#7: Elvira’s Night Brew!
(Introduced in 1996)
Photo credit: Zach on Untappd
Hot off the heels of her multi-year partnership with Coors Light, Elvira decided that if she was going to pitch a beer, it might as well be her beer.
Elvira’s Night Brew was a dark lager made by the Cold Springs Brewery. While it certainly had smaller distribution than major brands, it still cast a wide-enough net to be considered national.
Unfortunately, Night Brew never returned after the 1996 Halloween season. Maybe it was only meant to be a one-and-done, or maybe Elvira did such a good job with Coors, nobody wanted to switch.
#6: Hi-C Frightening Fruit Punch!
(Introduced in 2005)
Sold in enormous 30-packs, Hi-C’s Frightening Fruit Punch looked and tasted the same as Hi-C’s Non-Frightening Fruit Punch. The draw was the special Halloween box, so blazing in its orangeness that it could easily be mistaken for a solar flare.
While I assume these 30-packs were intended to fuel grade school costume parties, I hope that some folks rolled the dice on handing them out to trick-or-treaters.
Sure, a juice box in a treat sack stood a fair chance of leaking all over the candy, but what a thrill it would’ve been to get something like this in the middle of all those fun-size Snickers bars.
I speak from experience. I’ll never forget that one neighbor who forked over a Ssips juice box when I knocked on her door in my Jason-but-also-Freddy costume. Even then, I recognized it as a Hail Mary pass from someone who forgot to buy candy. But I felt so alive.
#5: The Halloween Whopper!
(Introduced in 2015)
It’s super recent compared to most of the foods you’ll see featured here, but I couldn’t skip the Halloween Whopper! If you remember the side effects but forgot the hype, I cannot overstate how big of a deal this was.
The major fast food chains hadn’t taken any big Halloween swings for a while. This burger came out of nowhere, and everyone wanted to try it. I think the reason its unfortunate side effect became such a meme is because we all discovered it at the same time. There were lines out the door when the Halloween Whopper debuted, and by the next morning, green excrement was a trending topic on every social media platform.
Notwithstanding that, the A1-infused black buns looked and tasted great, and the mummy-themed wrappers were a nice touch. As a personal aside, I still have one of these in my freezer, and that Whopper kicked off my habit of freezing BK’s specialty burgers. (You know, for posterity. And Instagram likes.)
#4: Scary Blackberry Ghoul-Aid!
(Introduced in 1996)
Kool-Aid’s first foray into the macabre is, in my opinion, still the best. Ghoul-Aid arguably had the sleekest design of all Kool-Aid packets, and the flavor was top notch. I don’t think any real life blackberries were harmed in the process, but Ghoul-Aid did truly taste like them.
And the color! A purple hue that bordered on ichor, Ghoul-Aid certainly looked appropriate for the season. What I remember most, though, is the smell. You could give Yankee Candle ten months in their paraffin wax lab, and I promise you that they couldn’t come up with a more piercingly perfect blackberry scent.
Kraft ultimately retired the powdered mix, but brought Ghoul-Aid back in Jammers form. The transition wasn’t perfect, and became even less so after they switched the Jammers from blackberry purple to mixed berry blue. (And even if you’re okay with that, sadly even the Jammers version of Ghoul-Aid is now discontinued.)
#3: The Slimer Sundae!
(Introduced in 1989)
Back in 1989, Hardee’s became the “official headquarters” for Ghostbusters II. It was a role they took seriously. From electronic Ghost Blasters to hamburger containers shaped like the Ecto-1, Hardee’s really went to bat for that movie.
Shown above is my favorite part of the promotion. The legendary Slimer Sundae! This was soft-serve vanilla ice cream topped by a bubble gum-flavored slime sauce, served in a plastic cup that could only manage the sundae’s weight when wind conditions were extremely favorable.
Hardee’s actually worked with an outside company, Baldwin Richardson Foods, to get the sauce’s color, flavor and viscosity just right. While the Slimer Sundae was a regular menu item, some restaurants gave them away to anyone who brought in their ticket stub from Ghostbusters II.
#2: Sunkist Spooky Fruit!
(Introduced in 1989)
Fun Fruits were arguably the definitive fruit snacks of the ‘80s, owing to their deliciousness but also to the fact that Sunkist wasn’t afraid to release sixteen Fun Fruit spinoffs every month.
My favorite of those spinoffs, naturally, was Sunkist Spooky Fruit. These were little pouches of fruit snacks shaped like monsters. Everyone from Dracula to Frankenstein! Spooky Fruit is mostly remembered for its berserk TV commercial, starring a skeleton with light bulbs for eyes.
Interestingly, these weren’t at all a Halloween release. Sunkist had enough faith in the idea to release them in the summer, and as a permanent addition to the Fun Fruits family. Hindsight suggests that their confidence was a touch misguided, but you won’t find me complaining.
#1: Heinz Haunted House!
(Introduced in 1985)
Most of you have heard of this. None of you have actually eaten it. Heinz’s Haunted House pasta debuted in 1985, but it never actually made it to the States. Like many of Heinz’s coolest products, it was born in the United Kingdom and probably exclusive to it.
The pasta shapes included witches, devils, ghosts and pumpkins, and that paired with an impressively gothic TV commercial made one thing crystal clear. When it came to the macabre, Heinz didn’t fuck around. The product is so gloomy that it barely seems real. The label looks like the cover to a storybook that kills you if you read it.
Speaking of the label, cans of Heinz Haunted House are impossibly rare nowadays. I should know, as I’ve spent the better part of the two decades searching for one. It’s gotten to the point where I’d swallow my pride and make do with a repro. Can we get one of those eBayers who steal my Kool-Aid photos to make shitty magnets on the case?