The Skary Skelly '08 Halloween Album

Happy Halloween, kids! Pretty scary out there, huh? The mood is different this year. Daddy is dressing up like a pauper, and his costume is beginning to look very convincing.

Could the financial meltdown take the fun out of Halloween this year? Seems so unfair. What do kids know about mortgage backed securities or credit default swaps? (Come to think of it, what did anyone know?) Anyway, isn't the whole purpose of holidays like this to get us away from reality? (Or is that what we were doing in real estate these last five years?)

We've noted previously that Halloween has been morphing into an adult holiday. It has become an economic juggernaut, the biggest spending holiday of the year after Christmas, and that's without any presents. And it's now an excuse for binge drinking to rival New Years or St. Patrick's Day. (Know what bartenders call both those calendar events? "Amateur Nite.") And what do you care about what kids are doing on Halloween anyway, now that you're all grown up? Well, mostly up.

Early press reports say no worries. Costume sales are up. Pumpkin sales are up. Candy sales up. Of course, the heavy stuff has just started falling down in the global financial markets. So we could yet see a little wind taken out of our economic sails this Halloween. Who knew Europe was so into residential mortgage strips and derivatives?

But where to cut back? The candy bars can't get any smaller. And as for beer sales, well, has there ever been a Halloween better suited for drinking to excess?

U.S. Census Bureau statisics show a consistent pattern of growth, but looking at them might not be so instructive this year. Kind of like driving down the road with your eyes fixed on the rear veiw mirror. Kind of how the banks were analyzing the mortgage market. That which hadn't defaulted never would default. Isn't that what they teach at MIT? Yes, MIT, not the Wharton School of Business. It was physicists that got us into this mess, not the MBAs. What do business majors know about multivariate analysis? (Look that up for yourselves.) That's right. Blame your uncle Joe.
  2007 2006 2005
Trick-or-treaters-age 5 to 13 36 mil 36.1 mil 36.1 mil
Occupied housing units nationwide 110.3 mil 109.6 mil 108 mil
% of households who consider neighborhood safe 93% 93%  
Tot. prod./major pumpkin-producing states. 1.1 bil lbs 1 bil lbs 1.1 bil lbs
Value of pumpkins produced $117 mil $101 mil $106 mil
No. U.S. chocolate/cocoa product mfgrs. 1,170 (2006) 1,198 (2005) 1,241 (2004)
Tot. employees 39,457 (2006) 38,718 (2005) 43,322 (2004)
Value of goods $13.9 bil (2006) $13.6 bil (2005) $12.5 bil (2004)
No U.S. non-chocolate confectionary mfgrs. 473 (2006) 477 (2005) 515 (2004)
Tot. employees 18,733 (2006) 21,389 (2005) 22,234 (2004)
Value of goods $7.2 bil (2006) $7.6 bil (2005) $7.2 bil (2004)
U.S. per capita candy consumption 24.5 lbs (2006) 26 lbs (2005) 26 lbs (2004)
No. of costume rental/formal wear estab. 2,077 (2006) 2,232 (2005) 2,497 (2004)

And of course, the looming election is bound to depress the hell out of half the electorate, no matter who wins. Yet another cause of the fear and dread that's out and about in the land. Which half? Hard to say.

A key litmus test for elections going back to Nixon seems to be favoring Obama. His Halloween masks are handily outselling McCain masks according to most reports, except for those done on Fox News. Bad luck for the McCain crowd, but maybe not insurmountable. Fact is, in the great universe of Halloween mask preferences, McCain and Obama are fighting for ninth place this year. If Halloween masks really could predict the election winner, our next President would be Batman, followed by the Joker and Indiana Jones.

Watch out for Sarah Palin as a dark horse, although that might not show up in mask sales. Evidently kids are just going with plastic glasses and a beehive wig. Oh no, say it ain't so, Joe.

Another key indicator, my neighbors' front lawn display, is so far ambiguous. Last year they put up something to rival Knotts Berry Farm. But they have not as yet lifted a finger this year. Are they just getting a late start? Does McKenzie, who is a senior this year, just have bigger fish to fry? Or, this year, are they scared?

