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Happy Haunting : Halloween Events Help Provide Safe Atmosphere for Young Spooks


Tiny Power Rangers, wicked witches and ghoulish monsters were among the 7,500 people who flocked to the fifth annual Halloween carnival Sunday at the Santa Clarita Sheriff's Station, one of dozens of organized events hosted by local cities and community organizations to celebrate the spooky holiday.

Although organized carnivals, haunted houses and trick-or-treating at shopping malls have become a popular--and some say safer--way to celebrate Halloween, others still believe there is no substitute for scouring a neighborhood for treats on Halloween night.

"This is a smaller town and we like to go to the community events," said Kim Doherty of Canyon Country, as her 3-year-old daughter, Rachel, dressed in a Minnie Mouse costume, tugged on her leg. "But we will still go trick-or-treating in our own neighborhood every year."

Doherty's three children were dressed in their Halloween costumes, including a Tweety Bird and a skeleton, to get into the swing of the holiday at the Sheriff's Department's carnival, which featured a haunted jailhouse, a "Dunk-a-Deputy" game, and a visit from the popular cartoon super heroes, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

At Shadow Ranch Recreation Center in West Hills, hundreds of visitors rode rides, ate hot dogs and enjoyed a relaxed day at the park's Halloween carnival.

Tal Evenhain and her 4-month-old son, Cotan, who sat on the grass as the wind blew leaves from the many trees around them, said she would rather take her two sons to one of the local malls on Halloween night where there is enough light to see the children and candy is given out by department stores and specialty shops.

"It's safer there," Evenhain said. "We live in Woodland Hills and I think it is still too dangerous to go out on the streets. At the mall, I can watch over them better."

At the Santa Clarita fair, the line snaked several yards for a chance to dunk Deputy John Bomben, already soaked to the bone in his uniform shirt Sunday afternoon. "Don't step over that line," he jeered at his potential dunkers. "Try closing your eyes--it works better."

Before he could say anything more, a little boy stepped up, gave the ball a fierce throw and hit the target bull's-eye, dunking the deputy and bringing a roar of laughter from the crowd.

Lines also formed outside the haunted jailhouse. About a dozen inmates were transferred to cells at the local courthouse so the jail could be converted into a haunted house, which, a deputy said, was "rated 'S' for scary."

Inside, a screaming teen-ager with a bowl of red-dyed spaghetti for a stomach was being "dismembered" by two crazy scientists. But the grisly scene was not scary enough for Dominick De La Cruz, 8.

More to his taste was the cardboard box that held a mush of grapes and jelly, which to the touch feel like eyeballs popped out of their sockets.

"That was really scary," Dominick said, clutching his mother's hand as he left the jail.

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