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Scary good jack-o'-lanterns

Scary good jack-o'-lanterns

Among our many fall rituals, carving pumpkins and putting our masterpieces on display ranks as one of the favorites. This year consider kicking up the scary effects a notch with misty fog emitting from your jack o’ lantern. There are three ways to achieve the effect, which brings to mind mist hovering over marshy fens, inspiring the legend of Will-o'-the-wisp.

Dry Ice and Water

Solid carbon dioxide frozen to -109 degrees, known as dry ice, will create a scary fog that wafts out of your pumpkin creation. Simply put a chunk of dry ice in a glass or can of water inside the pumpkin and let chemistry work its magic.

For the most effective display, make the jack o’ lantern’s mouth small and use a tall glass or can that reaches near to or even above the jack o’ lantern’s eyes. Carbon dioxide fog sinks, so the tendency will be for more fog to flow out of the mouth of your jack-o-lantern than through its eyes. The closer the container is to the “ceiling” inside the pumpkin, the more likely the fog will flow out through the entire carving.

When it’s time for the spooky fog display, set your chosen container full of water inside the jack-o-lantern. Wear heavy protective gloves (dry ice will burn your skin) while you hammer off chunks from the towel-wrapped block. Using tongs, drop a piece of dry ice into the water. Replace the pumpkin’s lid, making sure the fit is snug so the fog escapes through the facial features and there aren’t air currents from above. As the carbon dioxide disperses, shrinking the piece of dry ice, add more to continue the display.

Dry ice is available at most grocery stores, including Walmart (call the store before going to be sure they have it, and if they don’t, ask where else you might look).

Because dry ice sublimates (the process where a solid turns into a gas), purchase it the day you plan to use it. By the next day, your block of dry ice will have vaporized into the air.

To pick up the dry ice, bring a hard-sided cooler and a towel to wrap the ice (do not store in metal or glass containers). You’ll also need heavy work gloves if you will be handling the block. Go to the customer service counter with your request.

Plan to go straight home after picking up the dry ice. Once out of the deep freezer, sublimation begins immediately, and the cooler will not contain all the released carbon dioxide. For all but the shortest drives, also keep your car windows open for good ventilation, and when home, place the cooler in a well-ventilated space.


Glycerine, also spelled as glycerin and known as glycerol, is an odorless and colorless liquid typically made from vegetable or animal fat. When it boils, it makes vapor. You can buy it at the grocery store or pharmacy.

Supplies you’ll need for your glycerine fogging jack o’ lantern is wire you can shape and cut to make a stand, needle nose plyers, wire cutters, an aluminum bowl, such as a single serving disposable pot pie dish, four votive candles or a Sterno can and the glycerine.

First make a stand with the metal wire. It will be a tripod with the legs attached to a wire ring you’ll make that will fit around the aluminum dish.

Begin by wrapping a length of wire around the aluminum dish to make a circle where the dish will nest. Tie the wire around itself to form the circle, and allow an extra length of wire before cutting to create the first leg of your tripod. Cut two more wire lengths for the second and third leg, making them about the same length as the first. Attach the two other legs to the circle at equal distances by twisting the end around the wire circle. When the stand is completed, press the three legs into the bottom of the pumpkin, making sure the structure is stable.

Place four tea light candles or a Sterno can underneath the wire stand. When you’re ready to get the pumpkin “smoking,” light the fuel, pour glycerin into the aluminum dish and carefully set it into the stand’s circle. As soon as the glycerine has heated enough to boil, steam will start emitting from the pumpkin’s carved face.

After Halloween use the leftover glycerin as a moisturizer to treat dry, rough, scaly, itchy skin and minor skin irritations. It also has antimicrobial and antiviral properties and is approved by the FDA to treat wounds. The Red Cross reports that wounds treated with an 85% solution of glycerin show reduced inflammation after roughly two hours.

Garden Pond Fogger

There are a number of inexpensive garden pond foggers on the market, some with colored lights, as well as the fog-making capabilities. Once equipped with this gear, you can bring out the fogger for your annual spooky jack o’ lantern display.

You’ll need a large pumpkin to allow for a reservoir of water in the bottom of the hollowed-out shell. Carve the pumpkin, making sure the mouth is well above the space you need for the reservoir, and cut a notch in the lid on the back side for the electric cord to pass through. Add water. Insert the fogger, which will float just below the water surface. Plug it in, and enjoy the constantly changing emissions of spooky fog.

If you prefer to use a small pumpkin, you can float the fogger in a water-filled bucket or bowl. Choose a bowl size that allows you to nest the pumpkin into the bowl’s rim.

Cut a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin for the fog to travel up into the hollowed shell and set it on top of the reservoir. Hide the container with artistically draped fabric.

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