More and more houses in our neighborhood are taking the plunge, however. No question Halloween house decorating has become big business, Consulting firm Unity Marketing of Stevens, PA, did a survey last year that found the nation spent $3.2 billion in 2006 on Halloween decorations — up 21% over the 2005 level.

Inflatable displays, sound systems, fog machines, animated plastic ghosts rising from giant graveyards, flying bats. The days of just weaving a few ersatz cobwebs through the trees and shrubs are gone. (At our house, we're so far behind the curve we're still relying on real spiders.)

So enjoy the holiday, however you choose to spend it, as kids or adults. And don't be scared. Whatever nightmare we're caught up in at the moment, we'll get through it. We always do. It's just like taking a terrifying walk on a dark, moonless night through a haunted cemetery, full of spooky sounds, where a maniacal lunatic waits clutching a long, razor-sharp, blood-stained knife. Just your normal Monday-morning commute.


Samhainophobia: an intense fear of Halloween.

Love, Dad

Last year's pictures

And now, tonight's top stories ....

Halloween Treat Ideas - Choosing the Right Candy
October 28, 2007
Brenda Prevost, Holiday Treasures

The top ten favorite Halloween treats:
  1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  2. Snickers
  3. KitKat
  4. Butterfinger
  5. Nestle Crunch
  6. Hershey bars
  7. candy corn
  8. Three Muskeeters
  9. Milky Way
  10. popcorn balls.
Other popular choices for Halloween treat ideas were lollipops, gummy candy and gum.

Bite size candy was also favored over full size chocolate bars.

Here are some of things that according to seasoned trick-or-treaters, are the least popular Halloween treat ideas to hand out instead of Halloween candy. Topping the list was homemade cookies or cereal bars, followed by toys, salty snacks like potato chips or pretzels and fruit.

(Brenda Prevost owns which sells lights, decorations and costumes for Christmas, Halloween, other holidays and special occasions.

City: We'll keep lid on Halloween
September 12, 2008
chris Cassidy, The Salem News (MA)

SALEM — Changes to Haunted Happenings are on the way, Mayor Kim Driscoll told the City Council last night.

Halloween night typically draws tens of thousands of revelers, but this year the crowds could grow even higher because it falls on a Friday.

So the city is trying to find ways to inform the crowds that Halloween is not an all-night street party.

"We want something consistent so folks will know it's the end of the evening, it's time to go home," Driscoll said in an interview before last night's meeting.

Last year, fireworks were launched near Salem Depot shortly after 10 p.m. as a "closing ceremony" designed to move the crowds toward commuter rail trains and send a message that the celebrating was over.

A similar concept is planned for this year. It will likely again include fireworks, though Driscoll said a location hasn't been finalized yet.

After once considering Pickering Wharf as a possible fireworks launch spot, Driscoll yesterday dismissed the idea. She also plans to bring back carnival rides to a vacant lot — once the Dave & Jack's gas station — on Derby Street. The approximately $19,000 the carnival raised last year covered the cost of the fireworks, she said.

"We think it's a very good public safety idea," Driscoll said of the fireworks.

Driscoll also hopes to improve communication with the masses that descend on the Witch City each year.

That includes details like coordinating with bars and making sure the bands and disc jockeys that perform on Halloween encourage people to watch the fireworks, then go home afterward.

The city has also met with Dan Grabauskas and other MBTA officials, who have pledged to help publicize when the city will shut down streets, when the last train leaves, and what revelers can and can't bring into Salem.

"Don't come here at 11, and think there will be a party all night because we really want the streets closed at certain hours," Driscoll said.

She also wants to pass on last train and other details directly to the "droves of students" at the University of New Hampshire, Gordon College and Endicott College who arrive via the T, she said.

While the largest crowds are expected to arrive Friday night, the city also expects the downtown to be busy the following night, as many tourists opt to stay in Salem for the entire weekend.

"I don't think we'll have the crush of people that we get on Halloween, but there will be an additional police presence," Driscoll said.

Leading up to Halloween, the city is replacing last year's carnival games on Salem Common with a small number of food vendors, a pumpkin festival and a hay bale maze.

Kids will be able to decorate pumpkins and put them on display, and there will be build-your-own-scarecrow tables, as well, she said.

