youngsters.
Also known as Kings Contrivance resident Kim Daley, Daisy performed three 30-minute shows. She has been entertaining at the Halloween event for six years.
"The kids' favorite trick is pulling the rabbit out of the sock drawer," Daley said as she got her props in order between shows. Daley, who has a master's degree in early childhood education, has been clowning around for 17 years.
"I did this as a way to stay at home with the kids, and it snowballed into a full-time job," she said. Her daughter Katie, 12, often works with her as "Yum Yum" the clown.
Three Oakland Mills parties kicked off the witchy weekend.
The second Halloween Spooktacular Dance at Thunder Hill Elementary School drew hundreds of costumed celebrants.
Disc jockey Josh Levine from Laurel-based Kinetic Sounds kept the masses moving with pop music and disco lights.
In the school halls, fairy queens and wizards rested between numbers.
"The parents look like they are dancing more than the kids," said parent Lori Dixon. "There must have been a hundred parents doing the electric slide."
Dixon and her husband, Byron, were with their children Emily, 8(dressed as a hippie in bell-bottoms and tie-dyed T-shirt), and Sara, 5 (in a "Jane" costume from the Disney movie "Tarzan").
The Langkammerer family won a small trophy for Most Creative Costume. Parents Bob and Audrey Langkammerer were dressed as a bee and a daisy, with daughter Sierra, 9, costumed as a green dragonfly. Six-year-old Kenzie was the picture of '50s cool in her pink poodle-skirt ensemble.
Rosalie and Martin White won for Funniest Costume. Rosalie came as a picnic -- her head poking through a checked tablecloth with pictures of food pasted onto it.
Martin came dressed as a soldier ant in black sweater, black cargo pants, shiny combat boots and deely boppers -- antennae made of metal springs -- sprouting from a visored black officer's cap.
Prizes were awarded for Most Artistic, Coolest, Cuddliest, Most Spectacular, Da Bomb and in other categories.
At The Other Barn in Oakland Mills Village Center, the Columbia Association held a party for middle-schoolers. A disc jockey kept the preteens hip-hopping at an earsplitting volume.
Electric jack-o'-lanterns strung along the walls lighted the cavernous space, usually reserved for basketball and other teen activities. Teen-center chaperons Brenda Demory and Asia Ali-Lunn watched the door, collected tickets and sold snacks.
Chyslaine Leone dropped off her son, Desslaines, 11, early in the evening. She had to go to work and said she was glad her son could celebrate the holiday in a safe place.
"I see a lot of my friends here," said Desslaines, who attends Oakland Mills Middle School. "I'm having fun. We are taking pictures."
Next door at The Barn, the Columbia chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG) was holding its first Halloween dance.
The national organization is dedicated to helping gays and lesbians and their families gain acceptance.
Parents Collette Roberts and party chairwoman Terri Craig organized the event after seeing the success of last June's prom for gay teens at the Sheraton Hotel.
Thumping music kept the dance floor filled. Wyatt Earp, the Phantom of the Opera, Cat Woman, the Emir of Kuwait, black-hatted witches and G. I. Janes were among those dancing under colorful spotlights in the thin smoke of a fog machine.
Jeanie Geist and Karen Gantz from Baltimore came dressed as Y2K bugs. They found their shaped-foam outfits at Artistic Costumes in Loch Raven Plaza.
"Its great that the parents put on a party for the kids so they can have a safe place to go," Jeanie said.
Tracy of Glen Burnie came dressed as a "Typical Tacky Tourist." He wore black-framed glasses, a straw hat and clashing plaid jacket and pants, with a camera strapped across his chest.
"I actually scoured the finest thrift shops in Glen Burnie for this outfit," he said.
Lillian Marsh of Baltimore dressed as The Ace of Spades. "Most of the time, we live our lives behind masks," she said. "It's great to be able to have a night when we can choose our masks."