It’s October 31st, 2022. All Hallow’s Eve, the day where ghosts, goblins, and ghouls rise from the netherworld to steal souls, cook kids in in cauldrons, and give you lip when you don’t give them a full size candy bar(Fun Size? What’s so fun about it?) Yes, it’s Halloween.
The one time of the year where it’s okay to dress like a superhero, monster, or a cold cut sandwich in public, go door to door, and take candy from strangers without being yelled at or told to grow up. It’s gone from that ONE day of the year where you trick-or-treat, count out your chocolate loot, then watch a scary movie before bed to it being more of a whole month of celebrating. For me it’s that way anyways. I love horror films so October 1st is the beginning of the Halloween celebration. All month I’ve been filling my head with horror-themed shows and movies and it’s great. I may be too old to dress up and go door-to-door, but I’ll never be too old for horror films.
I was never all the great with the Halloween gear as a kid, which is weird because I remember my parents doing Halloween right back in the 70s. They had an old man and old lady mask that they wore for years. Incredibly realistic and terrifying. Not PC or just right in any way, my dad went to a Halloween party as a black NBA basketball player, complete with NBA uniform, platform sneakers, mirrored sunglasses, afro wig, and yes, shoe polish on his face. He had no political ambitions so it wasn’t like those Polaroids were going to come back and haunt him. I’m not condoning that costume at all. I’ll blame Strohs and Midwestern boredom. But mostly Strohs. He’d never think to do something like that now, though at 76-years old I’d pay to see it. Just not in publc. And no photographc evidence.
Anyways, back to me.
Early on it was the ‘costume-in-a-box’ thing. For those that don’t know, they used to sell costumes in a box you could grab at the local retail store. For me, we’d hit up either Kmart, 3D, or Harveys. Those were the three main spots for all things Halloween. There was no Spirit Halloween in the early 80s. Those didn’t start till 1984, and then it was just a single store in a mall somewhere far, far, away from me.
So it was the local store and their birthday cake-shaped box filled with a Spiderman, Darth Vader, He-Man, or Wonder Woman costume. And the costume wasn’t much; cheap, molded plastic mask you attached to your face with a thin, painful rubberband. The body was a plastic smock with the likeness of whichever character you were supposed to be. It had a chemical smell to it, and it really just looked like something you’d wear if you worked at a slaughterhouse. But coming home with that cheap costume in 1982 was the best. All-in-one suit, that within minutes you WERE that character. I remember getting those two years in a row, with the first year being C3-PO, then the second year I went as Darth Vader. After those two years the highfalutin costumes went out the window for some DIY magic.
I’m not sure why I never got anymore officially licensed Halloween costumes, but I’m guessing it was more of a last minute thing. Either way, just because I didn’t get something at the store didn’t mean I wasn’t hitting the pavement for some candy. I was creative and had a hell of an imagination, so I’d find something in my room that could suffice for a costume.
One of those “lost Halloweens” I put this last minute thing together where I was a burglar. I had a black coat with a ski mask that was too small for me. It was so small that the eye holes were nearly at my forehead, so it was a struggle to get it down over my face. I also wore some gloves and carried a plastic M-16 machine gun with me(this would NOT have flown nowadays…or even 30 years ago.) Somehow this all seemed okay in my mind, and I guess my mom didn’t feel like arguing with me, I grabbed a paper grocery bag and off we went. I’m surprised there weren’t more questions as I stood on the front stoop of strangers’ homes dressed like I had Patty Hearst tucked away in a basement somewhere brainwashing her for the cause. I suppose they just wanted me to leave as quickly as I arrived and dumped a handful of candy in my bag and shut the door. I was good with that. One house did ask me what I was dressed as. I said “A burglar” in a low, unsure voice. The older gentleman said “You’re dressed as what?” I repeated in a nervous mumble “A burglar”. He just said “Oh.”
Another year I was invited to a Halloween party at one of the fire stations in town. They had candy, bobbing for apples, and a costume contest. I can’t remember what the first prize was for the contest, but I remember being excited about it. One of my neighborhood friends was going and had invited me. Of course I had no great costume to wear. It was off to the closet and toy box to find something. I had an old Dracula mask, one of those cheap jobs that hangs on a end cap at a grocery store for $2.99. Rubber that smelled of chemical death and bad breath and barely stayed on my face, but it had some painted on gore on it as if he’d just drained someone of all their blood. I chose that as the mask. For some reason we had some football should pads and an old football helmet, so I wore those as well and draped one of my dad’s old Army shirts over the shoulder pads. I no longer looked like a vampire, but more of a Quasimodo who’d just come home from Vietnam.
I can remember the costume contest vividly. They had us all form a circle in one of the fire stations garage areas(maybe they parked the truck in the alley?), then they started playing “Monster Mash” and had us all walk in a circle like the freakiest cattle walk ever. With the helmet on over the mask the mask was pulled away from my face, so it was as if I was seeing through these two torn holes. It was like the opening scene in Halloween where Michael as a child was walking through the family house with the clown mask on. It was that point-of-view. In front of my was a very realistic looking cowboy, and behind me was a princess decked out in a glittery dress and tiara. There I was, what looked like a homeless zombie vet trying out for star quarterback for the local high school football team.
Of course I didn’t win.
As I got older I’d buy those over-the-head rubber masks. Those were good for pre-teen years. Usually lots of matted hair and the gore was more profound. Great for Halloween night mischief. My best friend and I went out for the last time in 8th grade. We were running around in the dark and he fell into some bushes, and when we got home the hair on his mask was matted with nettles. It somehow made the mask all the creepier. One of our masks also had a severed hand stuck to the side of it. It seemed as the practical effects got better in horror movies the masks became more detailed. The 80s were good for something.
So if you don’t have anything for your ghouls and goblins to wear tonight, hit the toy box and closet and put something together for ’em. You don’t need to spend any dough when you’ve got your prom dress from 1992 downstairs. Or maybe an old football jersey, some JNKO jeans, and a rainbow afro wig. You got yourself a nu metal clown who supports LGBTQ rights. Point is, there’s something in the house that’ll make for a good costume. It’s all about the candy, anyways. And just getting out there and running the neighborhood like ghosts in the night in search of the next sugar hit. Seeing other ghouls and goblins walking with their parents, rain or shine, hitting all the houses with porch light lit up like a beacon of fun-size doom.
Be safe, have fun, and Happy Halloween. And don’t dress up in something you’ll regret years later. Just don’t.