"It's something to do for kids and families to really come and enjoy Salem and hopefully spend time here, not just in haunted houses," Driscoll said.

Moon Haven Productions is planning an Octoberfest with traditional German food and music at the parking lot at Front and Lafayette streets during the weekend before Halloween.

For all the inconveniences of hosting Haunted Happenings, Driscoll stressed the revenue raised from parking fees and other sources more than covers the cost of extra police, fire and public work crews.

She also urged residents with Halloween "pet peeves" living in neighborhoods affected by the monthlong influx of tourists to contact her office.

"Whether we're happy that folks are coming or not, they're coming," Driscoll said. "So we need to make sure we plan for it."

Ohioan: Alleged cross-burning was for Halloween
October 16, 2008
The Repository (AP)

CANTON, Ohio - A Canton man accused of burning a cross in front of his home says he was arrested in a misunderstanding over his Halloween decorations.

Thirty-6-year-old Shane Helson says he wanted to make his annual yard display more authentic and set fire to the T-shaped wooden stand that holds up his scarecrow so it would look more weathered.

The fire department responded Tuesday night, and a police complaint says Helson continued to spray lighter fluid on the wood after authorities arrived.

He was charged keeping a disorderly house. If convicted of the misdemeanor, he'd face up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.

Helson is white, as is next-door neighbor Stephanie Blankenship. But her husband is black, and Blankenship says she felt intimidated.

All things spooky, scary and slimy emerge as Halloween decorations go up
October 09, 2008
Pam Rigaux, Frederick (MD) News-Post
Strobe lights blinking, fog spewing. Decorating for Halloween is a blast for hard-core fans and some neighborhoods go all out. In Stephanie Ecton's neighborhood, Halloween is almost a competition of who can decorate the most, Ecton said. She lives off New Design Road in a subdivision called Robin Meadows.

One of the houses will look and sound so haunted, trick-or-treaters will be scared to approach it at first, she said. "They do their whole entire house with scary hands everywhere. You have to put your hands in feely boxes."

Not that she minds. Halloween is her all-time favorite holiday.

Ecton wanted to hang her decorations in early September. Her husband convinced her to wait until the end of September, she said. "I'm a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. This year, I bought a cowboy figure dressed up in a witch's costume, but it has 'Cowboys, NFL' on it."

Now that her daughter is 3, Ecton will be able to be a little more adventuresome with her daughter's costume. The two are going to pair up and find something special to wear.

Ecton thinks Halloween recalls the feeling of childhood, of being a kid. It's a marvelous way to connect and also be creative, she said. "My father would make my costumes. He's very creative. One year I was a popcorn box. It was amazing. We really looked forward to it."

Her family did everything they could to help her enjoy Halloween as a child and she wants her daughter to experience that.

Ecton's husband, Larry, also wants the same for their daughter, but he did question how she could spend $100 on home supply stores such as T.J. Maxx, which to her is "Halloween heaven."

His wife's spending is similar to what other consumers are spending nationwide. The average person was expected to spend $64.82 on the holiday in 2007, according to a study by the National Retail Federation. Consumers were expected to spend $5.07 billion on Halloween costumes, candy and related paraphernalia in 2007.

One of the places in Frederick that Halloween shoppers like to go to is Party City on Urbana Pike. A visit there in late September found staff busy pumping up skeleton balloons.

A 10-foot-long ghoul hung from the store's ceiling. On the wall was an equally tall devil with a huge face and red, bulging eyes. Next to that was a skeleton with a shabby hat.

The monsters are new this year, said Adam Kleiboemer, the store's assistant manager.

A vampire butler greeted customers in a scratchy voice. Kleiboemer chuckled.

Some of the hottest sellers this year are the mummies, he said, pointing to a figure wrapped in white cloth.

"It has skeletal features you can feel," he said.

Not surprisingly, the popularity of movies translates into costumes and masks of the face of the Joker from the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," is popular this year, Kleiboemer said.

Young girls might favor the pink princess frocks, but don't be fooled by a dress on Halloween.

Last year, Earnie Payne, owner of Olde Towne Tavern, went to work dressed as a waitress -- wig, skirt and all. That went over well, especially since his wife called ahead and said there was a new waitress coming in to train.

