The assignment: write about your favorite Halloween costume. The prize: A Soundwave hoodie.
Pro tip to anybody entering one of these contests: look at your competition. Because if somebody has a story about being so poor they scraped together an original concept with bits of garbage and a rake, one sentence like "I was a Ninja Turtle one year" is not going to beat it.
And wow, were there some great stories in this one. If any were made up, it was a fantastic job; if, as I assume, most or all were real, what a range of experiences!
I enjoyed reading all of these, but one emotionally moved me more than the rest. Even in narrowing it down to honorable mentions, I had to cut some good entries, but we need something semi-manageable for a post. I urge everybody to try and read them all - as a whole the submissions here really sum up why we are who we are, how creativity gets us through, and why the fictional characters who matter, matter so much.
Hit the jump for some of the best reader-submitted stories of Halloween...
A few years ago, I attended a friend's Halloween party barefoot and shirtless. I told everyone I was a premature ejaculation, for I just came in my pants.
I won first prize.
A few years ago when I had more time on my hands, I took on a very large challenge for a Halloween contest. Namely, I decided to go as my favourite Tim Curry role ever, that of Darkness in Legend. It required some investment and a fair bit of modelling but it worked a treat. I bought a stack of red body paint, a latex mask with an open face, a big black cape and a ton of chicken wire. The horns were the hardest part, making their shape with the wire then layering paper mache over the top until they dried. I added some straps to connect the horns onto my head and spraypainted them red and black. With the addition of some cats eye contact lenses and a pair of trousers hastily covered with black fur, I looked the part. The whole costume took about an hour to put on but the complete effect was worth it. If I could post pictures, I would.
Now, that was fun enough and the people who saw it fell in love with it instantly at the club I went to on Halloween night. But the real story happened on the way there. After riding the bus into town and joking along with the other passengers who were loving the chance to ride with a bright red demon, I jumped off and walked towards the club. On the way there though, there was a middle aged lady who took one look at me and screamed.
"BEGONE FOUL BEAST, THE POWER OF CHRIST COMMANDS YOU!!!" she howled upon seeing my devilish visage. I laughed as I passed her, clearly not affected by her puritanical screeching. However, a few more feet down the road, I stopped and apologised to my friends for what I was about to do. If you've seen that episode of Buffy where Giles gets turned into a demon then races down the road to terrorise another character.... then you'll know exactly where this is going.
I turned around, let out a massive roar and ran towards the woman with my arms wide, 'claws' bared and a devilish look in my eyes. She screamed again and ran away as fast as she could, much to the laughter of everyone watching. I would have carried on chasing her but at that point, I couldn't move because I was laughing so much.
I really wish that camera phones had existed back then because I would love to witness it all again on video. Alas, it is now just a memory but I still have the costume and used it to answer the door to trick or treaters last year.
Psalty the Singing Songbook.
Psalty was a mid-90's Christian cartoon/live action character meant to teach kids Christian values through song. He was literally an anthropomorphic hymn book. Look on Google image searches, he's horrifying. He had numerous books and music cassettes, but his big deal was the live action adventures he had on VHS. As a live-action character, some poor man was dressed as a cross between Pennywise and a Blue Man and forced into an enormous cardboard box to make him look like a friendly, Godly singing book. The overall effect was, as I look back now, hideously creepy on an uncanny valley level and even weirder on a "pedophile clown" level, as he was surrounded by small kids, as typical of a children's show. Other ancillary characters included his wife, also a songbook, and two "mice" characters whose costumes were equally as terrifying and had an even more rapey plotline.
Of course, as a young Christian kid that probably could have passed for being somewhere on the Autistic spectrum, Psalty was my favorite character for a good while. I wore out both the VHS and the cassettes I owned, culminating in a Halloween costume. My mother, bless her soul, was supportive of me in this and actually very clever when it came to arts and crafts. I wore all blue, and had my face painted in clown makeup mimicking Psalty's, all blue except for white around the eyes. I wore a blue wig to complete the non-box portion.
As for the box, well. That was as I remember a cardboard box of some fashion, the legs cut out at the bottom and a hole cut in the side for my head. Two more holes for my arms ensured that the box had to be lowered onto my small body like a suit of power armor. It had been spray-painted blue, and lovingly painted with gold spraypaint and glitter paint to look like the character's book.
