Remember last month, when I went into tremendously long detail about some total stranger’s ancient Halloween photo?
Let’s do that again!
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.
Below is an inspection of the highlights. I numbered them in a clockwise rotation, but I admit that the clock I had in mind was both broken and from Neptune.
#1: I believe this is a homemade hanging ghost, fashioned mostly out of a Hefty bag. There is literally nothing in the universe that tops a ghost made out of a garbage bag.
#2: Massive amounts of webbing. It’s too voluminous and thick to be the everyday fake webs sold by the bag, so I’m wondering the family made this stuff, too. I love the erratic placement! I’ve read that brown recluse spiders make messy webs; maybe this was their idea of a giant brown recluse’s lair? If so, +10 bonus points.
#3: Hanging bat, assumedly of the store-bought variety. I love the cylindrical body shape, which makes it look less like a bat and more like a missile fired from 1966 Batman’s boat.
#4: Jack-o’-lantern, with a spider design! One thing I’ve noticed over the years is a progressive decrease of families willing to leave their carved pumpkins outside. Whether that’s due to weather, miscreants or hungry squirrels, I don’t know. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and these days, I internally flip out whenever I see a front porch with an honest-to-goodness lit-up jack-o’-lantern resting on it. It’s the perfect symbol of Halloween.
#5: The family had nothing to do with this, but I had to mention how much those fallen dead leaves add to the presentation. Thank you, nature.
#6: A plastic trick-or-treat pail, repurposed as an outdoor decoration. It’s the placement that gets me. Had they put it front and center, I might not have mentioned it. The fact that it’s crookedly hung on an unimportant bush makes it so much better. This family made sure they used ALL of their Halloween decorations, year after year, even if they didn’t have good spots for everything. I love that.
#7: HOMEMADE GRAVEYARD! This is the big one. The homemade graveyard is my absolute favorite type of Halloween decoration. This one is especially good, because I’m pretty sure they made the tombstones out of pizza boxes. The names on the front were presumably their names, hastily signed as if the tombstones were yearbooks belonging to quasi-friends.
Are you starting to see why I had to buy this photo?
Oh wait. Forgot #8.
#8: This appears to be a flat skeleton popping out of a giant cardboard coffin. It’s way off to the side and much further back than the rest of the stuff, serving more to decorate their backyard shed than their actual house. Swoon!
Given the age of the photo, I’d say that it’s a tribute to “Halloweens of the ‘90s,” but that isn’t exactly true. I’ve seen spreads like this before the ‘90s, and I’ve seen spreads like this just last week. The tenets are timeless. The best way to “do” Halloween is to go all-in and give no fucks. Cover your lawn in garbage bags and cut-up pizza boxes. There’s only one time of year that you can get away with it.
But wait… it gets better.
I was on the fence about buying this photo until I noticed a second one from the same seller. One that was clearly from the same night and taken by the same people…
Yes, now we’re INSIDE the house. (Note the date!)
Evidently, the fact that someone took this photo on Halloween night wasn’t mere coincidence. This was a Halloween party!
Looking over the costumed ghouls, it’s pretty obvious that they weren’t all related. Whether the house belonged to one of them or to the unseen photographer, I’m not sure.
Together, they’d drink the night away under a sea of face paint and plastic machetes. Just out of camera range, I’m sure there were huge bowls of Cheez Doodles. Late in the night, they’d watch Jason Goes To Hell and wish they’d rented something else.
Let’s meet the guests!
(Yes, I’m blacking out some of the more identifiable faces, even though this photo is 20 years old. Privacy!)
#1: A zombie, but a hip one.
#2: A Star Trek alien, I think? She’s definitely wearing a Star Trek jumpsuit, and the blue face paint seems more “alien” than “monster.” (I’m not enough of a Trekkie to identify, so if you know who she’s supposed to be, please, tell me.)
#3: A guy who took a beating! Interesting concept. At first I thought that he was just another zombie, but a closer look at the makeup definitely portrays something closer to “boxing damage” than “undead scarring.”
#4: Lady Devil. She was either someone’s wife or a friend-of-a-friend. Definitely not part of the usual crew. I can’t explain how I know this, but I’m sure it’s true. Maybe it’s her smile. That’s a “I’ll play along but deep down I know this shit ain’t for me and I’d just as soon be home in bed” kind of smile.
#5: THE REAPER. My favorite of them all. Large and stoic even when it wasn’t Halloween, this guy was perfect for the role. So perfect, actually, that I’m betting one of his friends picked the costume. Hopefully he was in on the joke.
#6: Some kind of… uh… army guy… with massive injuries? The pose, the hair and the hat all point to him being the leader of the crew. At any given moment, he could ruin the party with a simple “let’s hit the bar up the street.” So you know the host spent all night making sure he was happy with his drinks and the music. It’s nice to be on top, even when you’re missing a hand.
#7: I guess she’s supposed to be a cliche housewife? The bathrobe is one thing, but the TV remote in her pocket is a dead giveaway. For some reason, she’s wielding a machete. (UPDATE: As reader Lexi pointed out, she may have been going for a Lorena Bobbitt costume!)
While the photo taken outside represents a perfect Halloween night from any decade, this one is decidedly 1990s. Look at all of the goofy shit behind them! If your house looks like that, I’m guessing it’s looked like that since 1994.
A breakdown of the decor:
#1: A random ugly statue in a place of prominence, as was the social norm for the time.
#2: Various bowling trophies, presumably belonging to someone who was neither there nor presently living in the same state.
#3: A wall-mounted lantern, possibly attached to the framed picture. That lantern had been in that exact spot for at least 30 years.
#4: Bird statue. The kind of bird statue could only be purchased on QVC or by saving up lots of points at the local casino arcade.
#5: I could be wrong, but there appears to be two cable boxes in there. Only the newer one was still connected. The other one just sat there collecting dust, gleefully avoiding the trash because, to this day, nobody is really sure if it’s legal to throw something like that out.
#6: Wooden chess set, last played by someone who wasn’t alive by the time this photo was taken.
#7: Homer Simpson doll! I’m pretty sure it’s the one that Burger King gave away. No, wait, I’m definitely sure. How great is that? I collected those dolls, and I too remember how they suspiciously became a part of the house. They didn’t just live in my bedroom. Somehow, an eight-inch Lisa Simpson managed to survive in our living room for months, as if a Burger King freebie really did belong with our fanciest pillows on our best couch.
Combining healthy doses of nostalgia with general Halloween idealism, I’m so glad I paid ten bucks for photos of a stranger’s Halloween party. I hope you’re glad that I did, too.