"I won't be doing that again this year," Payne said.
Bad economy can't stop Halloween high spirits
Megan K. Scott (AP), Salt Lake City Tribune

Molly Gold didn't take the kids on vacation this summer, and she has cut back on extras like books from the book fair and school T-shirts for her 11- and 13-year-olds. But she's not skimping on Halloween.

She's decorating the house with pumpkins, ghosts and black cats, and handing out the "good candy": M&Ms. "Halloween is a big time in my house," said Gold, 42, a mom of three in Apex, N.C. "In our view, that's a wonderful innocent fun time for kids. And the grown-ups are certainly going to need to relax a little by then."

The economic downturn doesn't seem to be dampening Halloween spirits. Americans are planning to spend even more on candy and decorations this year than last, according to surveys by and Visa Inc. and the National Retail Federation.

The Visa survey found that 75 percent of Americans plan to celebrate and spend on Halloween, and among those, the average will spend $47 on candy and decorations - an 18 percent increase from what they were planning to spend on Halloween in a similar Visa survey last year.

Chalk it up to the notion that even in troubled times, no one wants to take candy from a baby, said Jason Alderman, director of financial education for Visa Inc.

"We don't want to disappoint our kids," he said. "We don't want to disappoint our neighbor's kids." For some, Halloween is a welcome distraction from the grim economic news and the upcoming presidential election. "It can provide a bright spot in an otherwise kind of gloomy situation," said Sue Fogel, chair of marketing at DePaul University. Ann Schmidt, 43, a marketing consultant in Williston, Vt., compares Halloween to an inexpensive vacation. It's an opportunity to dress up, eat candy and blow off steam.

"Considering the thousands of dollars our retirement accounts were drained of these past two weeks, spending a hundred bucks on fake skeletons, glow-in-the dark spiders and a fog machine seems like a no-brainer," said the mother of two.

Jeff Davis, 43, a father of two in Carmel, N.Y., said he and his wife canceled their usual blowout party. But there are decorations throughout the house and he said the holiday is going to be fun in spite of his declining 401(k) balance.

"You push all that aside for a while," said Davis, a videographer. "It's a kids' holiday, so let them have fun and make it fun for them, and that's what we try to do."

Halloween has become a bigger holiday in recent years, growing far beyond a night of trick-or-treating to include parades and parties for people of all ages. But it remains low-stress and relatively inexpensive, said Nancy Robinson, consumer strategist at Iconoculture, a cultural trends research firm. It doesn't require finding the "perfect something," traveling to be with family or purchasing an expensive costume; a costume can be someone throwing a sheet over his head or dressing as an unmade bed, she said.

"It's entirely a holiday about gathering together and having fun with each other in the goofiest way possible," she said.

For Donia Crime, 36, who works in public relations in Atlanta, Halloween is more important this year because she knows she is going to have to cut back at Christmas. There will be no traveling, fewer parties and less expensive gifts.

Halloween is a way for her to entertain neighbors and kids relatively inexpensively: "And, for the kids, especially my 16-month-old, it's just as fun if not more fun than Christmas."

Trend-spotter Marian Salzman said she predicts less mischief this Halloween and more simple pleasures - carving pumpkins, eating candy corn, telling ghost stories in the kitchen. There will be no tolerance for egging and toilet papering, said Salzman, the author or co-author of more than a dozen books, including "Next Now: Trends for the Future."

"This Halloween should be not be spooky," she said.

Gold, founder of Go Mom! Inc., which helps moms with scheduling and organizing, isn't changing her traditions this year. She's making a big pot of chili and trick-or treating will commence right after dark. And as with previous years, she is watching for bargains on candy.

"It's a very festive time," she said. "I don't want it ever to be stressful."

Adults Stepping Up Halloween Celebrations And Spending
Tired Of Economy’s Tricks, We Turn To Treats
October 12, 2008
The Hartford Courant

Halloween, it seems, is returning to its fifth century Celtic roots.

Back then it was adults, not children, who dressed in costumes to ward off the spirits bent on snatching their souls. Now, in the past few years, adults have increasingly begun reclaiming Halloween from the kids.