However, as a Christian child, I was not allowed to go trick-or-treating, so the only places I wore the costume were at my mother's place of work and one day at my public school's Halloween party.
I call this my "favorite" costume for different reasons than I used to. As a kid I unironically liked the character and the message he preached. Now I look back and see this forgotten, subtly creepy relic of mid-90's Christian culture and marvel that I was allowed to indulge in that obsession.
Halloween night, when I was something like seven or eight years old, my grandparents (whom I lived with at the time) took me to visit my great grandmother before I went trick or treating proper. I was unenthused not only because the visit and thirty minute car ride to and from would cut back considerably on time better spent canvassing my neighborhood but also because my great grandmother was an overweight, eighty something year old double amputee (both legs) who resided at a low income nursing home built, for reasons I still don't understand, in the middle of the goddamn woods.
Under the best of circumstances, a clear and bright summer day where we couldn't stay long so I got to sit in the car playing Tetris on my Game Boy with the doors locked, that place was still creepy as fuck.
There was nothing around it but Lovecraftian New England forest. The building was old and worn around the edges; nothing had been updated since the late seventies. It always smelled funny. The hallways were too bright, the rooms were too dark.
And of the residents, most starred off at nothing with the most miserable, defeated, dead faces you could image. Some few became visibly excited at the sight of children. Recognized or not, they smiled and waved and beckoned me to come closer, the corners of eyes, as well their mouths, damp. Their small spirits inadvertently crushed as I was quickly ushered by to see my actual relations.
But some, my grandparents tried to explain in terms I would understand, were just sick.
At the time I saw neither the poor taste or cruel irony, sheltered and naïve as I was, of parading a morbidly obese child dressed as the Grim Reaper through a nursing home. My grandparents must have, I remember them making jokes about it the along the lines of "On no! He's come for me!" and so on.
It was a cheap, off the rack costume with your basic skull face paint. Nothing impressive by any means but it garnered a few sour looks from the staff that my family commented on inaudibly behind my back as we made our way through the halls. I didn't pick up on the nuance of my family's poor decision making skills until much later in my life and so was confused when I was brought into the bathroom to wipe off most of my makeup and pull my hood down, despite my whiny protests.
We left soon after. I was glad. We had stayed longer than expected. My grandmother and great grand mother had an unhealthy co-dependant relationship that often lead to extended shouting. It took tears and promises or never speaking to each other again on both sides to get us out the door but it worked.
We were leaving.
I was told we would reapply my makeup when we got home. I would still get to go trick or treating. We were headed towards the door. We were almost there.
And then she came.
I only saw her for an instant.
Stumbling down the adjacent hallway, a scared and confused thing, hollering in a raspy and inconsistent voice, naked from the waist down and trailing liquid shit behind her, an old woman, whom I was later told was "sick" crossed my path on Halloween night.
She was caught just a few feet away from us, and a nurse stopped to apologize and direct us in the opposite direction.
But I saw her.
A frail, old thing, soiled and crying, so scared, being dragged away by a large, hispanic orderly whose scowls always frightened me. She flailed and kicked and in doing so I saw the female sex for the first time;
small, loose, and covered in a thin streak of wispy hair.
We left, and, assuming the car ride's worth of explanation was enough to ease my prepubescent mind concerning the horrors of Alzheimer's disease, spoke nothing of it afterwards.
I didn't go trick or treating afterwards.
To curb my disappointment my grandparents bought me a whole bag of candy the day after.
Whatever I wanted.
I choose one of those really big bags of M&Ms.
I'm in my thirties now and I no longer remember my great grandmother's face.
But I remember that crying old woman.
Her shit on the floor.
And her pale, wrinkled sex.
I dressed up as Rorschach for a Halloween pub crawl in my first year of grad school. I got a lot of help from my roommate who was an art major with a penchant for textile work and fashion. I learned a lot of things that night:
1. Showing up at a mall with a mask that covers your face is grounds to be asked to leave under threat of police involvement (and this was before the night even started!).
