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When you do not know what you are doing, do it neatly

The masks scratched the corners of your eyes, your nostrils, and the sides of your mouth. Their colors were so super saturated that they would spontaneously combust if you walked under a black light.You couldn’t see through the eye holes, and if you didn’t wander into a bus or walk off a cliff, there was a good chance that the hot condensation wetting your face was going to precipitate a mild rash.Yet in spite of it all, it was an utter thrill every year to see the boxes with their clear cellophane start to appear on the shelves at Ben Franklin. I’m not quite old enough to have written, “at the Ben Franklin”, but close enough.Collegeville, Ben Cooper, Halco, Magic-Glo, and Wonderland manufactured cheap plastic and vinyl Halloween costumes from the 1950s through the late ’70s, and every kid who ever raced down the Halloween aisle of a Kmart or quietly prowled through the rows of forlorn dust covered boxes at the back of the Ben Franklin had exactly two opinions of these things.

The first was that they were contemptible; a terrible abuse of the spirit of Halloween. Why would you wear an Ultraman costume that is covered with pictures of Ultraman? It should be all silver with a picture of that blue flashy thingy on the chest, not emblazoned with Ultraman Protector of the world! I mean really! When I put on the costume, I am Ultraman, not a billboard advertising Ultraman!

As was evidenced by the cosistently large numbers of these things sold year after year, the second and possibly more dominant opinion was simply, “Hey, Ultraman. Cool!”

I fell somewhere in between.

It could be argued that one’s Halloween costume is the essence of Halloween itself. Certainly a poor choice in costume or just plain rotten luck, Charlie Brown’s muddled ghost for example, could seriously dampen spirits on halloween night, but when it really came down to it, you could put up with a lot and still have a great time. How else was it possible for companies to pawn these atrocious and yet wonderful little nightmares on kids across the US?

It boils down to one thing. They knew how crazy we were.

They could slap “flame retardant” on the cover and satisfy our parents. Everything else just sort of blended together for the most part. We were much more picky, and woe to the kid whose mom picked out his costume for him.

– Here’s your costume, Billy.
– But momm, I wanna be Ace Frehley!
– You’ll be no such thing! Don’t you know that KISS stands for Knights in Satan’s Service?
– But…but…is this Pluto? From Mickey Mouse?
– Oh, it’s cute! You’ll be just adorable!

I was sooooo lucky not to be that kid. You remember him. The quiet boy dressed as Raggedy Andy. He went through all the motions, still managed a muffled “trig-er-tree” at every house, even collected as much candy as the rest of us, but you could just tell. He was dead inside.

My costume varied over the years. I remember being Spiderman and a ghost and a crocodile ghost among other things. The store-bought costumes weren’t without their charms, but I much preferred to make my own out of this and that. Of course, that didn’t mean I wouldn’t linger at the Halloween display and gaze upon row after row of fantastic faces glaring, grinning, snearing, leering back at me. In fact, that hasn’t changed much in 30 years.

Like sex and to a lesser degree pizza, Halloween under a scratchy sweaty mask is still Halloween.

Witch parking – Violators will be toad

You are a bold and courageous person...You are a bold and courageous person. Afraid of nothing. High on a hilltop near your home there stands a dilapidated old mansion. Some say the place is haunted, but you don’t believe in such myths. One dark and stormy night a light appears in the topmost window in the tower of the old house. You decide to investigate. …And you never return!

Due to some past brain wreck, I can’t reliably recall the word for the place where we store our noodles and soup (the pantry), but I can flawlessly recite the opening oratory from track one of Disney’s Chilling Thrilling Sounds of The Haunted House.

In fact, I can clearly recall a day some 31 years past. For some inexplicable reason the scent of marshmallows filled the air as a nine-year-old me happily copied the above album cover with poster paints onto the huge picture windows on the front of our house. It was spitting rain, but I was dry on the wide front porch. My fingers were freezing!

Lots of downtown businesses had their windows painted by school kids for the Harvest Homecoming street fair/carnival, and I wanted in on it. I never got to paint those windows, but mom and dad let me completely cover our front windows with pictures of ghosts and graveyards and the best picture of a haunted house I had ever seen; that on the cover of my worn out Chilling Thrilling Sounds LP.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I listened to that old record, scrunched down in front of the stereo in the corner of the living room next to the big green vinyl recliner, the continuous hiss and pop now so familiar that it was practically part of the soundtrack. Intellectually I knew that the ghost in the hallway was just a sheet that I myself draped over the coat rack. But when that horrible Disney banshee howled “oohoo – oowaaAAAAaaaahhruu! Oohoo – oowaaAAAaaahhrrrruuuuhhhhh!!!”, you bet I was hiding under whatever was handy. Terrifying. Wonderful!

You still hear bits of “cat fight” and “thunder lightning and rain” on the radio and tv even today. Usually as a backdrop for a spot about the local Jaycee’s haunted house. Some things really do never change, and for that I think I’ll always be grateful.

Incidentally, the alternate word for pantry in our house is the “food garage”.

Haunted Dimensions – Tribute to Chilling Thrilling Sounds
MP3s – I figure it’s fair use if you have the album already
Here’s a special treat – 1979 Chilling Thrilling Sounds

In God we trust
All others must pay cash

...the magical fruit I will run to the beans. But if I cannot run to the beans, let me be brave in the attempt.
...the magical fruit This prophylactic ad maintains that nothing says practice safe sex like a seriously pissed off 5-year-old. “Avoid spending the next 18 years coddling one of these by covering yours with Trojan brand!”
...the magical fruit Archie later recalled at the deposition, “The Pussycats had just finished their set and had left on a beer run. Except for Josie. Jughead lit up one of those funny cigarettes of his. Then everything gets sort of hazy. But I remember his eyes. The madness in his eyes.”
...the magical fruit I’m pretty sure this is an ad for an erectile dysfunction remedy. Travis has just received papers from his soon-to-be ex-wife’s lawyer. Irreconcilable differences. Note the disposition of the garden hose.
...the magical fruit Oh gosh, yes! Growing mechano-boys need lots of rusty steel wool and ball bearings to help them grow!This is how Speed Racer must have looked as a boy.

The old adage “Fight fire with fire” does not apply to non-metaphorical fires

Paper Skulls RockHoly Crap! It’s Labor Day!

Well, technically tomorrow is, but Labor Day weekend marks the traditional end of Normal Time and the beginning of the Halloween Season. Garage and basement workshops shift into high gear as haunters glance up at paint-smeared calendars and realize that there are only 8 weeks left until the big night. And for those of us who open our haunted yards early, time is a bit more pressing.

Spooky Blue Studios bustles with activity as new zombies line up to be painted and sealed. Veteran undead, high on their shelves, stretch and yawn, some complain about cracked bones that need attention. The Grumble grumbles in his corner, patiently waiting for someone to put his arms back on. For a Grumble, that equates to only two or three promises per hour to dismember you at his first opportunity.

Some new armless nightmares perch on the workbench. These glowing globular residents of the pumpkin patch, denizens of some demented blotch of vegetable nightmare in an otherwise pleasant and peaceful field, practice twining their long viney stalks around anything they can trip up; mainly S. Blue and other team members. From time to time you can hear a loud “snap!”, then munching noises. I haven’t been bothered by a fly or a moth in weeks.

In celebration of the long weekend, the project list has been updated. Need skulls? Make your own from paper mache.