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Haunt your house for Halloween

Fake corpses, skeleton chandeliers, body parts and more

Martha Stewart’s reputation may have tarnished recently but she’s still the queen of Halloween, when it comes to decorations, that is. And despite financial woes, Martha continues to wow us.

This October's issue of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine is no exception. It’s filled with tips and advice from how to crave pumpkin-as-alligator sculptures out of garden-variety pumpkins to how to make spider egg sacs for an elaborate haunted porch. One thing this domestic diva learned early on is: the devil is in the details.

Serious Halloween home decorators may take the time to crave intricate jack-o-lanterns or hang faux spider sacs. Most celebrants, however, will seek out ready-made props. These days, all sorts of stores stock the shelves with special treats for Halloween, from national chains, such as walmart.com to small neighborhood pharmacies. This Halloween, walmart.com features two 8-foot inflatable Simpson sculptures, priced at $37.82 each. Bart delicately balances on a tower of jack-o-lanterns. Homer is decked out in a skeleton costume. Both come with lights for nighttime displays.

No matter what the décor, candles are a must for Halloween. Premium candle shop illuminations.com has already marked down its Halloween collection by 30 percent to 50 percent off. Check out those cute little pumpkin candles, marked down from $11.95 to $5.50, for a set of three.

Practical props can be found in the Halloween section (listed under seasonal favorites) at solutionscatalog.com. A 25-foot extension cord, designed for outdoor use, is not only water resistant but also has three outlets along its length. The sturdy green cord costs $29.50. (Buy three or more for $27.50 each.) The shop, known for its products that make life easier, also has some whimsical items this year. The animated spiderweb, complete with 150 bulbs, will haunt any doorway. The metal Web, priced at $49.50, holds a 12-inch spider which moves across its 31-inch span.

Snatch yourself a body
But hard-core Halloween enthusiasts will not simply decorate their house. They will haunt it. And the life-size corpse is the just the starting point for the goriest of homes. The master of corpse making in cyberspace is Jaime Di Stefano, computer-programmer-by-day and corpse-maker-by-night.

Di Stefano hand crafts each corpse from materials he will not reveal. It’s a trade secret, he says. Corpse shoppers, however, choose the hair color, skin color and degree of decay. Light decay means the corpses still have eyelids, in contrast to heavy decay where the eye sockets are rotted out, he explains. End results range from the white-haired “confused and the aged” to knock-’em-dead blondes like Oldie Hawn. View Di Stefano’s works at the corpse gallery at Corpses for Sale distefano.com.

Stefano stops taking orders around mid-September. Since corpses are expensive — male corpses cost $550; females sell for $600 — start saving now for next year. Females cost more because they come with wigs, eyelashes, nails and jewelry, says Di Stefano.

For the best bang for the buck, hop over to Rod Spain’s shop creativecorpses.com. Spain says he learned everything he knows about corpse making “by picking Stefano’s brain” — his words, not mine. “I guess you can say that he was my mentor,” he adds.

Spain, a.k.a. the undertaker at creativecorpses.com, also says his corpses appeal to a different market — the mass market. Corpses — made of liquid latex, chicken wire, wood and PVC piping — run from $50 for a head to $325 for a life-size corpse mounted on a wooden stand. Fake rats, spiders, reptiles and other “scenery” come with the stationary corpses. Each corpse takes about two weeks to make, says Spain, who also stops production at the end of September.

Dem bones

Forget political correctness. After all, it is Halloween. But do Halloween props have to be anatomical accurate for this ghoulish holiday? Not necessarily, but purists may prefer the anatomic accurate skeletal selection at halloweencool.com. The Lyndhurst, Ohio-based shop, run by husband and wife team Deborah and Carlton Jackson, stocks props that are accurate down to the bone. Products range from $3-key rings with miniature spines, skulls or skeletons attached to a 100-pound chandelier, priced at $1,995, made of an assortment of life-size skulls and femurs, and miniature skeletons.

All the life-size skeletal props — from ribcages to arms and legs, and full skeletons — are cast from real human bone. The results are simply bone chilling. The hard plastic resin, fitted with brass and steel hardware, are even suitable for the study of anatomy. “Budget” bones, a five-pound bag of bones for $29.95, are the best deal at halloweencool.com. And these bones, tell no tales — they cost less because they are a little discolored or distorted.

Body parts and more
Prefer body parts with some meat on their bones? One of the best places to shop for bloodied body parts is small cyber shop scaryfaces.com. Halloween haunters can pick up a sawed-off finger for as little as $4.95. A whole hand only costs $12.95. A set of 2.5 -foot internal organs runs $39.95. An added attraction is the rotating coffins at check out.

For almost anything else to haunt a house, head over to one-stop shop frightcatalog.com. The fluorescent purple and lime green Web site is home to about 1,000 products, from form tombstones and wooden coffins to scary music.

The number one home decoration this year at frightcatalog.com has been the rotting body torso known as Grimrot. “Grimrot touches a nerve with our customers,” says Mark Arvanigian, frightcatalog.com president. “It’s a ghoulish item that will be a conversation piece for years,” he adds. The latex-foam filled prop, sculpted by a Hollywood FX artist, is manufactured and distributed by Morbid Industries.

Teri Goldberg is MSNBC.com’s shopping writer. Write to her at personalshopper@msnbc.com