October 31, 2007


Ten years is about the extent of our Trick or Treating lives. Unless your parents were the industrious type and decorated you during your infancy and toddlerhood, but Halloween memories from those years only serve as fodder for nightmares. I trick or treated from 1975 to 1985, a chance decade that in my opinion, contained a better than adequate sampling of Halloweens. This era caught the end of the "flame retarded" mass market cheap suits and encompassed the razor blade scares, the birth of the slasher genre, and Jaycees haunted houses. It was also a time when just about every neighborhood in town handed out candy, meaning kids weren't limited to corporate events like Mall-o-ween and other Halloween substitutes.

I feel like the holiday has grown up with me. It seemed almost dormant during my "too cool" years, but then by the time I was ready to start celebrating again the Halloween Renaissance of the late nineties was upon us with a national upcropping of Halloween super stores and temporary haunted theme parks. These days, I'm just waiting for it to become a paid holiday.

But back to my ten years...

1975- Arab
Moving right along...

1976- Pirate
A hat from the Pirates of the Caribbean souvenir shop was the basis for this ensemble. I think the skull and crossbones iron-on came out of a box of Honeycombs, but I'm not positive. I distinctly remember feeling like a fool thanks to that hole in my eye patch.

1977- Bugs Bunny
This was the first costume of my choosing, as well as my first store-bought outfit. I remember being surprised that a product physically taller than me was something my family could actually afford. Ah, drat! I just noticed that the generic Spider-Man to my left ruined the picture with a fake nose pick. Let this serve as a lesson to us all about the lasting impact of our actions.

1978-Darth Vader
I know, I know.. how very predictable.

1979- Dracula
I finally got my mom on board and thanks to a McCall's sewing pattern I was able to get the whole goth thing out of my system.

Thus begins a sad season in my personal recorded history. For three consecutive years my folks didn't see fit to photograph me in my Halloween costumes, thus making this blog entry exactly 30% less effective.

You're simply going to have to trust me. I realize I have no photographic proof, but I was Frankenstein in 1981. Please, please believe me. This is brutal. Here I am, a quarter of a century later and I'm still paying the price for my parents' dreadful decision.

1982- E.T.
Up until this year I was nothing short of delighted to buy the off-the-shelf get-ups with the flimsy, pinchy rubber bands and air vents that bled my tongue. By my logic, anything homemade was inferior to that which was mass produced. Therefore making my own Halloween costume seemed as foolish as eating my mom's cooking instead of McDonald's.
Then in fourth grade I was subject to a surprise school-wide costume contest. We were lined up against the hallway wall as a select group of teachers examined each of us.. judging us. Up until that minute I had loved being E.T. It was my favorite movie, he was my favorite character and associating myself with the franchise was a privilege and an honor. But in the teacher's gaze my blinders fell off and I realized that I was one of three E.T's in my homeroom of thirty students. Which is to say that one tenth of my class consisted of lovable, stranded Extra-Terrestrials. In that moment I tasted a new kind of shame.

1983-Ghoul Creature
This year I was unclassifiable and totally original. Ok, not exactly. I did use one of those kits where you cut out the foam appliances that you painted and glued to your face. I liked the set because it reminded me of that one episode of The Twilight Zone.

My greatest achievement in seasonal disguises would have to be this one. It required more foresight and craft than any other year. My mom made the coveralls and I did the rest. Now, these days Ghostbuster suits are an off-the-rack affair, but at the time this thing was mind-blowing. I strutted around the school carnival and heard comments and praise pouring out all around me. I was giving high fives. It may be the most confident I'd ever been in my life. I'll admit it— I got cocky.

In a calculated effort to heal my wounds from 1982, I had my sights set on another costume contest. I stood in line with the other contenders with a huge smile and when I took my turn on the floor I was drunk with self-assurance. But as it is written: Pride goes before destruction. I lost to my best friend's rubber monster mask. After some detective work we learned that the judge thought I was supposed to be a janitor. (A janitor with a proton pack; give me a break.)

1985- Tuxedo Disguise Guy

The best thing about this outfit? It looks life-like, in a dopy sort of way.



The CDP. said...

Awesome. Thanks for the parallel-memories. You're right, that Ghostbuster outfit was amazing.

"Let this serve as a lesson to us all about the lasting impact of our actions." This was the funniest thing I've read all week. You should call that guy up and ream him out.

I have a post up on theCDP.net about the most humiliating Halloween of my life (a re-post from 2005, to be more accurate). Check it out if you get the chance.

Chris said...

Wow, thanks...great post. I was very suprised to see the generic Spiderman....I wore that costume one year... I believe it was called "The Spider."

I liked it at the time, but I remember wondering why it wasn't really Spiderman.

I still have the mask in my garage!

Todd Franklin said...

Great photos! Happy Halloween to you and your family and I've really enjoyed all your post this year!

Steven A. said...

There is no shame in being predictable in so far as Darth Vader is concerned. Any little boy born after 1970 or so who hasn't dressed as Darth Vader at least once probably doesn't have a soul and will one day grow up to be a serial killer... it's totally true.

Happy Halloween, Kirk!

joan said...

a nostalgic feeling is invading me!
what a anice blog! you have so interesting things!
you have won an ultra fan!
greetings from mexico, i´ll be cheking!

Anonymous said...

