Rick's List - Scary Monsters Edition

To be honest, wandering around the Spirit Halloween Store in Crystal Mall is a bit depressing this year. For one thing, large amounts of floor space are devoted to scary set-pieces you can put in your front yard to frighten trick-or-treaters. In theory, I have no problem with that.

But these things are ... extravagant.

1. You'd better have a BIG yard.

2. I'm not sure whether these set-pieces — depicting larger-than-life, animatronic werewolves or zombies or witches or Pumpkin Kings (all of whom breathe fire or shoot AK-47s or at least laugh menacingly), or fully functioning torture chambers, guillotines, electric chairs or 4,000-square-foot haunted houses — were crafted by Spirit's manufacturing wing or, more probably, stolen from Six Flags Fright Fest or, more ominously, the "persuasion wing" at Guantanamo Prison.

3. If you buy any of these set-pieces, you won't be able to buy candy for the kiddos. Prices range from $249 for a giant fake Headless Horseman (complete with fiery-eyed steed) to almost $400 million for a complete set of nuclear grade military hardware originally destined for Ukraine but now no longer needed in the latter context.

Another aspect of Spirit's merchandise is the disproportionate amount of costumes that depict stuff that doesn't resonate with me at all:

1. Emoji’s

2. Fortnite (a video game)

3. "Stanger Things" or "Game of Thrones"

4. Spider-Man

This is, of course, resentful whining from an Old Person whose time as a giddy Halloween celebrant should have properly ended, oh, about a half-century ago. Children and Young Persons should mask as THEIR fantasies — and they understandably don't care or even know about Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff or Lon Chaney, Jr.

I did finally find a display, way off to one side of the floor plan, that featured old-school costumes that made me happy. A skeleton. A decomposing corpse. Michael Myers from "Halloween." Jason Voorhees' "Friday 13th" hockey mask. A full-head, leering jack-o'-lantern. Freddy Krueger. I tried a few of them on and felt momentarily vigorous.

Only a few yards away, a young mother and her two daughters of early grade school age were giggling and attempting to frighten each other with costumes from current popular culture. One would affix a mask of a cute dinosaur or Eleven from "Stanger Things" or whatever, cry "Boo!" and chase her sibling around. Then they'd reverse roles.

Mom chuckled but also cautioned, "Now, girls, don't get carried away!"

Suddenly, these things happened:

1. One of the children froze in her tracks, pointing and screaming.

2. Her sister looked and, cowering, began to weep and moan.

3. "What?!" Mom said, looking around in desperation. "WHAT IN GOD'S NAME IS IT?"

4. By now, folks throughout the store were reacting. Had one of the animatronic demons burst from its mooring? A Spirit clerk finally saw a customer wearing a hideous mask. "Take it off!" he cried angrily. "You're terrifying these kids!"

5. "I can't," I said sheepishly. "It's, ah, it's just my real head."

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