October 30, 2019


In 2003 my all-time favorite graphic design team, the Charles Spencer Anderson design co., created the phenomenal marketing materials (as well as some products) for Target's Halloween campaign. This was the crossover of the century for me— CSA versus Halloween! To make matters better, they used vintage Ben Cooper masks as source material, and enlarged them to be taller than I was as a trick or treater! In fact, I wore the identical Frankenstein mask in 1981.

In 2007 I wrote this blog post about the campaign, where I shared some photos that I took back when photography was forbidden in stores, and when I was still using film. I also lamented my failed attempt to acquire the masks after the season. (Customer service claimed they were to be donated to a local school after use.)

Well, the internet heard my wish, and over the past twelve years I've received a continual trickle of emails about the masks. They came in three categories: those asking me to assess the value of their masks (my lone blog post made me the leading authority on the internet), those offering to sell me their masks (these were the most common), and even a few emails from kind people offering to just give me the masks. I perked up at the latter, but soon discovered that shipping five foot faces can cost hundreds of dollars. A personal pick-up option was offered once, but they were located more than a day's drive away, again amounting to a major chunk of money and time.

About a year ago I received another generous free offer from a woman named Kat. Kat actually worked on the Target marketing team and helped make the campaign a reality! Her set of masks were a job perk, and she'd been using them as Halloween decorations for years. But the time to "pay them forward" had come, and my writing convinced her that I'd provide them with a good home.
I could immediately tell that Kat lives her life with vigorous heart and soul. She initially gave me a list of rules to agree to, should I accept the gift. The first rule was that I too must pass them on freely when my time with them is over.

I loved her approach, but I explained the issues I'd encountered before. Kat persisted. Every couple months she told me about another possible shipping method she was researching. Whenever one thing didn't pan out she would move on to the next. This went on for nearly a year. Eventually she offered to drive someplace near me to make a hand off, even though places near me are far from her.

In July my family took a three hour jaunt to Kansas City to meet Kat. She ended up driving about eight hours (one way) to meet us there in order to give us some free ginormous masks!! Kat invited a good friend of hers to go along on her road trip, and she made the perfect suggestion to meet at the Nelson-Atkins museum of art. We met, and she's exactly the kind of person who would make a sixteen hour round trip to give someone giant masks. For the record, I was bestowed with the princess, the fireman, and yes, Frankenstein's monster.

We talked for about an hour before the museum kicked us out at closing time. We have many shared passions and our careers overlap. Before we parted Kat offered to give me her ongoing advice and perspective in relation to my role as a creative, and an educator, and that's even more valuable than giant costumes. Thanks Kat for being the best possible type of human being! Happy Halloween!


Tom said...

Very cool. For all the scams conducted on the internet you hear about, I believe there are more people like Kat out there than we think.

Happy Halloween!

Tom said...

Oh, and I'm fairly certain our Target didn't decorate like this. I would definitely remember as I was a dedicated Target shopper at the time and the Halloween fanatic I still am. The only Target Halloween decorations I recall from this era was the "Edgar and Ellen" tie-in.

Jody Birchfield said...

Oh my God...this just made my Halloween. Awesome!! I'm also available for the "pay it forward" some day.

Gary Hunt said...

Yeah, I am 100% looking for something to donate as thanks for writing all this fun stuff over the years!

Kirk D. said...

Tom- It definitely gives me hope. My wife in particular couldn't fathom that some mysterious internet person was driving all that way to give us something so cool. But it happened!
Boy, then I wonder how our Target got so lucky. We're in nowheresville

Thanks Jody, I'm sure you are worthy too!

Gary- I like the way you're thinking!

Modok said...

That's a great story to end Halloween. Kat's a really great person to go so far out of her way just to give away something for free.

Those masks were my favorite Halloween decoration theme, back when Target used bother doing them. I always felt a pang of regret whenever I re-read your article about it.

I'm glad you enjoyed the Halloween season and got to check off everything on your list. If your day/shopping trips provided some blogging material, maybe we'll get to read more about it sometime.

By the way, I'm kicking myself for not getting the blow-mold black cat and pumpkin man from Michaels when they were still around, so hopefully eBay can come to my rescue.

DanS said...

I remember when Target decorated with these CSA designed masks and I tried to get them as well. They also told me that they couldn't give them away. I'm glad you were able to get one. BTW - I do have some CSA designed swag from French paper in my home studio.

my house is cuter than yours said...

That's fantastic!!! They went to the perfect home! Looking forward to seeing how you use them in next year's Halloween Decor!


The True Indians said...


Unknown said...

These are fantastic but are oddly absent from the Internet. Has anyone ever priced them. As a huge fan of CSA in the late 80's and Early 90's these were must haves for me. I was able to get my hands on 2 full sets of the 4 Vac Form Masks and 2.5 sets of the large corrugate masks, 2 sets of the small corrugate masks as well as the Green Witch and Green Frank (both large).

Any insight on the $$ on any on these would be great. I don't plan on parting with them, just need an idea to answer the nagging wonder in my brain.

Unknown said...

Incredible! I would drive anywhere for these! Just found your blog--I am a Halloween fanatic!

Unknown said...

That is super-cool to have learned about this. Similar to you, I was pained with being turned away when I entered a Target in 2003, and raced to the customer service desk to inquire of the later fate of the masks. Alas, I was told they were all spoken for/not available. To this day, I still wish I had more aggressively scoured other Targets for the potential ownership of the cat mask.

BUT - luck was a strangely-timed lady for me the week before Halloween in 2018. I suddenly started thinking about the Halloween campaign and the masks again. A quick internet search of "2003 CSA Target Halloween" produced an active Ebay auction... for the Frankenstein's monster. O_O But it was at least a 12 hour drive from me (one way), and far more than I could feasibly afford.

BUT... in a "what the heck could it hurt" moment, I contacted the seller with an offer I could manage - AND GOT A RESPONSE. We arranged a date he was willing to hold it for me to, and I planned the craziest trip I've ever done just to purchase something. LOL. I literally left SW Virginia at 6AM and drove straight through to just-south-of-Chicago. Frankenstein's monster, and the seller, were standing in a parking lot waiting for me. He was such a super-nice and very cool guy (as the shared interest would probably dictate). We spoke for about an hour, then I loaded up my long-sought acquisition AND DROVE ALL THE WAY BACK. :D The entire trip was about 30+ hours straight. I absolutely collapsed once I got home... but immensely satisfied.

If anyone wishes to part with the Cat, I'd gladly do it again, though! Thanks for all the material and the great stories

David Andora said...

Also a fan of CSA and their Target Halloween work. During personal research many years ago, I came across your original post- probably the only internet evidence of this work, and was so grateful for the documentation! I just picked up a copy of your awesome Mail Order Mysteries book, then rediscovering your blog and this follow up post! It's all so wonderful when the world shrinks a bit like that. I love this fantastic post! Thank you all your posts and your unique and super cool publications!

Kirk D. said...

Thanks for that amazing story! That's even more hardcore!

Anonymous said...

I have 4 of these clown, Frankenstein, princess and fireman got them from a target store in Erie Pa. The day I Saw these hanging from the ceiling that’s all I could think about being a huge Halloween collector. After a sleepless night I called Target store next day spoke either the store advertising lady told her I was interested in them, she told me come pick up at 6am they’ll be I 2 shopping carts out front of store FREE. Then I called every store with in a 100 mile radius to get more, every store I spoke with had already put in crusher dumpster outback HUGh