Ready for some thick Halloween nostalgia? Of course you are. That’s your drug and I’m your dealer. Our relationship is sketchy and has been for years.
Down below: Five spooky newspaper ads from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
The “Hannibal Voorhees” Mask!
Cheap hockey masks (or “Jason masks”) have arguably been the most ubiquitous costume accessory of the past several decades.
Certain companies may utilize better materials or add goofy gimmicks, but the “standard” mask — a chunk of white plastic with a simple strap — is as easy to find today as it was in the mid ‘80s, when Jason Voorhees was a much fresher face.
Shown here is one of that mask’s famous spinoffs. After The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter became an unlikely star of the Halloween season, thanks chiefly to the restraint mask he wore while trolling Ruth Martin.
Plastic replicas were common, but even more popular was this version, which blended Hannibal’s restraint mask with Jason’s hockey mask to create something familiar but altogether distinct.
The dueling references were lost on me as a kid, but they’re plain as day to see now. Though certainly more popular in the ‘90s, these masks still pop up today.
Classic ’80s Kiddy Costumes!
Your eyes jumped to ALF, but I’m saving my book-length story about ALF costumes for a future entry. Right now, let’s focus on Mr. Ninja.
If you weren’t a kid in the ‘80s or early ‘90s, you missed the peculiar “ninja costume” fad, which is something I’ve never understood yet personally took part in.
I get that we grew up surrounded by ninja characters in everything from cartoons to movies to video games, but I can’t think of one “classic” ninja popular enough to have inspired such an intense costume craze. Can anyone fill me in?
The mask-and-poncho combo shown above was a thing, sure, but more popular were the ninja costumes made of cloth or polyester or whatever the hell cheap costumes are made from. To us, they were less “costumes” and more outright uniforms. We weren’t so much pretending to be ninjas as actually becoming them.
(I remember one Halloween when nearly every boy in my class dressed like a ninja. We all looked like badly bootlegged Power Rangers.)
Halloween Pumpkin Pails!
I’ve already written about McDonald’s Halloween Pails, but this illustration was just too cute to exclude. If you’ve ever wondered how the pails might work as a tattoos, consider this article a sign from God.
The ad also promoted McDonald’s Halloween gift certificates, which were sold by the book and meant to be handed out to trick-or-treaters. I’ve mentioned them on Dino Drac before, and was shocked to learn that many of you had never even heard of the things. I promise, this was a legit thing that happened, and in fact still happens.
The best trick-or-treat hauls showed serious diversity, and nothing stood out from a pile of chocolate bars and Starburst two-packs quite like a piece of paper with Ronald McDonald’s face on it. The fact that I’d eventually be able to trade it for a fistful of ice cream was just the gravy.
Blockbuster Treat Coupons!
(Blockbuster Video, 1990)
Similar to McD’s Halloween gift certificates were these rental coupons from Blockbuster. I don’t remember this promotion ever running in New York, but holy shit does it sound awesome.
Imagine it! You’re a kid, you’re trick-or-treating, and since it’s 1990, you’re wearing a Bart Simpson mask over one of your regular t-shirts — one that’s not quite “Bart orange,” but is nonetheless close enough.
After 40 pieces of caramel this and 30 pieces of strawberry that, somebody gives you a Blockbuster rental coupon. Now you can stretch the magic of Halloween well into November, simply by waiting for the precise right moment to demand a trip to the goddamned video store.
It was like carrying the guarantee of one good afternoon in your pocket, and that was worth 50 times more than any movie rental.
The Who’s Who of 1990!
(Child’s World, 1990)
By 1990, I’d graduated from these sorts of kiddie costumes and was more interested in the “mature” stuff, like big black death cloaks and masks made to resemble snake-covered zombie heads.
Even so, the costumes shown above were 1990’s premiere choices, with Bart and the Ninja Turtles being especially popular. Dick Tracy was more of a thing that was supposed to be big but never quite got there… even if the outfits from his movie interested me far more than a Bart head or a Donatello shell.
(On that note, you have heard my Dick Tracy costume story from this older episode of The Purple Stuff Podcast, yes? If you need incentive, it’s super embarrassing.)
(Children’s Palace, 1989)
I love it when toy stores use Halloween as an excuse to treat regular toys as seasonal offerings. It still happens today, but it was much more of a thing in the ‘80s, when there were so many toy lines that screamed “Halloween” whether it was October, January or stupid ass August.
Sometimes, it made sense. For example, all of those Real Ghostbusters “pretend play” toys worked perfectly as costume accessories. In fact, Kenner’s Proton Pack worked so perfectly that I can’t even remember there being an official “costume” version.
Other times, toy stores just moved anything that was even slightly horror-themed up to the front, and left us to fill in the blanks. In this old Children’s Palace circular, you’ll notice that Soggy Boglins were clearly presented as Halloween items, even if Mattel had no such intentions.
It was so much easier to pretend you needed a Soggy Boglin for Halloween and not just because you liked Soggy Boglins when they were in the same aisle as the vinyl capes and blood capsules.
ME: Well Mom here’s all the stuff for my costume! A Jason mask, a convict suit, a plastic knife and of course this Soggy Boglin.
MOM: Okay fine but about that boggy goblin — is that really something Jason wears in the movies?
ME: Soggy Boglin. And yeah he’s never without it.