2. If Rorschach were real, he would get mistaken for the Invisible Man almost constantly.
3. He would also get asked to have his photograph taken with Asian tourists at a surprising rate.
4. Nothing surprises bus drivers.
5. Charcoal will eventually bleed through linen and into your eyes. It won't hurt, but you will end up with a ring of black dust lining your eyeballs.
6. It is very difficult to drink while wearing a Rorschach mask.
7. Dressing up as Rorschach for a social event within your first 2 months at a new school is a terrible way to meet people. By my final year, people in my faculty were still discovering that that guy in the Rorschach costume was me.
Here's a pic:
Here's a little background on me, I'm 5 foot 9 and around 265 pounds. You need to know that because two years ago my job had a costume contest and I went as Paris Hilton. I practiced walking in heels for a week, I used an entire bottle of nair to remove any and all body hair below the neck. The day before I had my nails professionally done and my eyebrows plucked. The day of the contest I woke up at 4a.m. Using an ace bandage I strategically pushed parts together to give me an ample busom. My little sister did my make up and helped me get my wig on properly. I went to work, and when the contest started I learned that only three other people dressed up. My competition was a guy who dressed up as our boss, a woman who dressed like a slutty pirate, and a girl who dressed like a midget rock star. After lunch everyone voted, I came in second after the guy who dressed like our boss. I don't think they understood how much work I went through. Nair hurts.
My best halloween costume was when I was 8. We were poor, dirt poor. My dad has just lost his business, mom was working forever to cover all the bills while we recooped and tried to figure out what to do next. I was 8, and had no clue what was going on. My birthday was in October (11th), but they didn't have any money for gifts. Transformers had just started airing that year, and as an 8 year old boy who loved robots, cars, and dinosaurs there was nothign cooler.
I begged my parents for a Soundwave with Lazerbeak. BEGGED, it's all I ever talked about. Soundwave and Lazerbeak were the default things that came out of my mouth any time someone asked me what I wanted for my birthday.
It must have killed my parents, who were scrimping for every dime to try and set aside 20 bucks for a piece of plastic and metal, but they did it. I got one toy from my parents and it was Soundwave. I got some mini-bots from friends, but it didn't matter.
What did matter is that because of them spending that money on my birthday, there simply wasn't any money for buying costumes for Halloween that year. But it didn't matter to me. I collected boxes from friends, and got some blue tempera paint from school. It was crap, but I made my own Soundwave costume out of moving boxes, shoe boxes, and paper scraps. We had some left over facepaint from last halloween, so I painted my face blue, my eyes yellow grabbed some aluminum foil for a facemask, and lived every kids dream. I even cut s flap in the box so I could pretend like I was ejecting transforming Laserbeak and Rumble from my chest (constructed from tag board, with grocery ties to hold the hinges together.)
That Haloween, it was freezing, I think we even had light snow that evening. My mother demanded that I wear a coat over my costume, but I refused. There was no way in hell I was going to ruin the costume I spent all week on by wearing a coat over it. Due to the snow, (which melted due to my body heat when the snow hit my costume) the paint would run, and ruined the costume anyway, by the time I got back home from trick or treating I was freezing, my costume was a soggy, blue streaked scrap of cardboard, and Laserbeak and Rumble were both destroyed, I think I cried my eyes out because everything was ruined, but looking back that was probibly the best time I had during halloween, just getting to pretend to be the character I obsessed about for months. I even tried to do the voice when trick or treating.
Next year dad got back on his feet, and we had money for costumes again. I think I was a store-bough Lion-O that year. But it's not anywhere near as memerable as the year I got to be Soundwave.
My favorite Halloween costume, huh...? Ooooh, tough question...Oh, I know!
One year for Halloween, I decided I was going to dress up as a grocery bag. I don't remember exactly where I got the idea from, or why I thought that being a grocery bag for Halloween was a good idea, but, well, there it is. I wore brown pants, brown shoes, brown socks, a brown t-shirt...and an actual paper grocery bag that we somehow managed to convert into a dress sort of thing.
And, to top off the effect, we glued plastic groceries (you know, the kind that you buy for play kitchens and stuff) all over the top of my bag-dress, my shirt, stuck some on my arms, and covered this little blue hat I had with the stuff. We also stuck a receipt out of the top of the bag, and lo, I was now a bag of groceries from Stop and Shop.
