34 Halloween Pumpkin Carving Ideas

Carve a Patterned Pumpkin
Photo: Photo: Hector M. Sanchez

If you're on the hunt for Halloween pumpkin carving ideas for your front porch, windowsill, or neighborhood carving contest, then look no further. We've got the best pumpkin carving ideas for you and your family this Halloween. From easy pumpkin carving ideas, like polka-dot pumpkins, to no-carve pumpkin ideas, like simple pumpkin stacks or a miniature pumpkin wreath, we've got beginner and kid-friendly carvings that will last throughout the fall. We've also got simple how-to instructions for some of our more challenging Halloween pumpkins and for party pumpkin serving ideas, like a pumpkin cooler or pumpkin luminaries for your driveway. Of course, this wouldn't be the Southern Living guide to Halloween pumpkins if we didn't have some super Southern ideas for your pumpkins like carving your state flag into your pumpkin. What a creative pumpkin carving idea! Try out these Jack o' Lantern ideas to light up your Halloween—from the family fun of bringing them to life, to the festive boost they'll bring to your Halloween display.

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Carve a Pattern

Carve a Patterned Pumpkin
Photo: Hector M. Sanchez

Instead of carving a creepy or silly face, try a tasteful pattern to add Halloween cheer to your porch. Turn standard grocery store Halloween pumpkins into decorative votive holders that are embellished with polka-dot cutouts, or whichever pattern you would like. Gather small to medium orange pumpkins, opting for round shapes. After removing the pumpkin guts, begin carving the various lantern patterns. you'll need a carving knife, a wooden spoon, a pencil, and a cordless drill with various-sized drill bits. The easiest pumpkin carving pattern is the polka-dots. All you need to do is mark a pattern of dots on the pumpkin using your pencil, and then drill through the holes! The possible patterns are endless, and kids will love the chance to be creative.

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Keep it Simple

Simple Pumpkin Hurricanes
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

If you love the look of hurricanes lining a front path, put an autumn spin on them by using oversize heirloom pumpkins in various shades of orange and green as bases. They're perfect for welcoming guests to a fall-themed party. The key here is to choose a truly beautiful pumpkin. Large heirloom pumpkins, such as the "Cinderella" variety, work best. You'll want a pumpkin type with a thick, tough skin, that isn't too deep. Cut a hole and stick the hurricane and candle into the emptied hole. Alternate with plain and lit pumpkins on longer driveways for a traditional fall-themed gathering.

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Etched Pumpkin

Elegantly Etched Pumpkin
Southern Living

Not interested in the thought of being elbow-deep in pumpkin guts? Try etching instead. Etching will leave an artful and tasteful design on your pumpkin without having to carve out the insides. Leaving the pumpkin in tact will also help it last much longer. First, use our templates as a starting point. Reduce or enlarge the size according to your pumpkin's size. Using a non-serrated paring knife, cut along the outlines of the pattern template. Do not puncture through to the other side. Then, simply peel the skin off to reveal a lighter orange shade. Finish with a coat of petroleum jelly or vegetable oil to protect the pumpkin's exposed flesh.

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Illuminating Fall Leaf Pumpkin

Illuminating Fall Leaf Pumpkin
Photo: Quentin Bacon

To create our illuminating Halloween pumpkin, first, download and print one of our leaf templates. Cut the bottom off of a pumpkin, and remove the seeds and pulp. Place the leaf template in your desired spot, pin in place, and then trace the design onto the pumpkin with a pencil. Using a pumpkin-carving tool, cut out the traced leaf design. Cut pieces of yellow vellum, and pin them to the inside of the pumpkin over the leaf openings. Add a battery-operated candle and voila.

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Pumpkin Carving Templates

Pumpkin Carving Templates
Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Lisa Powell Bailey

Carving intricate, symmetrical designs on your pumpkins, like the ones shown here, is easier than you think. While free handing often leads to spacing issues and lopsided designs, templates offer a pre-planned, foolproof way to carve pumpkins. Around the Halloween season, kits are available everywhere–from dollar stores to high-end kitchen shops–but really, you do not need a kit. Assemble your own with basic kitchen tools such as a sharp knife, a smaller paring knife, and wide, sturdy spoons to clean out the seeds and stringy pulp. A small handsaw is also helpful. Use our free, printable templates to make pumpkin carving even easier.

