Here’s another batch of super old Halloween-themed newspaper ads, and a reminder that I love super old Halloween-themed newspaper ads. It’s nostalgia without the blinders on.
VHS Horror Movies!
(McCrory’s, 1988 & 1990)
Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was common practice for store chains to sell spooky VHS tapes during the Halloween season — even if they normally sold no tapes at all!
Typically, you’d find a standing rack of “budget” horror tapes, all sold for the same price. This happened in stores as large as Kmart and as small as your local pharmacy.
These tape assortments were often right next to the Halloween costumes. Even if you were apprehensive about scary movies (and I sure was), it was impossible to avoid making eye contact with the monsters on those boxes.
When we were kids, the mere proximity to danger made Halloween more exciting!
McDonald’s Halloween Party!
I don’t know how often it happens these days, but many McDonald’s restaurants used to go all-in on October 31st. Costume parties! Cheap cheeseburgers! Cardboard skulls taped to the windows!
If you were extra lucky, your nearest McDonald’s might’ve even featured an appearance from an honest-to-goodness McDonaldland character!
This specific ad promoted a visit from the Hamburglar. God, imagine that! Nothing beats trick-or-treating with your friends, but I think french fries and Meat Zorro has to come close.
Halloween Sound Effects Tapes!
(McCrory’s, 1988 & 1990)
As I’ve written about before, spooky audio cassettes used to be a Very Big Deal around Halloween.
Here’s the thing: Many kids were late to embrace “real” music. These silly cassettes ended up being the first cassettes some kids ever owned. (Or at least the first ones that didn’t come packaged with He-Man storybooks.)
Naturally, if you were a kid who finally had plausible jurisdiction over an audio cassette, you were gonna play the shit out of it. Who cared if the tapes amounted to thirty minutes’ worth of door slams and obnoxious shrieks? THEY WERE OURS!
Halloween Movie Marathon!
(October 31st, 1993)
I’m obsessed with yesteryear’s TV listings for October 31st. It’s a blast to scan through ’em for horror movies and cartoon specials, all while imagining people mapping out their Halloween marathons.
In 1993, Halloween fell on a Sunday. Not as good as a Friday or a Saturday, but way better than a Monday or a Tuesday. The proof was in the television lineup, which was absolutely loaded with spooky programming.
(Watch Halloween at noon, followed by A Nightmare on Elm Street 5! Sure, I did exactly the same thing last Sunday, but the idea of doing it communally on October 31st just sounds so fab.)
Mars Candy Pails!
(Toys “R” Us, 199o)
Since so few people seem to remember the glorious Mars Halloween pails, it’s nice to have extra proof that I didn’t make them up.
There was a Snickers Ghost, a Milky Way Jack-o’-Lantern and a 3 Musketeers Goblin, all stuffed with fun-sized versions of their preferred candy bars.
The idea was that kids could use the pails for trick-or-treating. Given their cumbersome shapes and limited storage capabilities, I suspect that this happened rarely in practice. Still, the pails were almost supernaturally durable and became “forever toys” for all who had them.
(I mean, I *still* have my original goblin pail, and I destroy things out of a seemingly compulsive need to.)
Mysterious Hockey Mask!
I’ve mentioned this before, but the deal here was that Hannibal Lecter’s sudden popularity paved way for a sort of Hannibal/Jason hybrid mask.
For a while, that was THE MASK. It was more common to see this hybrid than either the “regular” Jason or Hannibal masks, in part because it looked cooler, but mostly because we finally had an evil hockey mask that actually let us breathe.
Note how even the description subtly hinted at Hannibal: “Now with an even more dreaded legend behind it!”
Pumpkin Trash Bags!
(Toys “R” Us, 1990)
Toys “R” Us called them “trash” bags, but you weren’t supposed to use them for household garbage. Instead, the pumpkin-themed bags could be filled with dead leaves to create awesome Halloween lawn decorations.
Similar bags are still being made by a thousand companies. If you live in an area with a cooperative climate, I implore you to buy one this year. There’s just something so sincere about pumpkin bags stuffed with dead leaves. Whenever I see one, I spend the next three hours being super polite.