My only regret is that we had to cut the bottom of the bag off to make it into a dress thing, so I couldn't actually use my costume as a way to collect candy (which is a real shame, because that would've been PERFECT). But that was easily one of the more creative costumes I came up with, and I loved it. Though a close second would be when I decided to dress up at Nefertiti for Halloween in the 6th grade, complete with pillow-case tunic dress and giant hat.
God, I wish I still had pictures of both of those costumes.
....and both of those may be ousted by my plans for this year's halloween, in which I plan to dress up as INSPECTOR JAVERT. Complete with little wanted posters of Valjean to hand out to spread awareness.
DO NOT FORGET MY NAME.
Deep Blue, the Chess-playing Soopa Computah! Several hours before going out that night I found the cardboard box from a mini-fridge and covered it with a black Sharpie marker, because I couldn't find any black paint lying around the house. That took forever, by the way, filling in the entire surface area of the box with a marker, making sure I got a nice coat of black. Then I made the bright blue accents like on IBM's design with blue painters' tape. The box looked awesome and fit over my head and torso with a lot of room to spare inside, and it went down to my waist. I cut two little eye-slits on the front and two arm holes on the sides. That would've been well and good for a party or whatever, just hanging around and wearing my costume. But I decided to ride my bike to the party while wearing it because I couldn't fit it under my arm to carry. I did this at night. Through the streets of Philadelphia. For about 4 miles. The box was so wide I couldn't keep both hands on the handlebars at the same time because my arms couldn't reach around the front. And the two eye-slits I made for myself? Those were crap. I couldn't see the ground in front of my wheel, let alone traffic. But I was young and dumb and couldn't wait to go drinking while wearing this stupid thing. I had my friends shouting ahead of me if there was an obstacle up the road and some other friends riding behind me to tell me whether or not I was riding straight. But I made it! The next hurdle was when I got there and realized that, as roomy as the box was on the inside, I couldn't get a beer -- let alone a shot glass -- inside the damn thing to tip up to my lips. So, while at the bar I had them set up a crazy straw to sip drinks from. That was also the first time I sipped a shot through a straw. And the last. But the best part was hanging out in front of the bar on South Street early in the evening with every passerby asking what I was. I could see them fine initially through the slits, and a lot of them put their arms around me like they were getting their pictures taken. Turns out they weren't getting their picture taken at all. While standing there I'd been covered in graffiti; getting tagged, smacked with a crap-ton of stickers, and a lot of chewed gum. In the end, I wasn't upset that I'd been vandalized. Not in the least. It's that all this happened pretty early on in the night before the party really got started, but no one told me about it! I was there with my friends at the party and when everyone kept asking me what this graffiti-covered box was over my torso I'd be all like, "You mean you don't recognize the IBM chess-playing super-computer?!" Eh, I was so serious about it, too. My friends just held back their laughs as I talked everyone's ear off the drunker I got, going on about how long it took to paint the box with a Sharpie and how it was a "rush job of a costume of course" but how I "really think I nailed it with this one."
Sigh. I was such a maroon.
Still! It was the best one I've ever had, graffiti or not!
One year I dressed up a Dr. Zoidberg; red socks, sandals, scrub pants, red mittens, a red turtle neck stretched over my head, a lab coat, red face paint and to top it off a modified red rubber glove on over my face with straws in it so I could manipulate the fingers with my mouth. It was a great costume and about half the people at the club "got" who I was supposed to be and were delighted to see me. That half was mostly male though, tons of women came up to me going "Are you supposed to be some sea-monster or something?". So no luck there.
Anyway the club is/was called Freakscene (it's in Cork, in Ireland) and every year they have a contest. This years prize was a bottle of champagne (well, a bottle of 15 euro cava) and I beat Julius Caesar and Lion-o to win it, (scuttling side to side and 'whooping' as best I could up on stage) but the following day I was DYING sick. You know when you were in school and you've chewed on a pen too long and you end up feeling sick from the plastic and have that horrible taste in your mouth? Well after 8+ hours in the costume I got that in spades. The next day as I lay in bed moaning and groaning and feeling sick to my stomach my dad sauntered in and said:
"I hear you won a knock-off bottle of 'champagne'. Well? Was it worth it?"
