October 30, 2003

Gotta Have It

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I’ve been a sucker for Halloween and its traditions for as long as I’d care to remember. In fact, I’d probably name the 31st of October as my favorite special occasion this side of any summer day between late May and early August. My deep-rooted relationship with Halloween steadily matured through my youth and has come to include the following: each and every year, as early into October as I can get away with, I take morbid pleasure in decorating my house with an ungodly amount of ghostly Halloween paraphernalia, complete with a “cemetery” made out of Styrofoam gravestones (oh what the neighbors must think). I’m one of those people who can go through 500 yards of fake spider webs and still find room for 500 more. I carve intricate patterns into our Halloween pumpkins (while consulting neither rationality nor taste) and roast the seeds. My buddies and I used to make our annual pilgrimage around the neighborhood, a.k.a. Trick-or-treating, going so far as to create a pre-game strategy in order to reach as many homes as possible before collapsing from either sheer exhaustion or a lack of food and/or water. I remember back home as kids we used to go to the local haunted house production and wait for hours just so we could get scared out of our wits. But recently I started thinking long and hard about Halloween. What makes this day special from all others? Perhaps it’s the popular endorsement of binging on sweets with no regard for moderation or blood sugar level that pushes Halloween to the pinnacle of the holiday spectrum. Or maybe it’s the large library of Halloween-inspired scary movies — some are classics like The Shining and Halloween, others are just classically horrible, for instance Halloween II-XX?? — that have secured a place amongst courageous audiences. Most likely it’s because my birthday is the day before — but that’s not relevant or anything. While any amateur can slap together a plastic pumpkin and a do-it-yourself costume, below are four quick ways to turn this year’s Halloween into a good one.

Set up the Ghoulish Atmosphere

We can’t all have the luxury or convenience of living in a creepy and foreboding Victorian mansion, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t rig up your place to look a little freakier. The first thing to consider is ambience (that’s environment to you non-sophisticates). Don’t just think that you can dim the brightness level and turn on a few black lights and then walk away. Instead work out a lighting system that suits the mood you best want to convey. Going for a creepy Creature from the Black Lagoon motif? With a quick change to green light bulbs and placement of a fog machine, you’ll be well on your way. One quick lighting solution is the Hanging Flame and cousin tabletop flame, sold through Halloween connoisseurs Johnson Smith Co. The fire-safe devices use a combination of standard light bulbs and a fan to create the realistic fire effect. You’ll have your guests thinking “sadistic dungeon” in no time.

The Costume

Like they always say in Hollywood: “it’s not what you know but who you know.” Likewise in the world of Halloween costumes, it’s not what you go as but how you’re planning on doing it. A homemade costume might save you some money, but unless you’re artistically and creatively gifted you might want to consider whether you’d rather have your reputation take a big hit at the expense of your wallet. Spencer’s at Pyramid Mall is a good place to start, or you could also try www.buycostumes.com if you’d like to browse through a few thousand possibilities. I’ve heard that extra accessories can be a fashion no-no, but when costumes are concerned the appropriate touches can be an excellent addition. Deciding to go as a headless guy? Why not carry around a severed head. I hear it’s a great conversation starter. Here are a few quick costumes to avoid at all costs. Don’t tape some random twigs and leaves to you and say you’re Mother Nature. Besides, what if you discover that you’re deathly allergic to sagebrush? Don’t tape multi-colored balloons to your body and say you’re going “as a pack of jelly beans.” One false snag on any sharp object and you’re a-poppin’ your way to the biggest Halloween dud this side of a Lewinski mark-up.

What’s Halloween without Sugar?

It’s not Halloween unless you’re in the spiraling, vice-like grip of a full-blown sugar high. And if you live in a neighborhood that kids frequent, it’s probably a good idea to have some sweets on hand to fend them off. You don’t want to be the guy that gives away money or dental floss do you? You can quickly become a neighborhood legend and give away King sized candy bars, but let’s be reasonable here. Instead, head on over to www.candydirect.com. They’ve got a large selection of bulk candy products you can force-feed to the hungry lads while saving dollars and face.

Enjoy the Festivities

With all the above taken care of, you’re ready to go out and enjoy the night. Or if you’ve decided to hold a little get together of your own get the supplies ready and wait for the guests to arrive. Just make sure you take the decorations down before you bring your next date home or he/she might somehow get the wrong idea about you and your lifestyle choices.

Archived article by Jason Mednick