GRAND FORKS, N.D. (MCT) — Two years ago, Krystol Tofstad of Grand Forks, N.D., created a Halloween costume for her 8-year-old son, David, that was a real head-turner.

She crafted a ghoulish figure holding a “bloody,” plastic bin that appears to contain a body – that was David. No costume for the faint-hearted.

The “creeper” was her son’s idea, she said. “This was so cool. We had people taking pictures with him. They even asked who was really carrying him.”

To keep costs down, she scoured thrift stores where she bought an old overcoat, pants, a mask and a shirt. She spent about $20.

“I always try to be on the thrifty side,” she said.

“For us, it’s more about saving money and getting more bang for your buck. There’s a huge difference between what you can do versus what you can buy in the store.”

Bottom line, she said, “It shouldn’t be about the money. It should be about creativity.”

Tofstad stuffed the clothing with grocery bags and attached a pair of work gloves to the coat’s cuffs. She shaped chicken wire, which she had on hand, into a torso form and fastened it inside the coat with thread and pins. She used a metal hanger to attach the creeper’s head to the torso.

This black-shrouded figure was connected to David’s upper body with a backpack-type apparatus. He was “wearing” the creeper who appears to be holding him, as a dismembered body, in the bin.

A U-shaped hole in the bottom of the bin fit around David’s tummy, she said, and the figure leaned back slightly, as though holding weight.

“We just had people throw the candy into the (bin).”

All told, the costume took nearly three weeks to make, she said in an email to the Herald, “but the attention he got from it was worth it!”

In the fall, when they toss around ideas for Halloween costumes, “I never put something into their head. I ask the kids what they want to do.”

Nothing is off-limits, she said. “I’m up for whatever. They generally come up with age-appropriate ideas,” though they may be ghoulish and gory.

“We’re a scary family. We like horror flicks.”

Halloween is an opportunity to stimulate kids’ creativity, she said. Her daughter, Katy, 11, is “already in that element,” she loves stories and music.

In costume, David becomes “a character in a scenario,” she said. “It’s not superman; he’s a body carried in a box. It gave him a boost in imagination. It’s a different role for him to play.

“He decided how the creeper walked. He came up with that.”

When he was dressed as the “creeper,” people wanted to know if the other boy got tired of carrying him, he said.

As a busy mom, Tofstad only takes on a big project like this every other year, she said. This Halloween it’s Katy’s turn and, again, the magic of illusion – two “people” in one costume – takes center stage.

“Katy likes mermaids,” Tofstad said.

They decided to create a pirate who’s holding a treasure chest, filled with “jewels” and a mermaid (Katy) sitting on top. They’re calling it a “mirate,” pirate and mermaid combined.

Katy will be adorned with a greenish boa as seaweed dotted with seashells, fake eyelashes, long gloves and a full-body leotard for warmth.

She said the most fun part of her costume is “the wig,” a blue and green confection that covers her shoulders.

For those parents who think they can’t make a costume or don’t see themselves as creative, she suggests, “Just try it. Once you get into it, you’ll be surprised what you can do.”

A few years ago, for David’s werewolf costume, she bought inexpensive stuffed animals, ripped off the fur and glued it to the edges of a plaid shirt, tight jeans and shoes.

“I maybe spent $5 on the outfit,” she said.

She saves craft items and uses fabric and other materials she has on hand for her costumes.

“Take an old dress and rip it apart for the Zombie bride dress. It’s more about having fun with your kids.”

Get them involved too, she said.

Katy helped sew the mermaid’s tail, and decided what the pirate would wear, how big the treasure chest should be and what to use for “jewels.”

“It’s a lot of work,” she said, and can be “frustrating” when the costumes don’t turn out as planned, but she’s proud of the ones that have.

“One time, a mother came up to me and asked where I got the costume,” she said. “When I told her I had made it, she said, ‘You’re making us (other mothers) look bad.’”

Tofstad’s imagination is fueled by childhood experiences she recalls growing up in New Mexico, where her entire hometown, Raton, celebrated All Hallows’ Eve.

“Halloween was huge there,” she said. “You never, never bought costumes. The school shut down at noon, and we’d meet at the park for costume judging in different age categories.”

Prizes were awarded for best costume.

“The only way you were uncool is if you were wearing a store-bought costume.”

When Tofstad was about 10, she went as half woman and half man. Her female side wore half of an elaborate ball-gown and that half of her hair “was all done up like Mae West,” she said.

“That was the only year I won.”

The experience showed her “how much fun it is to transform into another creation. She wanted to give her kids that experience, she said. “I’m excited to give that to my daughter this year.”

This year, she’s thinking about decorating the front of her home to look like a cage and outfitting their lively Great Dane, Samson, with a lion’s mane, she said. “He’s still a puppy, so he gets a little wild and so excited when he sees kids.

“It may be just enough of an element of surprise to give people a start.”

Even her youngest, 20-month-old Myles, may have a role to play.

He would be a lion-tamer along with his dad, Lee Tofstad, if she can persuade him.

Going the extra mile for Halloween “is how I was raised,” she said. “It’s just me bringing my childhood to them.”

All the work to create the costumes “is worth it,” she said. “When they smile, and I know exactly how they’re feeling, I enjoy that.

“I’m hoping they carry it to their kids, as well.”