Dinosaur Dracula!

A stranger’s Halloween party, from 1994.

Remember last month, when I went into tremendously long detail about some total stranger’s ancient Halloween photo?

Let’s do that again!

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This photo was another eBay find. I don’t know who that house belongs to, nor even what part of the country it’s from. I suppose some of you are wondering why I’d spend five bucks on a picture of a stranger’s Halloween decorations. By the end of this post, I think you’ll get it.

Taken on October 31st, 1994, this photo is the perfect encapsulation of the Halloween spirit, or at least, the Halloween spirit as I know it. A crude “yard haunt” hidden somewhere in suburbia! Is there anything more on-point?

When I drive around the neighborhood to look at everyone’s decorations, it’s setups like this that speak to me most. The ones that seem like true labors of love, no matter how cheesy. Anyone can go to Home Depot and buy a few gaudy lawn inflatables, you know? A setup like this takes more soul. I could’ve been friends with these people. I wish I had been.

It’s an ugly mess, but sometimes, ugly messes work best. Many of the decorations were homemade, marking the house’s occupants as true “Halloween people.” If the Grinch snuck down and stole everyone’s Halloween decorations, this family would still celebrate just as hard. It isn’t just “on them” — it’s in them. Read More…

Yet MORE Spooky Action Figures!

freddyWe spent the weekend at the headquarters of Freddy In Space, taking years off of our lives with a mix of pizza, pumpkin beer and Crayola crayons. I suspect I’ll be fully recovered by Christmas.

The best thing about John’s house (aside from Mothman the cat) is his absolute swarm of horror memorabilia, permeating literally every corner while still somehow staying completely organized. I could blog for weeks about his collection, but for now, I’ll just focus on a few random action figures.

Yes, in this edition of Five SPOOKY Action Figures, the toys actually don’t belong to me. These were all found on John’s shelves, and hastily photographed on the steps outside his house. I normally prefer to stick with what’s in my own collection, but these weirdos were cool enough to break that rule.

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2Papa Shango
World Wrestling Federation, 1992

WWE has unleashed dozens of Halloween-appropriate wrestlers, from giants who control fire to absolutely literal vampires. Still, few have been as on-the-nose as Papa Shango. WWE may have been a bit more diplomatic in their wording, but Papa Shango was a basically a cliched voodooist who defeated his opponents with BLACK MAGIC.

(Actually, he defeated his opponents with inverted shoulderbreakers, but let’s not get too technical.)

The tricks usually occurred during interview segments, and man, they were out there. Best among them was the time Papa Shango caused the Ultimate Warrior to throw up on everyone backstage. (Some wrestlers got a push by being scripted to win matches. Others got it by making their opponents vomit.)

The height of Papa Shango’s chicanery didn’t last long. He ultimately became “just another guy,” who rarely backed up his look with any B movie nonsense. Fortunately, he did stick around long enough to score a Hasbro action figure, with a weirdly irremovable top hat!

FYI: Charles Wright, who played Papa Shango, would eventually find much bigger success as “The Godfather” — wrestling’s most lovable pimp! Read More…

Nickelodeon Gak: Halloween Editions!

dare“Gak,” originally a nickname for the slime used on Double Dare, first hit the retail market in the early ‘90s. From then on, the sludgy plaything slid in and out of production, always returning with new colors and weirder upgrades.

But over the last few years, Nickelodeon’s legion of gloppy toys have become more permanently available. From “Green Slime” to “Floam,” you won’t have much trouble tracking any of them down. This includes Gak, of course.

The benefit to this increased availability is Nickelodeon’s need to constantly reinvent themselves. After all, it’d get pretty boring to buy the same old Gak month after month. So, we get things like this…

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Halloween Gak, in two terrific styles! (The white Gak in the skull container has been available in the past, but I’ve definitely never seen that pumpkin Gak before.)

You could argue that only fundamental difference between Halloween Gak and regular Gak is the shape of the plastic container, and I guess you’d be right. But isn’t that enough? Read More…

“Chamber of Horrors” Halloween Tape!

This is going to be one of the shorter Halloween Countdown entries, but make no mistake, today’s subject means as much to me as anything else I’ve covered.

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From 1988, it’s the famous/infamous Chamber of Horrors cassette, which I’m sure will be immediately recognizable to a fair chunk of you. “Halloween sound effect tapes” were October mainstays at card stores and bric-a-brac shops, but this specific one REALLY got around.

Since a relative few used the tapes for any on-the-nose purpose, I can’t accurately claim that they were “necessities” of their era. Still, we all had them. Even if you didn’t have this one, I’m sure you had one like it. And if you were anything like me, you devised some pretty strange uses for it.

By and large, tapes like these included one long string of — for lack of a better term — Halloween garbage. Music mixed with howls mixed with creeping door sound effects. Flapping bat wings, ominous moans and rattling chains. Things like that.

There were two primary purposes for them. One, you could throw it on as background noise at a Halloween party. Two, you could blast it from your porch to give the decorations on your front lawn a boost of audible spookiness. (Just by looking at this tape, so many memories of cardboard graveyards come flooding back.)