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Spooky Ghost Pumpkin

Spooky Ghost Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

The best part about this spooky ghost pumpkin design is that it allows you to let your imagination run wild. Ghosts don't have to be perfect—in fact, the creepier and less symmetric, the better. Do not be afraid to draw directly on your pumpkin. Sketch out a design freehand. Which features make a ghost particularly scary to you? If you'd rather stick to something tried-and-true, use a template. There are plenty of illustrations online that you can print out too, like our Bendy Ghost Template. Tape the pattern to the pumpkin, and trace it. Press hard enough to leave an impression on the flesh, and follow the lines for cutting.

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Expressive Pumpkin

Expressive Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

Sometimes, simpler is truly better. When it comes to carving pumpkins, it's often best to keep the designs straightforward, especially when you are working with children. Stick to geometric shapes with clear outlines, like squares, circles, stars, and triangles. In this simple design, a crescent moon and a star make expressive—yet very easy—eye shapes. A triangle nose is easy and classic. Freehand this simple design, or cut templates using a computer and printer. Tip: Cut the opening in the top at a 45-degree angle so it will have something to rest on. Do not cut straight down, because the lid will fall into the gutted pumpkin.

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Haunted Castle Pumpkin

Haunted Castle Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

This haunted castle pumpkin design may be more difficult, but it is worth the effort. Choose a template to follow by searching "cartoon haunted house" online, print it out, and mark the outlines using a sharp pencil. A design of this caliber requires more than just a kitchen knife. Whether you're carving a haunted castle or a creepy ghost, make sure you have the right tools for the job. There are pumpkin-carving kits on the market, but you probably already have the essentials in your kitchen. You'll need a long knife with a thin blade for cutting the lid and large shapes. Be certain it is sharp. For details, use a small, sharp craft knife. Scoop out the pumpkin with an ice-cream scoop.

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Skeleton Pumpkin

Skeleton Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

Combine two classic Halloween symbols for a festive pumpkin display; It doesn't get much spookier than jack-o-lanterns and skeletons. Skeletons are a classic symbol of the darker side of Halloween. They represent the blurring of the lines between the living and the dead. Spooky. But down South, when we see a skeleton, we just think, "oh boy, he could use a good, Southern meal." For a pumpkin design that'll make Southern grandmamas squirm, try carving a spooky skeleton into your pumpkin. If your pumpkin begins to look lifeless, revive it with a little TLC: Soak a dried-up pumpkin in a bucket of water for two to eight hours.

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Luminary Pumpkins

Luminary Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

To make your block to most popular trick-or-treating destination in the neighborhood, get the entire street involved. Have every household line their walkway, sidewalk, driveway, or yard with festive, glowing, spooky, or jolly jack-o-lanterns to light the entire street. Each family can choose a unifying theme, and let their unique personalities shine. You and your kids will have a blast guessing which family member created which pumpkin. You'll be surprised at your neighbor's artistic abilities. End the neighborly night with a gathering at someone's house to exchange candy, ghost stories, and laughter.

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State Flag Pumpkin

South Carolina Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

In true Southern pride, let your home state inspire you by carving your state's icons into the face of your pumpkin. This pumpkin celebrates South Carolina, the Palmetto State, by copying the palmetto tree and crescent moon seen on the state flag. We love the idea of a simple rectangular outline with a star to represent Texas, the Lone Star State. For states with more intricate state flags, like Louisiana, you can also do the team logo of your alma mater, or the outline of your state. As the classic symbol of the Crimson Tide, the Alabama "A" is also a great way to celebrate your home state.

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Masterpiece Pumpkin

Masterpiece Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

Running out of pumpkin carving ideas? You don't have to stick with traditional holiday images, or a silly, scary jack-o-lantern face. Think of the pumpkin as a blank canvas, and create a masterpiece based on something a little more highbrow. A rendition of The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh elevates this pumpkin to a museum quality work of art. Create a design like this by scraping away the pumpkin's outer shell rather than cutting a hole through it. Put a votive in the middle to showcase your design. The pumpkin wall should be about 1 inch thick to allow light to shine through.

