- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

Here is a pop quiz, Frankenstein. Which of the following does not scream Halloween? Bats, witches, ghosts, pumpkins or ice cream. The last possibility seems the most obvious, but not according to one of the larger makers of the frozen treat.

Ben & Jerry's has put together a spooky site with plenty of fun activities to celebrate not only their products, but also my favorite horror holiday.

Ben & Jerry's Halloween

www.benandjerrys.com

Creator:

Ben & Jerry's Homemade in South Burlington, Vt., began in 1978 as a little ice cream shop in a converted gas station.

Creator quotable:

"Our first Web master was a kid at heart who loved Halloween," says Web manager Mark Peal. "He started with our Flavor Graveyard of discontinued flavors, and the word-of-mouth publicity was amazing. The graveyard has become so popular on the Web that we've built a real one on the grounds of our factory tour.

"Halloween is our busiest time of year, and we're always looking for more ways to have fun with it. We especially like to offer things that parents and teachers can do inexpensively with their kids."

Word from the Webwise:

I spent hours trying to find a cool Halloween site and never thought I would stumble upon one created by the makers of Cherry Garcia ice cream.

Visitors should click on the pumpkin patch found on Ben & Jerry's front page for a neat Halloween effect (I won't ruin the surprise). Then click on the "Happy Halloween" icon, which leads to the festivities, broken down into sections: "Halloween History," "Halloween Crafts," "Flavor Graveyard," "Coloring Book," "Online Games," "Print 'N Play Games" and "Desktop Decorations."

Visitors will love the side menu, which features floating apparitions with a menacing jack-o'-lantern flashing above the choices, all highlighted with Halloween's traditional orange and black hues.

Most sections are self-explanatory, such as "Coloring Book," which gives children 11 images to print and enhance, or "Desktop Decorations," which offers three computer wallpaper options.

Before going to any section, however, I suggest diving into the virtual Haunted House located along the right side of the page. This Shockwave-fueled, interactive presentation begins with a graveyard and ghost beckoning one to enter. Those brave enough to pass their cursors over some cemetery markers are greeted with more rising spirits, a noisy thunderstorm and a cow in a ghost costume.

Click on the "gate" to enter and choose between the Flavor Mausoleum (hosting more animations highlighting retired ice cream flavors) or the intense Haunted House.

The journey to the spooky environment begins with a parade of costumed children walking in front of the house to promote the Trick or Treat for UNICEF campaign (with a link to the appropriate site).

After that introduction, most parts of the mansion become interactive. For example, click on a window, and it breaks; rattle some shutters to see a skeleton; or knock on the door twice to enter a very dark room. Turn on the light to find some silly games harbored behind doors and paintings.

Besides coloring a headless monster online and having the Divine Bovine answer a question on my fate, I really enjoyed the drumming skeleton hidden behind the door on the left side of the room. This pile of bones pounds out some rhythmic tunes as visitors point to various drums and cymbals.

Students looking to learn something should chill in the "Halloween History" section for tidbits touching on Mexico's Day of the Dead, Italy's Festival of the Dead and the origins of Halloween.

Ease of use:

The site makes extensive use of the Shockwave Flash plug-in, and a brisk Internet connection with latest browser will make one's experience even more frightening. For next year, I would suggest that the development team present some suggestions for costumes and maybe some recipes incorporating ice cream into the Allhallows Eve festivities.

Don't miss:

Why massacre a pumpkin when you can visit an online patch to decorate a ghoulish gourd? Found under the "Online Games" section, the "Virtual Jack-o'-Lantern" simulation allows visitors to pick a pumpkin and by clicking and dropping items on it, give it some interesting features. In about two minutes, I had a pirate pumpkin complete with eye patch, scar and bloodshot eyeball.

Family activity:

"Halloween Crafts" gives the entire clan an opportunity to create some groovy ghoulies using household items. After printing out templates for a skeleton, witch or haunted mansion, family members can use some scissors, cardboard, crayons, markers, paper fasteners and a hole punch to produce some simple decorations.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

Although the purpose of the site can be to coax America into buying Ben & Jerry's ice cream, children will find the Halloween area engaging enough to want to put on a costume and trick or treat rather than run to the store for a pint of Concession Obsession.

Overall grade: A+

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

@$:Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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