Dinosaur Dracula!

Vintage Halloween Treat Sacks!

TELL ME. When you went trick-or-treating, what did you use to hold the candy? A McBoo pail? A pillowcase? A Radio Flyer wagon?

Most often, I’m guessing you used a plastic bag made specifically for that purpose. The “trick-or-treat sack” has historically been just as integral a part of a kid’s Halloween experience as his or her costume, so it’s no big shock that tons of companies made them for promotional giveaways. Think of the free advertising! If I gave away 50 Dino Drac treat sacks, I’d have effectively turned 50 people in walking billboards.

I’ve collected five such promotional trick-or-treat sacks from the ‘80s and ‘90s, which aren’t only windows into Halloweens past, but remembrances of companies as they used to be… or even companies that folded when you were still young enough to go door-to-door for free candy!

Let’s take a look. A look at bags.

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tru#1: Toys “R” Us Treat Sack!

Based on the art, I’m guessing this is from the mid ‘80s. I’m also guessing that TRU sold them rather than gave them away, because a free treat sack would not have had that reinforcing hard plastic oval thing lining the handle. (You’ll notice that the rest of the bags featured here lack it — and they were all obvious freebies, because nobody would’ve paid for them.)

Cold, hard truth: ‘80s kids has the best-ever Geoffrey. Not too creepy, not too sleek, and definitely not too much like a real giraffe… which is good, because real giraffes don’t know what’s going on, and as mascots for toy stores, they’re de facto detached.

Back then, Geoffrey’s family was seen much more often, too. I can’t remember the last time I saw Geoffrietta or Geoffrey Junior; clearly it’s been long enough to forget their real names. Here, the Giraffes (capitalized to denote surname, not species) contemplate trick-or-treating at the scariest house in their neighborhood. Are four fun-sized Almond Joys really worth the risk?

If you look at this bag as a sort of open-ended one-panel comic, it’s pretty Creepypastaish. Read More…

Win a set of Dinosaur Dracula trading cards!

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Who wants to win a set of Dinosaur Dracula trading cards?

Yes, Dinosaur Dracula trading cards!

After teasing them for over a year, it’s finally time to give them away! Between now and Halloween, there will be at least fifteen winners of the full 30-card set!

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The cards feature gorgeous art, sinister stories and plenty of references to Dino Drac characters and culture, and I… had absolutely nothing to do with them!

The set was the brainchild of my friend Steve, who very casually told me that he and his friends created a Dinosaur Dracula trading card set. Well, holy shit!

Before I tell you more about the cards, let’s give kudos to their creators!

Magic Steve – Conception & Story Writer
Wil Brendel – Artist & Inker
Jake Crunk – Colorist

These guys did this totally on the arm and created the whole set before I even knew about it. They asked for absolutely nothing in return, so the least I could do is ask everyone to follow these creative masterminds on Twitter! (Their names link to their accounts!) Read More…

Madd Matt’s Vampire Doll, from 1988!

Madd Matt is back, and he has a new doll!

Actually, the doll isn’t new. It’s from 1988. Many of you should recognize this animated vampire figure, which for a time seemed as common a Halloween decoration as fake webs and plastic spider rings.

Part of a larger line of battery-operated monsters, I’ve long thought of them as cheap imitations of the much nicer Telco figures. (I don’t mean “cheap” as an insult. On the collectors’ market, those Telco “Motionettes” can go for several hundred dollars apiece, while this cruder Dracula frequently sells for a mere ten bucks. That’s how much I paid. Score!) Read More…

Deadsites: Kellogg’s Spooky Town, from 2000!

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?

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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. Read More…

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.

papa

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…