I went a year too early though, the next year the prize was a trip for two to Transylvania! Goddammit Zoidberg would've totally won that one!!
I don't remember how old I was, but I was VERY young and it was the year that Batman Forever came out in theaters. So since that movie IS THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE and totally blew my tiny mind, I HAD to go as the BEST character in the movie for Halloween. No, not Batman. Not Robin. Jim Carey! I mean, supposedly it was The Riddler but seriously, that was Jim Carey being Jim Carey.
So come Halloween time my parents bought me the costume - green tights with a vacuformed Carey/Riddler mask - except I was a round (in other words: FAT) little kid and my parents misjudged the size of the costume, so it ripped in about 4 different places (including the crotch, of course, 'cause why not embarrass me completely?) and was unwearable. Except my parents were cheap and ALWAYS refused to admit their mistakes (a lovely combo of personality traits, innit?) and I was forced to wear it anyway.
So since I ditched the crappy flimsy mask (those things suck) and a Question Mark cane clearly would have broken the budget for the costume manufacturer, I didn't so much go Trick r Treating as The Riddler so much as I did a fat kid in torn green tights wearing a sweater for a skirt (had to cover up the twig n' berries, y'see) with a grocery bag for catching candy. I'm sure the neighbors were perplexed but GODDAMM IT I WAS THE RIDDLER. I OWNED that shredded costume.
Incidentally that was also the night my family learned it wasn't wise to strut around our ghetto neighborhood in dollar store shoes. We learned this when I stepped on a broken beer bottle and nearly severed my pinky toe, ending Halloween early for my disgruntled cousins and I.
Now that I think about it, this costume might be memorable for all the wrong reasons...
My favorite costume was when I was only 8 years old. Somehow I talked my parents into letting me be Jason Voorhees. I still don't know how I got away with it. I wanted to look the part, walk the part, and (being 8 and very inquisitive) SMELL the part. I figured that Jason didn't bathe, living in the woods and all, so for about 10 days, I didn't bathe either. I had to have smelled like an undead/immortal serial killer after 5 days, but when my parents said I needed to take a bath, I just told them "Its for my costume!" with big puppy dog eyes. I had an old pair of jeans that I ripped up, ran around in mud in, and wore the entire time. Same with an old nasty Carharrt button up shirt. I even got my parents to buy me a really nice plastic machete. I still have it, 16 years later. It even still has the red paint we used as blood.
So that fateful night of nights, October 31st rolls around, and I'm out trick-or-treating by myself for the first time. I ran into some friends, got a couple of king size bars from the rich people up the block, generic kid stuff. But then, I saw my nemesis. Freddy. Not only was it Jason's rival (having already seen Jason Goes to Hell), but it was a kid that I HATED from school. He always used to pick on me about everything (you like Power Rangers, you play with Transformers, you name it, and he berated me, just for being a little nerdling). He came up to me and started making fun of me and poking me, and I snapped. I beat the f*** out of him with my trusty machete, and after it was done, I hauled my little butt back home, because I knew that I was gonna be in trouble. His parents called mine and told them what happened. My dad looked at my mom and said "I'll deal with him." He got down to my level and asked "Why did you do that?" and "Do you know how much trouble you're in?" and I let it all out. I told him how he bullied me every day and the teachers and principal did nothing about it, and that he was the one who gave me a black eye earlier in the school year. After I was done, my dad looked at me and said "Well, I cant punish you for defending yourself, but I am going to punish you for not trying to walk away before you hit him." Then (and I will always remember this) he took a fun-size Snickers out of my bag, turned away and said "Happy Halloween!"
I have very few good costume memories because my parents hated Halloween for religious reasons and my formative years were spent going to "harvest festivals". Here you aren't allowed to dress up, but you did get a bit of candy and lame carnival rides. Because, you know, celebrating the harvest isn't pagan, like Halloween supposedly is in comparison. Makes perfect sense, right?
So, my favorite Halloween costume was a time when my girlfriend left me unexpectedly one day. It got ugly and she ended up accusing me of stalking her (I wasn't). I was sort of fuming over it and wasn't sure what to be for a big Halloween party our mutual friends were putting on until I found some of her clothes. I was thinner back then and she had some some oversized pajamas, so I actually found some I could squeeze into. I also had a couple of idiot friends.
