Forget the ghouls, ghosts and things that go bump in the night.
This Halloween, after more than a year of Al Qaeda attacks, talk of war with Iraq and, most recently, the Washington-area sniper, scary and violent are out. Whimsy and fantasy are in for American trick-or-treaters.
Even last year's popular police and firefighter costumes are likely to be more scarce Thursday as cartoon and fantasy characters, musketeers and fairies seek candy on the front stoops of the nation.
Martha Stewart may even make, ahem, a stylishly late appearance.
An enterprising California man has a successful line of Martha Stewart items. Gary Mittin, who works in real estate in the San Fernando Valley, has Web sites cashing in on Stewart's notoriety. He said he was doing brisk business in his $9.99 line of T-shirts. There's an orange "Department of Corrections" with Martha on the chest, a "Surrender Martha" and a "Martha Stewart Living in Jail" written behind prison bars, a nod to Stewart's namesake magazine.
"We have not sold a lot of gory," said Valerie Murray, co-owner of United Masks & Party Manufacturers in Sebring, Fla. She said the hottest item is angel or fairy wings. "It's probably our No. 1 item. I've been shipping them all over the world."
Although Halloween has become the second-biggest shopping holiday behind Christmas, manufacturers and retailers are not expecting a bonanza this year.
A survey by the National Retail Federation forecast that U.S. sales of candy, costumes and decorations for Halloween will be flat compared with 2001 at about $6.9 billion.
Many retailers, such as Gap Inc.'s Old Navy, promote special lines of Halloween products seasonally.
"Our top sellers are frogs and firemen for baby, and the all-time favorite, the pumpkin," spokesman Jonathan Finn said.
George Garcia, manager of Chicago's huge Fantasy Costumes, said cheerleaders are big, this year, including themed zombie cheerleaders and patriot cheerleaders.