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Frighteningly fun ways to give yourself the creeps this month

Not feeling a chill in the air yet? There's plenty you can do to create your own. Brave a corn maze or haunted house. Curl up at night with a spooky book and only a reading light. Or pop a thriller into the DVD player and watch with only the glow of the television to illuminate your darkened room. For fun without the fright, take in a festival or pumpkin patch. Here are some suggested things to do, watch, read or listen to this Halloween season. Pleasant Screams!

To Do:

Dell'Osso Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch -- The Lathrop attraction is open daily through Oct. 31. More than 60 aces of activities include a 25-acre labyrinthine corn maze, a haunted house, pumpkin blasters, a race-car speedway, train and hay rides, a petting zoo and more. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Dell'Osso Farms is at 26 W. Stewart Road. For prices and other information, visit www.pumpkinmaze.com or call 982-0833.

Fantozzi Farms Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch -- Located in Patterson, Fantozzi offers two corn mazes that cover approximately 12 acres and include more than 4 miles of paths. There also are a hay bale maze, hay bale pyramids,

bazooka fun guns, a picnic area, corn-seed play box, hayrides and more. The attraction is open through Oct. 31; hours are

10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. Fantozzi is at 2550 Sperry Ave. $11-$5. For prices and other information, visit www.fantozzifarms.com or call 892-2015.

ShockerFest International Film Festival -- The annual event, now in its seventh year, wraps up today with sci-fi, horror and fantasy film screenings, plus appearances by "Road Warrior" and "Commando" villain Vernon Wells and '80s scream queen Brinke Stevens. The festival began Friday, and 65 films were selected for screening, including more than a dozen feature-length projects. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The festival is at Galaxy Theatres, 2525 Patterson Road, Riverbank. Admission is $20. To learn more, call 537-5221 or visit www.shockerfest.com.

Symphonic Spooktacular -- The Modesto Symphony Orchestra brings the Headless Horseman to life in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." The annual family-friendly event Oct. 26 includes pumpkin painting, costume contests, kids games and the musical program. Activities begin at 1:30 p.m., with the concert at 3. Tickets are $18. The Spooktacular is in the Rogers Theater of the Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto. To learn more, call 338-2100 or visit www.galloarts.org.

Halloween Spooktacular -- The city of Modesto's Maddux Youth Center offers this fun and safe trick-or-treat alternative for hundreds of kids, ages 12 and under, on Oct. 31. It will include carnival games, a cakewalk, refreshments and more. The event is from 4 to 6 p.m. at the youth center, 615 Sierra Drive, adjacent to César E. Chávez Park. For more information, call 341-2950.

Manteca Pumpkin Fair -- The 24th annual fair began Saturday and concludes today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Activities include pumpkin rolls, pumpkin throws, a kids zone, a car show and several contests. Among the entertainment on three stages is a barbershop quartet, gymnastics troupe, dancers and singers, including Brieanne Jansen of Lathrop, who played Frances Stone in the movie "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl." There also are about 200 vendor booths. Admission to the fair, which is near Library Park off Yosemite Avenue, is free. For more information, visit www.sunrisekiwanis.org/pumpkinfair.html or call 800-592-7419.

Halloween Carnival -- This trick-or-treat alternative for children ages 3 to 13 will be held Oct. 24 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the YMCA of Stanislaus County, 2700 McHenry Ave., Modesto. Kids will participate in party games and activities, go swimming, eat pizza and more. Cost is $10 for YMCA facility members, $20 for program members and $30 for nonmembers. Attendees must register by Oct. 17. For more information, call 578-9622 or visit www.ymcastan.org.

Nightmare on Main Street -- Playhouse Merced is opening its first official haunted house Friday night. "We've utilized all of our building, makeup and lighting capabilities to make this the most chilling, thrilling experience you can get in downtown Merced!" the theater company said in a news release, adding, "It may be too scary for younger viewers. No one under 12 will be admitted without an adult, and children under 5 will not be allowed. For those too young to tour the gore, we've got scary movies playing in the lobby area, as well as a fortuneteller and other fun and festive activities." Hours are Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 7 to 11, then each night during the week before Halloween. Tickets are $5 for children 12 and under, $8 for adults, seniors and students. Proceeds will go to Playhouse Merced's Young Artist's Conservatory. The haunted house is at 450 W. Main St. For more information, call 725-8587.

To Read:

Books for a little light reading, night reading or nightmare reading:

"The List of Seven," by Mark Frost -- "Twin Peaks" co-creator Frost's 1993 debut novel follows Arthur Conan Doyle -- "struggling physician, aspiring writer and part-time demystifier of the occult" -- as he's thrown into an adventure with a special agent to Queen Victoria. As the two battle a coven of Satanists, Conan Doyle finds the inspirations for his stories of Sherlock Holmes. Horror writer Clive Barker called the novel "a seductive weaving of homage and originality."

No time for a novel? Grab any of Stephen King's compilations of short stories or novellas. They include (with a better-known story from each in parentheses): "Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales" ("1408"), "Nightmares & Dreamscapes" ("The Night Flier"), "Skeleton Crew" ("The Mist"), "Night Shift" ("Children of the Corn") and "Four Past Midnight" ("The Langoliers").

