Grown-ups are making Halloween really scary

October 30, 2003|By Kevin Cowherd

I WALK into Spirit, the Halloween superstore in Timonium, at 10:30 in the morning and it's exactly as I feared: The joint is crawling with adults.

Thirty people in the place, and not one kid. Fine, it's a weekday. The little brats are in school. But that doesn't matter, because Halloween doesn't belong to kids anymore. Halloween is strictly for the grown-ups now, and everyone knows it.

Oh, the grown-ups let the kids have their little trick-or-treat fun for a couple of hours every year.

But the big parties and fancy costumes and this business of turning your front lawn into a graveyard with zombies popping out from behind tombstones and skeletons flying around, that's strictly the adults horning in.

Me, I don't understand it. But it's true. In fact, Halloween is now the third-biggest party day in this country, behind only New Year's Eve and Super Bowl Sunday, which means it's also another day for lots of people to get plastered.

Anyway, inside Spirit on a rainy Wednesday, you have all these adults wandering around looking for just the right costume to impress their friends, or looking to accessorize with the perfect rubber meat cleaver or jagged scar across the forehead.

Naturally, I end up right next to a woman who is staring at a Crimson Vixen costume and yapping into her cell phone.

This is the way my luck has gone lately.

Just one day earlier, in Mars, I found myself in the salad dressing aisle next to a guy shouting into his Nokia about fat content.

"It says 19 grams," he kept saying. "Is that too much? If it's too much, just tell me."

Here all I want to do is buy a bottle of Wishbone Italian and get out of the place. But I can't because this guy's cart is blocking the aisle while he radios his wife about the fat content of Ken's Creamy Caesar.

Now, in this Spirit place, here's another one blabbing into her cell phone and saying absolutely nothing. Except she's saying it loud enough so they can hear her in Kansas.

"I could be Elvira," I hear her say. "But I'm leaning to Crimson Vixen, hon."

If I listen to this for another 10 seconds, there is every reason to believe my forehead will explode. So I go off to find the manager, who isn't there. But the assistant manager is, who turns out to be a nice woman named Letha Thompson.

Thompson tells me Spirit has been mobbed with adults every day since the store opened Oct 1. (It closes Nov. 1.)

"I've had mornings when they follow me in the door" at opening time, she says.

When I ask Thompson what the hot costumes are for grown-ups, she doesn't hesitate.

"Women are going for Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White," she says.

Awww, I think. That's sweet. Baby Boomers reliving the innocence of their youth. Harkening back to a simpler, care-free time. "Then they murder 'em," Thompson continues. "They make 'em evil. They get the outfits and then go to the latex section and they get the blood and the scars and the knife through the head."

Oh.

Well, so much for nostalgia.

Then again, murdered storybook characters seem almost wholesome compared to the low-life line of costumes being snapped up by men this year.

One big seller, says Thompson, is called Trailer Park King.

"It's a guy in overalls named Buddy," she says. "And he's got a big beer belly and a mullet haircut. And The Pimp is very big. I can't keep The Pimp in."

Also for men, the psycho killer line is still huge - your Freddy Kruegers, your Jasons, your Michael Myers, all your classic nutcases.

"We have a guy who comes in here, he puts three layers of latex on his face and sticks pins in it. And he goes as Pinhead."

Hmmm, I say. Pinhead, Pinhead . . . um, refresh my memory. Who's Pinhead again?

"The guy in Hellraiser," Thompson says.

Right. How could anyone forget a performance like that?

"I thought Leatherface would be the big one this year," says Thompson. "Especially after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out again. But he hasn't done that well."

Anyway, says Thompson, when it comes to adults and Halloween costumes, money seems to be absolutely no object.

"I've had people spend thousands and not bat an eyelash," Thompson says.

C'mon, I say. Thousands?

"Thousands," she says again. "I had a lady come in here and spend a thousand dollars, then come back the next day and spend hundreds. In fact, she's having a big party and invited everyone here."

When I leave Spirit, a little before noon, the place is still jumping.

Crimson Vixen is gone, though. I wonder how she'll look with a cell phone?

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