Tom Nardone wants to bring scary back. The author of "Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-it-Yourself Designs to Amuse Your Friends and Scare Your Neighbors" (Home Books, $13.95) believes that Halloween and one of its best-known symbols, the jack-o'-lantern, have become too wimpy.
The pumpkins in Nardone's book (and on his Web site) aren't your typical gap-toothed, triangle-eyed specimens these pumpkins are covered in (fake) blood, drowning in plastic bags, eating other pumpkins and being electrocuted.
"Kids like to be scared," he says. "Once I dressed up in a trash barrel as a Transformer my wife was giving out candy and I jumped out at a group of 5-year-olds and said 'Boo!' One kid looked at me and said 'You're not scary you're a trash can.' I have never been so insulted in my life."
Despite that failure to fright, the Halloween scenes on Nardone's lawn in suburban Detroit typically draw many onlookers and, in the case of a "mooning" pumpkin he installed on a former neighbor's yard, stop traffic. He constructs his displays with an array of power tools like jig saws and routers; his Web site started as a how-to guide.
Nardone's favorite extreme pumpkin? A creation he calls the "territorial one" it's a pumpkin snowman, dripping with pulp and seeds, holding the head of another pumpkin aloft in triumph.
New this year, he says, will be a flame cannon built especially for use with pumpkins: "It shoots flames 15 feet into the air." He's also busy thinking up new and different ways to smash pumpkins and thinking about a pumpkin accelerator.
"There's a long tradition of carving jack-o'-lanterns it was something fun that was done by kids and their parents and it was supposed to be spooky," Nardone says. "It was the one time you got to use a knife AND fire and it's been co-opted into something cutesy."I want to tell the moms and dads out there to take another look at Halloween and to go back and make this a really exciting tradition again."
On the Web: www.extremepumpkins.com