Let’s make Halloween gross again

Helpful pointers.
Helpful pointers.
Image: Annaliese Griffin
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Not to shame sexy Halloween or side-eye scary Halloween, but this year we’re kind of nostalgic for a good old-fashioned gross-out Halloween.

Before there was social media, and the pressure to produce a creative costume with makeup artist–calibre finishing touches for ourselves and our children (not to mention the fresh hell of elaborate family theme costumes), there was a simpler, clumsier, messier Halloween. We smeared red and black greasepaint on our noses and cheeks in efforts to look like a vampire or Raggedy Ann, and then got it all over our pillowcases. We stapled yard upon yard of construction paper together to form an epic peacock tail that would slowly disintegrate over the course of the evening. We went to haunted houses where we collected plastic spider rings and plunged our fingers into bowls of peeled grape eyeballs and spaghetti brains. It was homemade, not handcrafted, and there were fewer oohs and ahhs, but a lot more ewwwwws.

Here are three Halloween party classics in that tradition. They’re not super polished, and they don’t really scream Pinterest, but they do elicit one important response: Gross.

Witches’ fingers

There are a million variations on these extremely ugly, and yet very delicious, cookies, pictured at top. The basic recipe here is a good starting place—it’s essentially a sugar cookie, so you can add a couple drops of almond extract, green food coloring, or the zest of a lemon to suit your whims. There are also recipes for vegan fingers. And a paleo version, too. The one thing they must have is knuckle lines to give them a realistically bony look. Sliced almonds (not whole ones) really make the nails perfectly, grossly ragged.

Bloody eyeballs

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Here is a sophisticated garnish for the grown-up drinks at your party: Martha Stewart–inspired red-veined radish eyeballs that will watch you drain your beverage. To make your own—whether for a martini, bloody mary, or virgin libation—please do the following: Use a peeler or paring knife to peel most of the skin off a trimmed red radish, leaving some lines behind to make your radish eyeball veiny. Cut a pitted olive (ideally pimento-stuffed, but any will do) in half. Whittle out a little hole in your radish’s surface to stuff the olive in, with the cut side out. Secure them through the pupils with toothpicks, or bamboo skewers, to which you can add some cornichons or plain olives, and plop them into your drink. Bottoms up!

Spiderweb deviled eggs

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If you have a favorite deviled egg recipe (again, Martha Stewart’s is a winner—just make sure to use real mayo instead of light) and some food coloring, you can make them into devilish eggs with very little extra effort. Once you’ve boiled the eggs following your recipe, chill them in a cold water bath. Now, crack—but don’t peel—the shells. Tapping them against the counter in a few different spots makes an excellent spiderweb pattern. Put your cracked eggs in a bowl, cover with cold water and then add food coloring—green or blue is particularly striking. Put them in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. Now peel and make your eggs as you would normally, adding additional food coloring to the filling, or not. A sprinkle of chopped pepperoncinis or jalapeños on top really intensifies the swampy vibe.