The ORIGINAL Halloween Countdown, from 2003.

Dinosaur Dracula’s 1st Halloween Countdown is more of a reset, of course, since I’ve been doing this thing for ten goddamned years.

The first Halloween Countdown, back on X-Entertainment, started on September 18th, 2003. The 40 or so articles within it were often rushed, often crude and often designed with really irritating backgrounds, but I still love it. Doing that year’s Countdown is what transformed me from a guy who liked Halloween to a guy who can’t imagine a year without it.

It was a much different Internet in 2003, and certainly, my place in it was worlds apart from wherever my place is now. X-E was still a big site, and making websites was still all I did. I was a year away from starting at Nickelodeon, living the dream of eternal goofs everywhere by being paid to be an eternal goof. I wasn’t making boatloads of money, but at the time, I didn’t need boatloads.

The site’s early success allowed me to stay an idiot kid for a few years longer than people should stay idiot kids, and even if I’m immensely thankful to have grown up in my own weird ways, I can’t say that I’m not a little bit jealous of me-in-2003.

The Countdown began because I’d purchased a bunch of random Halloween candies and toys, and for lack of a better term, needed somewhere to “put them.” I was still mostly doing full-sized articles in 2003, and things like Bubble Tape and gummy spiders certainly didn’t warrant such enormous tributes. As I recall, the decision to do the first Countdown was very much on the fly.

Since it was really a side dish, I didn’t have to put much effort into it. Even if a lot of it was downright slipshod, that’s not exactly what I mean. Between the goofy page designs and more than a few questionable executions, it felt more like a Geocities special than an event on what was a fairly big website.

Oddly, that’s one of the reasons I like it. You won’t do your best work when you aren’t trying, but you might do your most honest.

But the real reason I reflect so fondly on that first Countdown? It taught me the joy of the hunt.

These Countdowns don’t fill themselves. Writing, taking photos and organizing the reviews is one thing: Simply finding enough stuff to cover so many consecutive days of content is something else.

“The hunt” refers to that process: The constant search for more Halloween goodies, in stores, online and pretty much everywhere I go. It can be a huge pain, but it’s probably what I’ve enjoyed most about doing these. When else can I turn every visit to a supermarket, department store or pharmacy into such an adventure?

The 2003 Halloween Countdown also helped me understand that Halloween really isn’t about October 31st. I mean, I guess it is for a lot of people, but I almost never do anything on Halloween proper. For me, it’s seven or eight weeks of tiny fun things, hopefully mixed with a couple of huge fun things. In 2003, I learned that even the smallest spooky activity – something as simple as drawing monsters with crayons – could make a plain day great.

So, go back and read through, but judge it with the right mindset. It was ten freakin’ years ago. No YouTube, no Facebook; hell, not even a MySpace. Still, even if the Countdown has changed in a hundred ways, in a hundred other ways, it hasn’t at all. I’m just older, partially grayed and too much more verbose. Other than that, one decade later, it’s mostly as it always was. For better or worse.