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Make no bones about it — skeletons are in this Halloween

Are skulls and bones and wayward hands the new darlings of the Halloween decorating arsenal?

The stores are crawling with them, from Target — where two skeletal hands serve as delicate salad servers — to online retailer Grandin Road, where a 5-foot plastic skeleton can be the unexpected guest at a dark-hearted dinner party. (He’s hand-painted and has hinged construction at all joints, so he’s a quality skeleton. Seat him anywhere and serve him well.)

If you are making last-minute preparations for the ghoulish holiday, here are some suggestions for what you can expect to find (if they haven’t been snapped up already) at retailers and online this year.

The iconic skeleton — in whole form and in pieces (skulls, spindly arms) — takes a starring role in Halloween decor this year, according to Kendra Stewart of Pottery Barn.

“Everything from skeleton-hand serving sets to spooky-scene napkins shows off the skeleton in all its spine-tingling glory,” she said via e-mail.

It’s a big year for the skeleton and an even bigger year for Halloween. Record spending of nearly $7 billion is predicted this year.

Perhaps it’s an indication of just how big Halloween has gotten in America that the skeleton servers by Pottery Barn sold out by the end of September — a sellout for the second year in a row (happily, Target has a well-priced set of bony servers that look an awful lot like the Pottery Barn item).

Despite a frightfully seesawing economy, consumers seem poised to pounce on Halloween. In a report titled “Business is BOOming this Halloween,” the National Retail Federation predicts record spending and celebrating this year:

•  Total spending on Halloween is predicted to reach nearly $6.9 billion, up from $5.8 billion last year.



•  More than 68 percent of Americans plan to celebrate Halloween — the highest number in the 10-year history of the National Retail Federation survey.



•  The average American will spend $72.31 on decorations, costumes and candy, up from $66.28 last year.



Beyond racks of bones, other chilling trends this year:

•  Mice and other critters: You’ll find them in sacks and in sets, dangling from webbed hide-outs and more. Spiders of all stripes also are crawling out of the woodwork. Martha Stewart has gotten into the ghoulish act for Grandin Road with a gauzy, spider-specked spider-web shawl ($39) and a slew of other perfectly creepy items.

•  Pieces of people: Hands are big this year — skeletal, mummy or the fully-fleshed human variety. But there’s also the head group — the “head waiter” from Martha Stewart for Grandin Road (a gauze-wrapped noggin that can be placed on a table for $19).

•  Life-size characters: The living dead, a life-size animated ghost ($199, Martha Stewart for Grandin Road) and more.

•  Crazy cats: Big ones, glowing ones, moving ones. The Halloween cat gets nine lives and then some this year. Hammacher Schlemmer has a two-story (yes, two-story) inflatable black cat with illuminated eyes that’s tall enough to allow trick-or-treaters to walk underneath ($349.95). A sound-activated cat from the Improvements catalog ($19.99) features flashing red eyes, realistic fur and vocal talents — hissing, howling, screeching.

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