Here’s the latest edition of Old Halloween Newspaper Ads, where I excavate spooky things from ancient newspapers and see what sorts of memories they jog. Picture me reading this paragraph to the guy who makes turkey sandwiches at the corner deli.
Madballs Halloween Masks!
Yes indeed, Madballs had official Halloween masks. Actually, they weren’t strictly Halloween masks, as I remember them being sold during decidedly non-Halloweeny months.
I had a couple of ‘em, and for lower-end masks, they were pretty fantastic. The masks were big and bulbous enough to make your head look like a legitimate (if somewhat deflated) Madball, and when you had a choice between that and another one of those paper-thin plastic masks that cracked in half the second you sneezed, fuck, guess you’d be trick-or-treating as Screamin’ Meemie!
Fun fact: Me and the neighborhood kids used to film really bad sci-fi/monster movies. I usually portrayed Emperor Guillotine, dressed in a Beetlejuice mask and one of my father’s discarded raincoats. In that role, I was always seconded by a silent guard in a Madballs mask, who packed heat in the form of a battery-less Photon gun.
I wish I could find those videos, so I could watch them once and then smash them with hammers.
Doritos 3D’s for Halloween!
Thanks to decades of relentless advertising, I’ve come to regard Doritos and Pepsi as the definitive Halloween party foods. Granted, my idea of a solid Halloween party isn’t much different from a sixth grader’s.
What makes this ad extra special — and very 1998 — is the “upgrade” to Doritos 3D’s. Those things were dynamite. In everything from mouthfeel to taste, it was like regular Doritos made a baby with Bugles. (If there was ever a time for K-Y…)
3D’s were just so much fun to eat. You know how when you’re eating regular Doritos, you’ll occasionally find a chip with one of those big “bubbles” on it, and savor it appropriately? Doritos 3D’s was like getting a whole bag of those bubbles. They’re still sold in some countries, but Frito-Lay would make a killing with a full-blown re-release in the States.
Halloween Specials at Video Stores!
(October 1984 – 1985)
Here’s a pair of ads from mom-and-pop video stores that ran spooky Halloween promotions. I had my pick from hundreds of similar ads. Halloween meant big business for video stores, and so many of them competed for our attention with low-price rentals and 2-for-1 specials.
Some of my last great video store memories — and this would’ve been near the end of the big chain era, when most mom-and-pops were gone — involved me and my friends raiding the horror sections to find background noise for our October drinking nights.
Certain movies worked better than others. You take a movie like, say, Army of Darkness, and you’re all good. Even if you’re not really paying attention to it, it’s helping the atmosphere. But sometimes we picked shit like Hellraiser II, and, well, you try playing Shotzee when there’s a guy on TV carving himself up because he thinks he’s crawling with maggots.
PS: Check out the fine print on that first ad. You could score a cheap rental on horror movies if you went into the store wearing a Halloween costume! I like how they added the word “authentic,” which I assume let them disallow discounts to people who just put on a pair of sunglasses and swore it was a costume.
Drinking and Driving Can KILL A Friendship.
Last year, I wrote about that terrifying drunk driving PSA from 1984, where people morphed into skeletons the second they brought alcohol into a car.
As mentioned in that article, I didn’t understand the symbolism and took the PSA literally. Meaning, I genuinely believed that bringing beverages into a car — and not even necessarily alcoholic beverages — would instantly turn you into a skeleton.
I was a wee little kid at the time, but that PSA was still objectively frightening. It popped into my head more often than I would’ve preferred, partly because it wasn’t just a TV campaign. Hell, as shown here, I might’ve been reminded of that PSA just by browsing a Toys “R” Us ad in the newspaper!
(And yeah, there really was a Gremlins Power Cycle. Finding out about it was almost worth the additional exposure to spooky skeletons.)
Elvira on America Online!
There was a time when I considered America Online less a tool to get on the internet and more just THE INTERNET, full stop. For the first year or two, I barely visited any websites. Everything I needed was already on AOL.
In its glory days, many celebrities, brands and entities partnered with America Online to establish an internet presence. On the lower end, a band that was about to drop a new album might take part in a sponsored chat, where they’d field easy questions while a thousand kids spammed the chatroom with an equal mix of love and hate.
On the higher end, certain things got their own keyword, which sent users to special areas that were essentially websites that lived within AOL’s space. In October of 1995, the keyword “Halloween” brought AOL users to an exclusive area hosted by the Mistress of the Dark herself, Elvira.
There we spent minutes (too many minutes, in the pay-by-the-hour era) downloading pixelated photos of our queen, along with replacement audio files for AOL’s stock sounds. (And really, who wouldn’t have wanted Elvira to alert them to a new email?)
It all seems like a bag of nothing by 2019 standards, but I’m old, and I was there. Stuff like this was major. We’d block off time for AOL’s special events, even if it meant canceling plans to go out and do “real” things. I mean, I could’ve chugged bad beer with my friends any night. Elvira was only gonna drop double entendres in that chatroom once!
Thanks for reading. If you missed the previous edition of Old Halloween Newspaper Ads, it’s over here!