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Create a Silhouette

Silhouette Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

For a simple alternative to the classic jack-o-lantern face, try an easy silhouette instead. This black cat is a classic Halloween image, and the rounded opening has the look of a glowing moon behind this fierce feline. With clean lines and minimal detail, a silhouette is perfect for intermediate pumpkin carvers. Print out a ClipArt from your computer, or search a spooky image on the Internet. We also suggest simple images like a witch's hat or a cauldron. Tape a stencil to your pumpkin, and use the tip of a nail or ice pick to poke small holes along the lines of the design. Remove the stencil, and use a sharp knife to cut between the holes.

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Scary Spider Pumpkin

Scary Spider Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

Why not carve your pumpkin on the top of the pumpkin instead of on the side? Scoop out the insides from the bottom of the pumpkin, and then use the rough stem to give some 3D texture to a classic spooky creature. We carved an evil spider and used the stem to add even more spook. The stem adds a disfigured shadow for added gore. This design idea is perfect for an intermediate pumpkin carver who wants to celebrate the spookier side of Halloween. When choosing a pumpkin for this design, make sure you inspect them all, and choose one with a particularly grotesque stem.

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Cookie-Cutter Pumpkins

Cookie-Cutter Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

These cookie-cutter pumpkins are anything but run-of-the-mill. They take no time to make and will add a gorgeous glow to your porch or walkway. Start by selecting a theme, such as leaves, ghosts, or spiders. Because pumpkins are pretty tough cookies, look for durable cutters made of thick stainless steel. Smaller ones work best, as larger designs tend to lose their shape more easily. Preparing the pumpkins is easy as pie. Cut a hole in the bottom instead of the top and clean out the insides. Place a cookie cutter on the pumpkin. Gently tap the cutter with a rubber mallet until it pushes through the skin. Repeat until you complete your desired design. Then simply place each pumpkin over a small candle, and enjoy the ghoulish glow.

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No Evil Pumpkins

No Evil Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

This easy, creative jack-o-lantern upgrade takes your doorstep from ordinary to extraordinary. Design your pumpkins according to the three mystic Japanese apes' proverbial principle, "see no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil." Let your kids create classic jack-o-lantern faces, and then add your own upgrades to take the classic pumpkin display to extra-spooky. Stuff a pair of old garden gloves with a lightweight material, like sawdust or paper shreds (steer clear of heavy sand or dirt—it will weigh the hands down and make arranging them to your liking difficult). Attach the gloves to your pumpkin using push pins.

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Pumpkin Carving Idea: Message Pumpkin

Pumpkin Carving Ideas: Message Pumpkin
Southern Living

A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but a few words can have an equally eerie impact. This idea is definitely not for pumpkin carving beginners. First, create your message on a computer program using the font of your choice—the bolder, the better. Then, print out your template and tape it to your pumpkin, using a needle to imprint the font outline onto the pumpkin's skin. Use this method to carve a creepy message. Southern Living Associate Garden Editor Rebecca Bull Reed created this work of art and added the wise words "Spooky is what you think you see." What do you see?

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Stacked Pumpkins

Stacked Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

This creative pumpkin display is sure to get a chuckle from neighbors and passersby. Why should your jack-o'-lantern always be deprived of a body? Treat it like a snowman, and stack two pumpkins to give your display more presence. Carve the body to look like a button down shirt and sports coat. Because this is the South, Jack would never be caught without a bowtie or a pocket square, so carve a quick triangle. Scrape the skin off for a lighter color variation. Use leftover pumpkin remnants as arms, and don't forget to give Jack a spiky hair-do.

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Polynesian Pumpkin

Polynesian Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

Tiki masks are not just festive, fun decorations for summer luaus or tropical getaways. They make a great Halloween theme, too—whether it's a lighthearted theme or a nod to Voodoo. Add some Polynesian flair to your Halloween celebration by creating a unique tiki design with a scary face. Use small shapes to recreate the intricate façade of a Tiki pole, and etch the design by scraping away the pumpkin's outer skin. Make your Tiki mask more kid-friendly by adding colorful oversize paper umbrellas and drink straws.

