Get set for the 24th edition of Classic Creepy Commercials, where I rescue ads from wheezing VHS tapes and willfully ignore the too-scratchy audio.
This is the third volume posted during the 2019 Halloween Countdown, which is pretty nuts considering that I wasn’t sure I’d even find enough ads for one volume. If you missed the previous two, they’re here and here.
Creep Phone, Starring YOU! (1988)
Using footage from 1986’s Troll was so brilliant. The target demo for this hotline probably never saw that movie, so kids might’ve taken it as custom footage, which made Creep Phone seem like a much bigger production than it was.
The notable thing about this particular Creep Phone commercial was the pitch for YOU to lend YOUR voice to a future Creep Phone recording. I’m guessing that was a scam and a half. You likely had to wait for the entire Creep Phone message to complete to get to their answering machine, and then call back another ten times to see if the lousy monsters actually used your recording.
And you would’ve, too. Picture it! Millions of people hearing YOU say “grrr I’m gonna eat your foot” in a prepubescent Dracula voice.
TCBY’s Goosebumps Cakes! (1997)
I’m a spooky snacks aficionado, and there aren’t many that’ve come out in my lifetime that I haven’t at least heard about. Dents to my supposed expertise aside, I’m still thrilled when it happens. I never knew that TCBY sold GOOSEBUMPS ICE CREAM CAKES, and this will be the happy thought that gets me through the weekend.
I’d forgotten about TCBY to such a degree that I actually had to check to see if the company was still a thing. While nowhere near as prominent as it used to be, yeah, it is. I’ll always cherish my memories of the era when everyone treated frozen yogurt like some space-aged miracle from another planet.
Anyway, that ice cream cake is amazing. It’s dripping with green “slime,” guarded by an army of gummy worms, and topped by a stunning recreation of the Triple Header book cover. I’d imagine that it was a big seller in 1997, when Goosebumps was commonly called “the shit” by kids at the schoolyard.
PS: The commercial works in a reference to Waldenbooks, I guess because the producers wanted extra nostalgia points when some asshole wrote about it 20 years later.
Friday the 13th: The Series! (1988)
While I’m only familiar with Friday the 13th: The Series in the broadest of strokes, promos like this meant the world to me as a kid.
Friday the 13th: The Series and similarly creepy shows usually aired on the smaller broadcast networks that kids counted on for cartoons and sitcom reruns. Which meant that even if you were a child who’d never dare to watch such shows, you were still exposed to them. Those scary ass promos turned up during everything.
Feelin’ safe with that five-year-old syndicated rerun of Growing Pains? Well, fuck you — here’s a promo for Midnight Death Guts!
It was terrible or awesome, depending on your POV. Maybe a little of both. As I’ve mentioned in prior articles, it’s hard to be bored when you’re scared, and though these teases of scary shows gave me pause, that still beat sitting around feeling like my world was pure static.
The Pumpkin Light! (1986)
I’ve already run a commercial or two that featured the Pumpkin Light, but never this one, which is so charmingly low-fi. I love how their attempt to create a nighttime environment came off more like purgatory from a 1970s B movie.
The Pumpkin Light’s foremost purpose was indicated by its name: You’d slip the doodad into your jack-o’-lantern and watch it glow. It was cooler than it sounds, since the thing erratically beamed both orange and white lights. If you wanted your pumpkin to look like a strobing nightmare, this was about as good as you could do for five bucks.
The commercial also suggested wearing them like necklaces while trick-or-treating, for safety’s sake. This was back when parents could actually let their children go trick-or-treating at night without God himself making derogatory comments from the sky about what failures they were.
Stay tuned for the endpage, where we find out that the Pumpkin Light was available at Pathmark, Genovese and Rickel. Only some of you are familiar with those dead chains. All ya need to know is that they were places to buy marble notebooks and cherry ChapStick.
Universal Monsters Postage Stamps! (1997)
There was a huge influx of Universal Monsters merch during the 1990s. From out of nowhere, the classic monsters clawed into everything from coloring books to throw blankets. They were all over the place. It was grand!
Perhaps their biggest “get” was a set of USPS postage stamps, which were riotously popular. I know this for a fact, as they arrived during a time when I was at the post office 375 times a week, and it took sooo many tries to finally get my hands on the things.
It was in no small part thanks to dealers. This was close enough to the comic book boom and the Beanie Baby fiasco that many people still had that whole “everything will be worth double someday” mindset. Funnily enough, they weren’t wrong. The stamps now sell for roughly double their 32-cent face value.
Personally, I just liked the idea of sending my friends mail with Frankenstein gracing the envelopes. (By “my friends” I mean sellers from the back pages of Starlog, but hey, I’m sure those guys appreciated the gesture.)
Thanks for reading! We’re getting dangerously close to October, so I hope you plan to spend part of the weekend working on your Halloween Mood Table!