Welcome back to Deadsites, where I study defunct websites and revisit the internet’s barely recognizable past!
I wanted something Halloweeny for this edition, of course. How about Froot Loops?
From 2000, it’s Kellogg’s SPOOKY TOWN — a site-within-a-site that was only accessible during October. Though unmentioned, its likely purpose was to promote special Halloween editions of certain Kellogg’s cereals. (Both Froot Loops and Rice Krispies had them that year. Tony the Tiger, noted asshole, abstained.)
“Goofy holiday pages” remain components of kid-targeted marketing today, but 2014’s versions lack the same charm. If Spooky Town existed now, I imagine it would focus on getting kids to share images of Toucan Sam across social media. Maybe it’d have a side page where you could print coupons for shitty e-readers.
Back in 2000, it was rarer for kids to connect with other kids online. If they did, it was either on a heavily-moderated half-forum where every message had to be preapproved, or on a site that they probably shouldn’t have been on. For children, using the internet was mostly “alone time” — and not just in the physical sense.
That partly explains why I love Spooky Town so much. Unburdened by thoughts of viral reach, it’s much more sincere. Just a happy little Halloween page where kids could play games and get tips on their costumes. If their parents were in the room, they’d learn how to make cats out of Cocoa Krispies.
Spooky Town was split into several pages. The first provided a list of trick-or-treating safety tips. The wording varies, but it’s the same list you’ve read in a thousand magazines, and on the backs of almost as many plastic treat sacks.
“Flashlights after dark!”
“Don’t eat anything until your parents ensure that it hasn’t been poisoned!”
“Don’t wear costumes that could easily catch fire!”
Now that I think about it, these seemingly banal lists paint some pretty awful pictures. If you reason that the tips are valid, then you’re also reasoning that Halloween may poison and/or set fire to children. Paging Conal Cochran.
Next we have the “Costume Crypt” game, which I suppose was more of an “activity” than a “game.”
Your goal was to design Halloween costumes for Snap, Crackle and Pop, by rummaging through clickable menus and dragging facial features over their eerie floating heads.
Nothing fits exactly as it should. They all come out looking like they’ve been drawn, quartered, and then dressed in mismatched costumes as a final insult by their assailants. This is a plus, mind you.
Above, I turned Pop into a green-haired witch wearing a vampire’s cloak. Now that I’ve done this, I’m positive that it’s what I was born to do.
I couldn’t resist making costumes for all three. YOLO.
Crackle is a drowsy Dracula who dabbles in wizardry.
Snap is a boring pirate. Screw Snap.
Our next click took us to the “Witch’s Wardrobe” section, which was an endless pile of costume ideas for people who wouldn’t or couldn’t buy them from Kmart.
They included many more than the two shown above, but I think those two exemplify the best and worst of them. The mummy costume sounds totally reasonable and cool, but if you were gonna go through that much trouble for the homemade pirate costume, I think buying one may have been the smarter option.
(By the way, the idea of trying to make a functional eyepatch out of construction paper sounds like an ironclad guarantee of crying children. “Remember, son… don’t turn your head, or the crux of your entire costume will tear in half, and then you’ll come home all pissy.” That how’s dads talk.)
The second “game” is structurally similar to the first, but since we’re now turning a green ball into a hideous monster, I obviously prefer it.
In “Monster Maker,” you drag-and-drop from piles of noses, mouths, eyes and ears, creating creatures of your own design. What began only an egg-like green thing soon transformed into red-eyed bat with hairy testicles. I can’t say that I feel proud, but I do feel accomplished.
With a little work, you could create some decent freaks. On the left is what would’ve happened if Frankenstein boinked the Metaluna Mutant. On the right is what would’ve happened if the genie from Aladdin wore better cologne that day.
“Monster Maker” was probably my favorite thing in Spooky Town, but this came close. “Spooky Snacks” is an impressive list of Halloween treats that you could make at home, using Kellogg’s cereals, candy and cake frosting.
The recipes are still perfectly applicable in 2014, so if you’re dying to know what a “Fiendishly Simple Halloween Cat” tastes like, just follow the instructions!
The screenshot above collects my three favorite recipes. I haven’t tried them, but I’ve made dozens of ghoulish treats using similar recipes from Kellogg’s cereal boxes. Those guys don’t mess around! The results always look and taste great. If your upcoming Halloween party could use some third grade charm, give these a shot.
10 out of 10 for Kellogg’s Spooky Town. It captures the best essences of the late ‘90s/early 2000s internet, and it’s encouraged me to make cat heads out of cereal. Wanting more would be greed and gluttony, and then I’d be five deadly sins away from morphing into Lucifer.