That's turned out to be exceptionally good news for retailers. Even though the stock market lately is lot more scary than frolicking grown-ups dressed as witches or devils, people plan to spend more money than ever this year on Halloween, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.

Consumers are expected to spend $6 billion on the holiday this year, an all-time high — $67 a person, on average, up from $65 last year. And more adults than ever say they plan to celebrate — 65 percent, compared with 59 percent a year ago, the survey showed.

What gives? For months, consumers have been spooked by the economic downturn and have been cutting back on all types of spending. Retailers are bracing for dismal Christmas and holiday sales, projected to be the weakest since 1991.

But analysts are predicting a happy, prosperous Halloween.
"Halloween is fun. It's a 'throw away all your cares and be a kid again type of holiday.' People really need that, what with the stock market and Wall Street," said Pam Goodfellow, senior analyst at BIGresearch, a Worthington, Ohio-based consumer research firm.

So if you can't afford to cruise the high seas this year, you can at least dress like a pirate.

The Great Escape
Just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned and the orchestra supposedly played while the Titanic sank, experts say Americans haunted by the foundering economy are in the mood to forget their job worries and their battered 401(k)s — if only for a day or a weekend.

"With all the things that are happening on Wall Street and financial turmoil, people are ready to get away from all that," said Tony Detzi, vice president of Spirit Halloween Superstores, a division of Spencer Gifts, a privately owned New Jersey firm that operates seasonal Halloween stores.

Spirit Halloween opened 628 seasonal stores in 48 states this year, up from 548 last year. The number of retail spaces available for temporary leases rose this year as well, a result of store closures and bankruptcies.

"Unfortunately, we thrive on everyone else's misfortunes," Detzi said.

Some consumers, including Carrie Gaydos, 36, of Newington, are planning to cut their Halloween costs by recycling. Gaydos, the mother of two small children, plans to trade last year's chicken costume to her neighbor in exchange for a mermaid costume for her oldest daughter to use this year. Still, she plans to spend about $40 this year on costumes and candy.

But that amount could double, Gaydos said, if she and her husband, Michael, 31, are invited to a party.

"We're OK to walk around the neighborhood with what we have now," she said. "But if all of a sudden we're invited to a Halloween party, we would very much feel pressured to look around for costumes."

It doesn't hurt that Halloween falls on Friday this year, extending the holiday through the weekend and translating into higher revenue, Detzi said.

Adult Costumes Outsell Kids'
Until 20 years ago, Halloween was almost exclusively a children's holiday.

"Now it's gripped the 18- to 24-year-olds. Even the 40 year-olds have embraced it," Detzi said.

Per capita spending on Halloween dipped after the 2001 terrorist attacks but has risen every year since 2004, from $44 to this year's high of $67 a person.

The adult costume market, which recently added plus sizes, is partially responsible for the increase. Even the lowest priced costumes sell for about $25 to $30. Add a wig, mask or face paint and the price tag can double or triple.

"Adult costumes outsell children's costumes 2-to-1," said Hira Singh, owner of Happy Daze Costumes in Norwalk, in business for 21 years.

And more homeowners are buying items to decorate the house or yard for Halloween, Detzi said.

In the 1980s, seasonal Halloween stores began to make their appearance, feeding the emerging adult market by offering not only costumes, but decorations and props.

"We have always been into large props and animatronics," Detzi said. At Spirit Halloween stores, an animated 6-foot-tall, machete-wielding character from the "Friday the 13th" series of films sells for $250, while a 5-foot-tall, animated, headless bride sells for $150.

Sales of children's costumes have risen steadily, too, but now consumers have the option of swaddling the youngest babies in buntings shaped like Tootsie Rolls, pea pods or a football, available in sizes ranging from 0 to18 months.

Nor are we forgetting to dress our pets. Now, it's not only "What are you and the children wearing for Halloween?" but "What about Fluffy and Buddy?" All those items add up, and we haven't even talked about the sales of candy, which are expected to be healthy.

Americans are willing to pay for their fun. But is that so bad? Even psychologists agree — in tough times, people need a break.

"Halloween is one of those holidays that are a lot of fun for people. They're looking for an escape. People are saying, 'What the heck, let's go out and have a good time.'" Detzi said