The best tech for a creepy socially-distanced Halloween

Officials across the U.S. are already releasing guidelines for trick-or-treating. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to avoid high-risk activities like indoor costume parties and trunk-or-treat events. But they also have some recommendations for “lower-risk” activities. Watching a scary movie with people who live in your home, outdoor socially-distanced pumpkin carving and decorating your living space are all safe alternatives to traditional Halloween activities.

The National Retail Federation’s annual Halloween survey found that while only 22% of Americans plan to throw or attend a party this year, 75% plan to buy decorations. Those who sell products to creepify homes are offering plenty of new options for 2020.

And while the average person in the NRF study said they expected to spend around $90 for Halloween this year, many consumers are paying out a lot more than that already.

The 12-foot Giant-Sized Skeleton with LifeEyes from Home Depot costs $299 and is sold out everywhere. It works on batteries and has realistic eyes that appear to blink and move. Not only is it impossible to find, but the question section on the product page is filled with hopeful consumers begging Home Depot to let them know when more become available.

The majority of bestselling items on Home Depot’s website are either giant inflatables like the 10.5 foot Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas for $149 or animatronics like a creepy Jack-in-the-Box with glowing red eyes and stands 6 feet tall.

Using a projector can really kick your home’s scare factor up a notch. I’m not talking about projecting ghost blobs onto your house’s facade. These are projection effects that give Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion a run for its money. To get this professional quality, you’ll want to download MP4 files in at least 1080p HD quality. AtmosFX has videos to fill every Halloween desire from innocuous joke-telling jack-o’-lanterns to seriously scary ghostly apparitions. But the real fun starts when you get creative by projecting the images on forms that make them come to life. Imagine those jack-o’-lanterns projected onto uncarved pumpkins, or a ghoul onto a human-shaped form. Another mind-blowing effect comes by using what the company calls Hollusion Projection Material. You can hang it in a doorway, out on your lawn or even on your roof. When you project the videos onto it, the images appear to be floating like holograms.

If you don’t have a projector, Jabberin’ Jack is a simpler option. This talking pumpkin has a projector and built-in speaker. It has 70 minutes of songs and jokes and shuts down after two hours.

A fog machine creates an eerie vibe, but you can also use them to make any space smell scary as well. Froggy’s Fog sells scent additives for fog machines and some of them sound disgusting. But what better way to bring a spooky space to life than to have the aroma of “charred corpse,” “swampy marsh” or “mildew” wafting through the air?

If you don’t have a fog machine, never fear. They also sell scent boxes that will cover 250 square feet in odors such as “chainsaw,” “dirt” or “raw sewage” for $29.99. And for just a spritz of “rotting decay” or “slaughter house,” you can grab a 1-ounce scent spray bottle.

Finally with only 23% of Americans planning to take their children trick-or-treating this year, according to the NRF survey, how are all these kiddos going to collect their candy stashes?

Candy company Mars Wrigley has come to the rescue with a way for kids to digitally trick or treat, but still end up with candy in real life. Treat Town is an app in which grown ups can sign in, decorate a digital door and purchase candy credits (they start at 30 pieces of candy for $5).

Screenshot, Treat Town app

Kids need mom or dad to create an account for them to make monster avatars that can “knock” on the digital doors. Each candy giver decides when their door is open for knockers and whether they want it visible to everyone or just those on a friends and family list. Kids can trick or treat all month long but can only knock each door once in a 12-hour period. Parents can help kids redeem their digital candy for the real thing through the app. You can have the candy shipped right to you or get a mobile reward to buy the candy from a participating retailer. This app is a great idea and a lot of fun, but be aware you are required to give a street address and the app places your door on a virtual map. I was surprised to already see a lot of doors on the map near me.

Even if you decide to stay in on Oct. 31, plan on spooky decorations, eerie odors and online trick-or-treating to keep the ghostly spirit of Halloween alive as you socially distance.

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