Oof, there is some serious nostalgia in this edition of Classic Creepy Commercials. Get ready for the feels.
Big thanks to Matt B. and Aaron G. for so graciously donating the ads featured below! You guys are the coolest curators.
Pumpkin Kutter! (1980s)
Still in production today, the Pumpkin Kutter is a miniature saw that makes carving jack-o’-lanterns a cinch. (Well maybe not a cinch, but certainly a thousand times easier than using dulled steak knives.) The tool’s simple design has since been aped by a zillion companies, but back in the ‘80s, this one was the one.
Joining the Pumpkin Kutter was the Pumpkin Scoop, which was more attractive than practical, and that’s okay, because when your shovel looks like a jack-o’-lantern wearing a condom, iffy functionality is forgiven.
Then there was the trio’s real must-have item, the Pumpkin Light. This battery-operated gizmo illuminated your pumpkin better than any candle could, and it even blinked erratically for extra eeriness. (I’m normally a candle purist, but that thing legitimately rocked.)
They’re everyday tools by 2016 standards, but as a kid, all of this orange garbage made carving pumpkins seem less like “arts and crafts” and more like “playing with toys.”
Added nostalgia points: The kitchen in this commercial looks exactly like the one my late grandparents had. I can practically smell the yarn and oil.
Ronald McDonald is Scared Silly! (1980s)
Scared Silly is arguably the most famous of the Halloween-themed McDonald’s commercials, and inarguably the weirdest. When you watch it, don’t just hoot and holler over the impressive set and the spooky ambiance. I want you to actually process what you’re seeing.
Bizarre, isn’t it?
Here we have the Chicken McNuggets — meaning the anthropomorphized versions with the cute little eyes — donning Halloween costumes. Fair enough. But then we learn that these monstrous McNuggets are utilizing weird science to create dipping sauces, apparently oblivious to what that means for them.
The experiment fails, but Ronald saves the day with a batch of McDonald’s dipping sauces, which he apparently carries on his person at all times. The commercial ends there, but think about it. What was the only natural progression of that story? Even clowns gotta eat.
Watch the ad again, and pay close attention to Ronald’s expressions. It’s one of the few McDonald’s commercials wherein he actually looked like he was up to no good. This was as close to a horror movie as McDonald’s ever came, which I suppose made sense for a Halloween commercial.
Teddy Ruxpinstein! (1980s)
Worlds of Wonder made some incredible toys in the ‘80s, but they never seemed as surefooted in their marketing. Their television commercials obviously had serious budgets, but at the end of the day, I have to wonder how effective they were in selling toys.
This ad is a perfect example. Treating Teddy Ruxpin like Frankenstein’s Monster was a questionable strategy, especially when you consider that this wasn’t even a Halloween commercial. (It aired in July!)
If I had that much money invested in a talking robot bear, I don’t think I’d sign off on a thirty-second Universal Monsters sendup. Sounds risky, no?
That said, it’s an amazing commercial to just watch, and it’s even better with all of that grain and hiss. Thanks, ancient videocassette!
Halloween Lite-Up Light Sticks! (1980s)
In my last romp through ancient Halloween newspaper ads, I talked about how glow sticks meant way more to kids of the ‘80s than to kids of the now. I got the impression that some of you thought I was bullshitting. Well, here’s proof!
Lite-Up glow sticks were initially sold as simple tools to keep kids visible while trick-or-treating, but after a while, they were presented more as out-and-out toys.
I had all of the Lite-Up accessories featured in this ad, but of particular interest were those Monster Heads. They were AMAZING. You haven’t lived until you’ve pranced around the living room carrying a glowing Dracula head like an Olympic torch.
Rubik’s Magic! (1980s)
Though not nearly as popular as the Rubik’s Cube, I’ve always been fonder of the still-produced Rubik’s Magic puzzles… mainly because they work so well as dressing screens for action figures. Please tell me I’m not the only one who uses them that way.
This isn’t a Halloween commercial by anyone’s definition, but three things made me feel okay about including it:
1) Dracula scores a cameo.
2) Ernő Rubik has a spooky voice.
3) The commercial costars Randy Savage, so I would’ve included it even if the rest was about yule logs.
Thanks for reading about more creepy commercials!