Long story short, I dressed as my girlfriend, my friend who was actually a tiny aquajock also dressed as my girlfriend (but he had the whole androgynous thing going on since the clothes actually fit him) and my other friend dressed as me. So, for the rest of the night, he pretended to stalk me and the other friend. We all found it quite funny, although eventually a guy I didn't get along with went and picked her up and brought her to the party... then it got awkward.
My very favorite costume was in terrible taste, but so is my sense of humor. I wore a diaper and a bald cap. Over that I wore a clear plastic trash bag, with leg holes sealed with elastic. I filled this with warm water dyed blood red. I put a vacuum cleaner hose, also painted red into the bag at the front, then wrapped it around my neck. I had a small tape recorder with one of those "womb sound" tapes playing in it...you know, with the rushing blood sound and the heartbeat. Then I would sit all curled up with my hands wrapped around my legs. Periodically I would kick things. Yes, you guessed it, I was a fetus. later in the evening, a friend came up to me with an oversized coathanger and "aborted" me, red liquid pouring out of my bag and sloshing across the floor. Probably wasn't a lot of fun to clean up,but I DID win the costume contest.
A yearly tradition has developed in my family starting a few years ago while I was in pharmacy school. Last year I had the chance to finally go! I conspired with my family to create my cousin's worst nightmare: a whole bunch of scary clowns, including myself:
Aside from her, we also found a rather funny fact: more adults are scared of clowns than are children. Little kids would come up to me without a second thought... while their parents stayed no less than 20 feet away at all times! Other clowns would come by and have an impromptu dance-off to the circus music that we kept playing in the background.
We're going back again in a couple weeks, with some marked improvements to the costume and the site decorations. My cousin has even hinted that she might actually [i]join[/i] in our insanity. Guess good old exposure therapy worked!
Well, I only started Dressing for Halloween last year, and I was the Eleventh Doctor. I had the Boots, the pants, the Shirt, the suspender, Bow tie and my Sonic Screw Driver.
Anyway, I was so happy with the over all costume, I even made the Badge that said "The Doctor Here to help"! Not completely perfect though
Problem 1: was when I tried to get a coat on Ebay, $30 I spent, It smelled, it was itchy, and stiff, and it was, according to what the dry-cleaners told my mom, "Rotting and infested with bugs". So yeah.....
Tossed that out....
Problem 2: was the bow tie, it was a cheap untied one, stiff material too. The only reason I was even able to wear it was because my cousin figured out how to tie it by accident. I ended up ordering a better tie, but it came a bit too late (2 days after Halloween, I think)
And finally Problem 3: I must have seen at least 75 people, and not one person said "Nice Doctor Costume" Or anything like that...
When I was about six I was supposed to go to a Halloween party but my mother procrastinated on getting me a costume. So she had me wear some bib overalls and a white t-shirt. She took some mascara and put a line on my cheek. I asked her who I was supposed to be. She told me that I was Scarface, Al Capone. She tried to convince me that he would wear overalls when hiding from the law. Sure Ma. Sure.
Every year the NaNoWriMo folks in my area try to have a kick-off party a local pizza place on Halloween night, and everyone is encouraged to dress up. So one year I painted a bouncy ball black, glued it to the top of a headband, and wore all black. I was a semi-colon. Goofy, I know, but it went over well with a group of other writers. I actually won the costume contest. I tried to repeat my success the next year by going as an ellipses (glued two balls to the sides of the headband instead of the top,) but it didn't prove as popular. Guess I flew too close to the sun.
That year the Minn Senator got caught in the Airport restroom soliciting sex. I went as that bathroom stall. I wore an off white sweatshirt with a chain around my neck with a roll of toilet paper and black sharpie. I had a couple signs on my sweatshirt, "Employees must was hands" and I wrote "Senator Larry Craig was here!" etc . . . I let people use the sharpie to write on my sweatshirt. I got some great limericks on it by the end of the night, but I really can't wear it in public, too many curse words and dick drawings on it.
The winner is revealed on the next page...