Ellicott City merchant's specialty is ghoulish garb for Halloween haunting HOWARD COUNTY DIVERSIONS

October 30, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

The woman who wanted to purchase the floppy fedora at the Superior Novelty Co. last week obviously wasn't into the horror ,, cult classics.

"That hat belongs to Freddy Krueger," store owner Dave Long told the woman, trying to explain that she was breaking up an ensemble costume.

"Didn't you ever go to the movies?" he needled her.

A novelty store owner worth his salt knows that the slouchy-looking black hat loses its effect unless it's atop the head of Freddy, he of the pus-filled, wrinkled and scarred face who has caused nightmares for many an Elm Street resident with his razor-sharp claws.

Mr. Long said he can't afford not to keep up with the movies, because the latest anomaly on the silver screen just might be Halloween's best-selling costume at his 20,000-square-foot novelty shop on the Baltimore National Pike in Ellicott City.

Jason, the hockey mask-wearing slasher of "Friday The 13th" fame, has been selling for years. Batman has come on strong, as have the "Star Trek" characters, thanks to "The Next Generation" television show. One man even custom-ordered an outfit this fall to look like that raunchy, demon-like "Beetlejuice" character of a few years back.

The novelty shop rents, sells and custom designs Halloween costumes. Gorilla suits, chicken suits, a Popeye head . . . you name it. Rentals cost between $15 and $50. On Tuesday, Mr. Long shipped by overnight mail a Christopher Columbus costume to St. Louis and colonial men outfits to California.

Mr. Long moved the store from Baltimore to Ellicott City in 1973. His father opened it in 1939 and specialized in carnival and bingo supplies.

The store also stocks supplies for the do-it-yourself customer, such as wigs, professional clown makeup, fake blood, spirit gum and liquid latex for wrinkled-looking skin.

On Tuesday, 12-year-old Jonathan Freedman of Ellicott Cit bought several tubes of brown liquid latex that he plans to apply to his face for Halloween, with a splattering of blood for the zombie effect. His goal: "Be ugly."

His 7-year-old brother, Mark, bought supplies to be Jason. He likes the revenge-minded camp terrorist's choice of weapons.

The boys' mother, Sharon Simoules, said the goal Tuesday wa to "get a good costume without spending a fortune." Though Jonathan appeared more impressed with a $69 ghoul mask with protruding fangs, he seemed satisfied with his supply of goo.

It's a madhouse at this time of year at the store, which also sell party supplies and does custom screen printing and embroidery, said Mr. Long. He was talking about the crush of customers, but the store itself also gets a little wacky.

A sound-activated ghost swirls above customers heckling them with a menacing laugh; a bloodied rat, also activated by sound, wriggles on a counter to escape from a trap; a witch gyrates on a broom.

Mr. Long sometimes waits on customers with a bolt sticking ou of his neck or with pins in his hand.

Some patrons who plan ahead look for costumes beginning in September, but most wait until the last two weeks before Halloween, said Mr. Long. Tomorrow, he expects last-minute shoppers' cars will fill his store parking lot, spilling out along Route 40. He'll stock dry ice tomorrow for people who want a smoky effect for parties, he said.

Adults often are harder to please because kids have an idea o what they want, said Mr. Long. But kids are prone to changing their minds several times, he said.

"They want to be a Ninja, then they see a pirate they like or a policeman and they change their mind," he said. "The parents start losing their patience . . . 'Come on Billy, you came in here to be a Ninja.' "

Adults can be worse, however, because many have no clue, Mr Long said.

"They want me to suit them up in something, so I show them a clown, a genie, a wizard. I put them in a colonial outfit, and they don't like that either," he said. "Then you've got to leave them alone or you'll drive them crazy and lose them."

Traditional costumes -- vampires, witches, pirates -- continue t sell well. Trolls, which the 47-year-old Mr. Long remembers as the good luck charms of his teen-age years, have been popular among kids. Batman has been the top seller, he said.

As for his own Halloween plans, he just may be plain old Dav Long.

MA "I'm usually kind of burned out" by Halloween night, he said.

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