"The Widow's Broom," by Chris Van Allsburg -- A witch's enchanted broom comes to be owned by an old widow and proves itself very helpful around the house. But when neighbors learn of the broom, they label it dangerous and wicked. This fine tale is written by Van Allsburg ("The Polar Express," "Jumanji") and beautifully illustrated in his distinctive style.

"The Witches," by Roald Dahl -- An orphaned boy being raised by his grandmother -- an expert on all witchy matters -- stumbles upon a convention of witches. He is discovered, and turned into a mouse, but he and his granny still manage to take on the Grand High Witch of the World and her coven.

"The Book of Lists: Horror" -- Ever wondered what the late rocker Johnny Ramone's top 10 favorite horror movies were? How about "10 Favorite Horror Movie Bloopers," or the 56 best-selling horror books since 1900? Then this book is for you. Chapters include "Fear on the Silver Screen," "The Literature of Dread" and "A Little Nightmare Music."

To Watch:

Two current movie releases and a handful of DVDs for those who thrill at chills:

"Quarantine" -- In this horror movie opening Friday, a news crew's video holds the key to the truth about a mysterious infection that strikes an apartment building. Jennifer Carpenter of the Showtime series "Dexter" stars. Rated R.

"Igor" -- In this animated, Halloween-timed comedy for the kiddies, a mad scientist's assistant (voiced by John Cusack) dreams of winning an evil science fair. Rated PG.

Have a Tim Burton (and in most cases, Johnny Depp) videofest with the scary "Sleepy Hollow" (R); the scary, gory musical "Sweeney Todd" (R); the stop-motion animated, fairly family-friendly "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "The Corpse Bride" (both PG); and the hilarious, only slightly spooky "Beetlejuice" (PG).

"Fright Night" -- Long before he was the speaking voice of Jack Skellington in "The Nightmare Before Christmas," Chris Sarandon was the handsome and deadly vampire of this 1985 horror comedy. The vampire hunters include Roddy McDowall as the TV horror-movie host whose show gives "Fright Night" its name. (R)

"Return of the Living Dead" -- '85 was a good year for horror comedy, having produced this gem, too. A chemical spill reanimates the dead, who crave human brains. Having devoured an emergency-response team, one zombie gets on the ambulance radio and utters the classic line, "Send ... more ... paramedics."

"An American Werewolf in London" -- Another '80s great (this time 1981). They were warned to stay off the moors, but noooooo. A werewolf attack leaves one American backpacker (Griffin Dunne) dead -- well, really, "walking the earth in limbo until the werewolf's curse is lifted" -- and his buddy (David Naughton) a werewolf himself. And that "curse is lifted" bit means the American werewolf must die, too. Sounds pretty gloomy, but the banter between the buddies is a riot. Written and directed by John Landis ("The Blues Brothers") (R)

"R.L. Stine's Mostly Ghostly" -- This new DVD from the creator of "Goosebumps" comes out Tuesday. It's about a boy who sees ghosts in his house. The cast includes some kids named Lohan and Cyrus -- just not the really famous ones.

"The Monster Squad" -- Dracula is out to conquer the world, and he commands Frankenstein's monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy and the Gillman to help him. The cast of this 1987 thriller for the younger set is largely unknowns, but the screenplay was co-written by Shane Black, who also penned a little movie called "Lethal Weapon" that year. (PG-13)

To Listen:

Music that ranges from silly to spooky to downright sinister:

"Spectres," Blue Oyster Cult -- True, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" is on "Agents of Fortune," but BOC's 1977 follow-up album includes the monster hit "Godzilla" ("Oh, no, there goes Tokyo!"), as well as two songs of the undead, "Nosferatu" and "I Love the Night."

"Welcome to My Nightmare," Alice Cooper -- The title track, "Devil's Food," "The Black Widow" (with fun narration from Vincent Price) and "Cold Ethyl" are classic, creepy Cooper, but it's the song "Steven" that brings chills ("I must be dreaming/Please stop screaming").

"Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" soundtrack -- In addition to the original cast recording led by Burton's frequent collaborator, composer Danny Elfman, singing the part of Jack Skellington, the latest reissue of the soundtrack includes a bonus disc of rock artists covering key tracks. Check out Marilyn Manson's take on "This is Halloween." Manson's version also appears on the new "Nightmare Revisited" -- more rocker's interpretations of the movie tunes, including Amy Lee of Evanescence singing "Sally's Song."

"Excitable Boy," Warren Zevon -- "Werewolves of London" is the obvious Halloween choice, but the L.A. singer/songwriter's wicked sense of humor also shines in "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner," a Headless Horseman-style revenge tale of betrayal among mercenaries ("Roland aimed his Thompson gun, he didn't say a word"), and the title track, a cheerful ditty in which Linda Ronstadt and others provide "ooh wah-ooh" backing vocals to lyrics like "He dug up her grave and built a cage with her bones/Excitable boy, they all said."

"Murder Ballads," Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds -- Horror fans may already know Cave's "Red Right Hand," which was on the soundtracks of the first two "Scream" movies, as well as "Songs In The Key Of X: Music From And Inspired By The X-Files." But "Murder Ballads" takes us into an even darker Cave, as he sings of killing sprees, crimes of passion and random murders. Not for the faint of heart -- and definitely not for kids.

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