Everytime I read, "Looks life-like, in a dopy sort of way"... I crack up beyond repair! I love it!
Great costumes!


sue said...

Great post! The ghoul creature photo is fabulous - the wood paneling, the gold carpet, the butter churn!

Anonymous said...

Ahh, the cut-and-glue foam mask. Mine was like yours (maybe). I was trying for either a "V" soldier sans human mask or Grig from "The Last Starfighter." I achieved neither.

Fast forward 10 years and I fell hard for the Tor Johnson mask.


Kirk D. said...

cdp- thanks and nice post yourself. A true childhood tragedy. It touched upon so many familiar childhood emotions that it feels like it could be one of my own memories.

chris- when I was a kid I hated knock-offs like that one. Now I pretty much love them. Steve Miller wore that mask on the album cover for "The Joker" so it's cool on that level too. You should dig yours out and hang it up.

todd- thanks so much and likewise!
I think I forgot to mention that I love the notion of a plastic fangs countdown. I started taking inventory and I could count up to around October 12!

good point steven- In the end, Darth saved us all. I remember there was another version of the Darth Vader costume that consisted of a yellow poncho with darth's picture on it and a paper 'lone ranger' style mask that only showed the areas around darth's eyes. I remember a girl wore that to a Halloween party I threw and it was funny to me on so many levels.

joan-hey thanks! Please don't be disappointed when I don't post as often though :) This October I think I broke my writing bone.
(I enjoyed checking out your blog too BTW)

Megan- Ha ha! Well, I just laughed when I saw it written in your comment too and then I went back and looked at my posts and laughed some more. I'm glad you too can appreciate the beauty. lol!

Sue- Ah, the butter churn ha! ha!
A little bit of the Colonial days right in our living room. It's been lurking in corners of that house since I was born to the point that it's practically invisible to me now. Once you mentioned it, I noticed that it's in no fewer than three of those costume photos, as if it were following me around! I'll bet I could make a drinking game out of how many times that churn shows up in our family photo albums. Man, now I don't think I know where it is. I need to check my mom's garage next time I visit. I'm suddenly starting to miss it. Thanks for the thought provoking comment. :)

brian- I can see both of those characters in it now that you say it. I'd bet ten bucks that at least one of them was the unofficial inspiration for the design.

by the way, chris and sue your blogger profiles seem to be turned off.

girlvet said...

Isn't halloween great? I go a little bit further back than you and back then we made our own costumes from what we had at home. Times were safer and we went out in a group by ourselves. What is better than halloween when yer a kid?!!

Anonymous said...

Howdy Kirk. This is your cultural twin from Cleveland who is now residing in England (we emailed last year). Another great post, thanks! Halloween over here is just getting warmed up. 5 yrs ago there was almost nothing except some egg-based-vandalism, but this year was almost a legit holiday. So i was the expert on hand to tell my tales of Halloween...pillowcases filled with booty, going to the "rich people streets" for full-size candy bars, x-rays at the police station, Zany Zappers, etc etc. Thanks for the nostalgia shot to the jugular...i can almost feel the cheap plastic mask and the tongue- cutting mouth slot. Nice eyepatch by the way! Take care, Jason

amber. said...


I just discovered your super secret fun blog. You should really speak to your sister-in-law about keeping the secret, well, secret. I am torn between the bunny and the arab costumes as my favorite...

Lovin your secret space.


Kirk D. said...

Welcome amber! Please enjoy your stay. Well, it looks like the word is out on this thing so I guess I have no choice but to close up shop and move on to something involving a bit more secrecy. Goodbye cruel world.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirk, we emailed a few years ago, re: FLIP.

Thank you for continuing to inspire and entertain so many people out here with such delightful, nostalgic, loving, retro fun. I only wish I had my lovely high-speed internet connection 24/7/365.

Oh, and about Halloween costumes, the only old photo I have of myself in costume (from about 1961) is of me in my home-made cardboard box robot suit. Whee!

Cheers, Kevin

Kirk D. said...

Thanks so much Kevin, it's my pleasure. I'm sure this site is brutal on dial-up. My apologies.

Your robot suit sounds great.

Skeleton Mike said...

Nice feature, Kirk! That ET brings back memories, because I also had that same costume that year! I still remember the poorly ventilated mask that night.

Earlier that day, we had a big Halloween party, a favorite grade school trend. That particular year, we all had to bring our costumes, wear them, then walk around some sidewalk outdoors to the teachers' amusment before going back in for the party. Costumes re-boxed and placed under our chairs, we had baked goods, while looking on was a life-sized paper-mache ET that someone (older) at the school made.

Anyway, funny enough some small details of that day came back to me after seeing that costume photo. I haven't seen the thing in decades, and the chest graphic and box were vague memories. Man oh man, I hope kids today get to have the Halloweens that we had.

Kirk D. said...

Skeleton Mike- Thanks for sharing. Boy, who could ever concentrate on those Halloween Party days. They were pure agony until costume time. Too bad you had to take yours off again. We wore ours home. Nothing like sitting on a school bus dressed as Dracula.

(I always thought the color scheme on the ET chest graphic was both senseless and ugly.)

Charmuh said...

This reminds me exactly of how creepy those plastic costumes were.
My brother used to chase me around the house wearing an old Smurf mask of mine.