I bought this cassette a while back, confident that it was the same one I grew up with, but not positive. As soon as I listened to the first five seconds, I knew I had the right tape. Read More…

Classic Creepy Commercials – Volume 6!

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It’s time for Volume 6 of Classic Creepy Commercials, and wowza, what a great batch this is! Just a perfect mix of Halloween nostalgia and absurd spookiness, along with at least one instance of Troll dolls shooting missiles at each other. Maybe two.

I’m giving you six ads this time. The first three come from our hero, Larry P, whose collection of spooky commercials never fails to thrill us. The second three come from my buddy Spencer, who so generously dived into his own archive to add to the pile. Thanks, guys!

Meineke “Monsters” Commercial! (1988)

The best thing about this Meineke commercial is that it has absolutely no reason to include monsters. They don’t tie in with any weirdly-named promotions, or even a tagline. They’re just there. Thank God!

Meineke’s countless ads made me aware of mufflers long before I had any idea what purpose they served. It’s hard to believe that any kid would pay attention to a muffler commercial, but Meineke’s were pretty memorable. And sometimes strange. The ads never reached a Geico-level of irreverence, but the people who made them clearly had bigger aspirations. You don’t put movie quality monsters in a muffler commercial unless you’re dreaming of the big leagues.

Our monsters include the Invisible Man and a seriously bitchin’ mummy. (The mummy is so top notch that I must’ve been slightly afraid of this commercial back in ‘88.) Because they were interested in buying mufflers, we must assume that these monsters drove cars. Not such a stretch in the Invisible Man’s case, but just imagine that mummy cruising down the interstate, bopping his head to Belinda Carlisle. Read More…

Halloween Kid Cuisine is back!

So as a matter of full disclosure, I know that only 2% of you are at all interested in reading about a Kid Cuisine microwave dinner — even if is Halloween themed. Still, I do the Halloween Countdown as much for me as for you, and I cannot tell a lie: I’m super excited about this.

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Even if I don’t eat Kid Cuisines, I’m such a fan of the concept. If I was the right age, and if my parents had loose rules on what I was allowed to swallow, I’d be all over them. They aren’t fundamentally different from what people imagine as a classic “TV dinner,” but with clever food shapes, colorful boxes and a long string of ties to kid-targeted movies and TV shows, Kid Cuisine lives up to its name.

I first noticed the Halloween editions back in 2003, and have been tracking them ever since. ConAgra doesn’t make them every year (the last time I saw them was in 2011), but whenever they do pop up, I can’t resist buying one. Maybe I wouldn’t if I didn’t have a dumb blog to showcase them on, but hey, that’s why I run Dinosaur Dracula. It’s my excuse to enjoy things that aren’t meant for me. Read More…

The 2014 Halloween Mood Table!

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October is here, and you know what that means. MOOD TABLE TIME.

This is a yearly tradition that many of you are aware of, but for the few that aren’t, I’ll explain.

I’ve been running the Halloween Countdown since 2003. The only Countdown that I fouled up was in 2007, owing to real life issues that made blogging about Halloween candy the lowest possible priority. In effect, my Halloween spirit was shot.

…but then I discovered a way to get it back.

THE HALLOWEEN MOOD TABLE!

What’s a Halloween Mood Table, you ask? It can be a small end table, or a larger coffee table, or a desk, or hell, even a chair. The idea is that you’ll saturate “some surface” with Halloween junk, and put it somewhere that you’re guaranteed to see it often. You could call it a “shrine to Halloween.”

What you put on it is totally up to you. You could mix pumpkins with random horror toys and a bowl of candy. Or you could add a dozen candles and hope you don’t burn the whole city down. Whatever!

There is no wrong way to do a Halloween Mood Table. My first one looked like this, and my last one looked like this. Yours might only have a few things on it, or it could have a hundred things on it. It’s a fun little art project, sure, but the point is that you’ll have an “area of focus” to keep your Halloween spirit in check.

You’ll be surprised at how effective it is! Last year’s Mood Table article went semi-viral, and dozens of folks posted photos of their own versions. Many confirmed what I’ve been saying all along: It’s fun to make and it’s cool to look at, but the Halloween Mood Table really does make Halloween feel like Halloween… even when everything else in your life doesn’t.

I specifically save this exercise for October 1st, and with good reason. If you’re like me, you’ve already spent a month “Halloweening.” You’ve been to all of the stores, you’ve seen all of the movies, you’ve eaten all of the candy. The problem is that you haven’t saved much for October. Sure, things will pick up in the final week, but what about NOW?

THIS is the solution.

So, without further ado, I proudly present Dino Drac’s 2014 Halloween Mood Table!

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I started with one of those barely-standing, tile-topped tables that I’ve been using for almost ten years now. This is my canvas.

I knew I’d never top the insanity of last year’s Mood Table, and I wasn’t about to try. And besides, since our whole apartment is currently overflowing with Halloween stuff, I didn’t see much point in localizing everything to one corner of the living room.

Instead, I tried something different — and something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. This year, my Halloween Mood Table would have all of its usual bells and whistles, but it would also serve a very specific purpose. Read More…