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Clever disguises

It's the time of year when many would-be ghouls and goblins scramble for that perfect costume for their annual haunt. "The best advice I can give anyone looking for a costume is to shop early for best selection," said Stacey Hunter of AAA Discount Party Supply, at 233 W Brandon Blvd.

Traditional scary Halloween costumes, such as Frankenstein, witches, mummies and ghosts, remain popular. But movie and television characters popular in the past year also top the list of favorite disguises, she said.

The fashionable trick-or-treater is wearing costumes from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dick Tracy, The Simpsons, Star Trek and The Little Mermaid this year, she said.

For $39.95, kids can wear green Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle jumpsuit costumes, complete with matching headband eye mask and turtle shell, for example.

"But the cost of a costume greatly depends on how much detail a person wants to put into it," said Robby Stewart, also of AAA Discount. "The more detail they want, the higher the price will be. But, we can usually suit a person up in a basic costume for around $20 to $40."

Adding accessories to the costume, such as a wig, a mask or a plastic sword, can add to the final cost of the costume, Stewart said. A wig can cost from $10 to $20, and the price of Halloween masks can run from near $10 for a basic mask to $39.95 for a more detailed one.

For people with strong stomachs, artificially amputated arms, legs and skulls made of molded plastic can spice the Halloween look.

Many of the same costumes are available for ambitious adults to make for $25 to $30. Fabric stores offer a variety of patterns,

For people with strong stomachs, artificially amputated arms, legs and skulls made of molded plastic can spice the Halloween look.

fabric and accessories for everything from ballerina costumes to devils. Patterns are available in adult and children's sizes.

"It has been a real variety this year," said Paula Fergusen, manager of Cloth World in Brandon. "They are wearing all kinds of costumes this year."

But whether the costume is homemade or purchased, parents should make sure children's costumes can be seen in the neighborhood where they plan to trick-or-treat, said Joe Hinson, executive director of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the National Safety Council.

Hinson said it is a good idea for parents to place reflective tape on the front and back of the child's costume, especially if the costume is not easily visible to passing motorists.

He also warns that parents should check every piece of candy children bring home to make sure there are no signs of tampering.

"They should make sure there are no holes, puncture marks or torn wrappers," he said. If a parent is not sure about a piece of candy, it should be thrown away.

It is best for children to visit friends or neighbors they know well. Another good alternative for parents to consider is to hold a party and invite other neighborhood children.

But Hinson said motorists should still be wary of children who will be trick-or-treating and drive slowly at night in residential areas.

"There are a lot of little ghosts and goblins out there, and we don't want to have any accidents this year," Hinson said.