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Friendly Pumpkin Faces

Friendly Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

Give trick-or-treaters a warm welcome with a family of friendly pumpkin people. Purchase pumpkins in graduated sizes that will stack easily. Look for ones with large, unbroken stems and unique markings. Get creative, and carve faces in the smallest pumpkins that will make your guests grin. Try using the stem as a nose, or bring out the paints, and let kids make their mark on the project. To assemble your pumpkin person, stack three pumpkins and insert a long wooden dowel down the center. Dress your pumpkin people in the season's best apparel. Raffia scarves, dried lotus pod buttons, twig arms, and flower hats are all great ways to complete this creative look.

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Preserve your Pumpkins

Glowing Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

If you want your pumpkin to outlast your neighbors', try these preservation hacks. First, make sure that you have scraped every bit of pulp out from inside the pumpkin—remnants attract bugs and bacteria that speed up the rotting process. Keep a fruit fly trap nearby the ward off pest infestation. Carve the hole in the bottom of the pumpkin, rather than the top, so that excess moisture seeps out rather than collecting in the bottom. Finally, rub your entire pumpkin in petroleum jelly or vegetable oil. Not only does this coating give your pumpkin a luminous glow, it also seals the edges and prevents the loss of moisture.

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Pumpkin Wreath

Wreath of Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

Here's a great use for those cute miniature pumpkins that you see outside of grocery stores and on the side of the road at your local produce stand during the autumn season. For a Halloween decoration that will bring seasonal color to your front door that lasts all the way until Thanksgiving, head to a nearby craft store. Attach some miniature pumpkins to a plastic foam wreath. It's easy to do—just wire the pumpkins to the wreath form, and use sheet moss to fill the spaces between them with seasonal flair. Cap the wreath with a big black bow (or a witch hat!), and hang it on the front door.

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Postcard-Worthy Pumpkin

Postcard-Worthy Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

Feeling ambitious and inspired by a recent family trip? If you've been somewhere cool lately, or are simply longing for a getaway, carve a postcard-worthy icon into the face of your pumpkin. We suggest printing out a template for reference, and using it to mark the base outline on your pumpkin. Then, use a variety of tools to make your idea come to life. Take advantage of the pumpkin rind's flexibility as a sculpting medium. Using different tools and levels of pressure, you can create a 3D sculpture from a squash. This carving shows the face of Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral but the possibilities are endless.

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Petite Pumpkins

Planter Pumpkins
Southern Living

Regardless of your age, you will have a blast carving these irresistibly adorable "Wee-B-Little" pumpkins. Their small sizes limit the complexity of your carving, but that doesn't mean you can't get creative. Cut creepy, funny, and jolly eyes into each, and attach a wooden dowel into the bottom of each pumpkin. Skip the large knife for such small squashes; instead, us a small canapé cutter. Perch the finished pumpkins in your window boxes among autumn favorites like mums, marigolds, crotons, and ivy, varying the heights for an eclectic arrangement.

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Pumpkin Cooler

Halloween Pumpkins Cooler
Southern Living

Use pumpkins for a festive way to ice down drinks for your Halloween party this year. Instead of filling your pumpkins with candles, fill them with ice in this creative craft. Using only a pumpkin, a large plastic bag, and copper tubing that you will surely use again and again, you can create this festive conversation piece that also helps keep you Halloween drinks cool.

For a tasty treat to accompany your cooler, rinse the seeds, and pat dry with paper towels. Toss with 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. dried ground thyme, and 11/2 tsp. kosher salt. Place in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until toasted.

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Fishy Pumpkin

Fishy Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

Now, here's a creative idea! Tuck a fishbowl into a gutted pumpkin, and fill with bottled drinking water (not tap water from the faucet, distilled, or deionized water). Find creative props at the pet store. This tiny gravestone is perfect. Paint smaller pumpkins black, and stack them up to create a cat. Scrape away flesh to create eyes, and use discarded pieces of the orange pumpkin to make ears. Your fish friends will be purr-fectly frightened.Replace about 20% of the water in your fishbowl with fresh bottled drinking water twice a week. As a bonus, the discarded water is great for plants. Avoid placing the bowl in direct sunlight, and move it indoors if the temperature dips below 65°.

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Pretty Pumpkin

Pretty Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

If spooky, gory, or frightening Halloween decorations are not quite up your alley, you can still participate in pumpkin carving. Even if you are a scaredy-cat, you can still carve something pretty. Try a simple flower design, a geometric bow, or a tropical palm tree. If your design involves thin lines, be careful, as thin details are weak and prone to breaking. Light up your pumpkin with a scented votive in a classic autumn scent, like pumpkin spice, fallen leaves, vanilla bourbon, or sugar and spice. Just make sure that you don't leave the pumpkin unattended while the candle is lit.

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Hairy Pumpkin

Hairy Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

For a unique pumpkin design that will make passerbys stop, stare, and giggle, try making this funny hairy pumpkin. Choose a pumpkin with a long, spindly stem for a crooked nose. Instead of carving from the top, turn your pumpkin on its side. If the pumpkin is not balancing without wobbling, slice off a tiny bit of the pumpkin's new bottom, evening the grade it so that the pumpkin rests flat. Cut crazy eyes and a goofy mouth for this whimsical design. Spaghetti noodles dipped halfway in boiling water for a few seconds make great hair. Stick the uncooked portion into small holes cut in the head.

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Pumpkin Topiary

Halloween Pumpkins Topiary
Southern Living

Create a new twist on tradition with a pumpkin topiary on your porch. For years, porches have been decorated with grinning jack-o-lanterns. Upgrade your doorstep with an elegant, stylish topiary. Here's how to do it. Select a statement container for your topiary. In true Halloween spirit, we used urns, but clay pots work just as well. Choose round pumpkins in graduated sizes, with the largest size fitting snugly in the container that you will use. String a strand of lights through the stacked pumpkins, and add autumn leaves to the bottom of the arrangement.

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Star Pumpkin

Star Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

This geometric pumpkin design will add some twinkle to your doorstep and acts as a great addition to a busy pumpkin display. A simple star can coordinate both with spookier designs—as a reminder of supernatural, mystic powers—and as a cute, whimsical centerpiece. As with any project, success starts with good prep work. Begin at the pumpkin patch: Choose a pumpkin with a steady base and an intact stem. Tip: Do not pick up the pumpkin by the stem because it might break off. Look for a firm pumpkin with no mold. Take care that the pumpkin is large enough to give you room for carving your design.

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Spider Web Pumpkin

Spider Web Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

This intricate, advanced pumpkin carving design will impress your family and guests. Of course, you can simplify this detailed concept and make the process easier by opting for a less realistic, more cartoonish spider web. Thicker lines are much easier to handle, as the thin veins pictured above are incredibly delicate. If you are trying to create this spindly, creepy, eerie design, you will need the proper pumpkin carving tools. The variety of blades in the standard woodcarving set will make you a master carver.

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Tiger Eyes Pumpkin

Tiger Eyes Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

A favorite among readers particularly in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (home of the LSU Tigers), this glaring tiger-eye display is perfect for all porches across the south. Nothing scares off unwanted solicitors like a pair of tiger-eyes, glaring up from the shadows. This intimidating gaze provides just the right amount of spook to a porch design. Its thick lines make it a relatively easy design to master, but we recommend following along from a cartoon image. Try the same tiger-eye concept with other glaring animals, like the face of the Alabama Elephant, or UNC Tar Heels.

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Diorama Pumpkin

Diorama Halloween Pumpkins
Southern Living

Be inspired by your children's book reports, and make a creative Halloween diorama display. Instead of a shoebox, use a pumpkin. Be sure to choose a large pumpkin so that you have a large window to work with. Create a diorama effect by cutting out a large square from the front of your pumpkin. From that square, carve smaller figures and details. Use toothpicks to reattach the figures to the side and bottom of the pumpkin. In the photo above, a man appears to be trapped inside of the pumpkin, attempting to push through the wall and escape. Have fun with the scenes you display—multiple pumpkins with linked scenes are a great conversation starter.

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Alternative Jack O'Lanterns

Pineapple Jack-o-Lantern

While nixing the pumpkin may be a left-field pick, we think that's what makes it all the more exciting. After all, what's Halloween without a few tricks and treats—and we dare say that these pineapple jack-o'-lanterns are both. Substitute your pumpkin for any large, sturdy produce and have fun using all of the skills that you have picked up practicing straightforward pumpkin art. Plus, using a pineapple means that you can take advantage of that tall stem, that with a face carved into the fruit below, transforms into a spiky, sky-high mane.

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