Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jimbo's 2011 Halloween Spectacular!!

An Ode To The Seasonal Halloween Supply Store. . .

Ahh. . . my own personal heaven.  

October may very well be my absolute favorite month of the calendar year: the Raiders haven’t been completely eliminated from playoff contention yet, you can pick up delectable-yet-overpriced pumpkin-flavored coffees at the local java joint, and of course, the spirit of Halloween pulsates through the night air like a wondrous, magnificent hot stank. In fact, one of my favorite rites of autumn is that first voyage through the seasonal Halloween specialty shop - a bittersweet moment, no doubt, because alike a certain enchanted snowman, you know these things aren’t going to be around forever.

Some people call these outlets kitschy and campy, but I think they’re marvelous displays of consumer positivism in action. By and large, I’d consider myself a tightwad as for as basic shopping behavior goes, but when it comes to these sorts of stores, I suddenly turn into a contestant on Supermarket Sweep, trying to figure out just how many bags of glow-in-the-dark eyeballs and rubber cobras I can wedge into one shopping cart. Pretty much everything in these kinds of outlets are limited time only items, so that incentive to hoard and stockpile the most absurd of trinkets quickly becomes about as logical as breathing as soon as you realize that this might just be your last chance EVER to pick up a Penny Racer modeled after the serial killer from the Scream movies. Walking down the aisles of the seasonal specialty shop is one of those rare consumer experiences were you actually feel like you’re authentically experiencing something other than being brainwashed by corporate America and its vast array of brain-slurping psycho-analyst market-researchers - you’re not just being coaxed into opening your wallets, you’re taking in a wealth of sights, sounds and scents that makes you feel as if your actually doing something instead of being berated with incessant images and announcements. That’s a rare claim for just about any form of media in this day and age, let alone an entire sector of the retailer-economy. 

 Where else can you see such a vast collection of trademarked characters WITHOUT getting your YouTube channel closed? 

I mean, where else can you amble down an aisle and encounter Michael Myers, Boris Karloff and the Satan-possessed 12-year-old from The Exorcist in ONE DISPLAY? I guarantee you won’t see such trans-franchise intermingling the next time you walk down the potato chip aisle at Kroger, that’s for sure.The sheer amount of stuff going on in these sorts of stores is in-and-of-itself an experience. On one aisle you’re staring down a holographic poster of Jason Voorhees, and on the very next, you’re gazing at an adult size Pac-Man costume. Wing a left, and you’re standing amidst foam latex Charlie Sheen masks, ghost key chains and number two pencils designed to resemble blood-filled syringes. And the entire time, you’re being serenaded by the dulcimer tones of Meat Loaf and Frankenstein while bubbles made out of dry ice pop right over your head. I don’t think the engineers at Disney World could draw up a more entertaining pedestrian experience.

  Much to the chagrin of Bela Lugosi's estate, sadly, there was no Dracula automaton on display.

At heart, Halloween specialty stores are actually museums dedicated to low culture art. You may not see a picture of Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre films hanging in the Smithsonian anytime soon,but you can visit any Halloween specialty shop in America and admire the intrinsic beauty of such commoner icons as SpongeBob SquarePants and the dude from Hellraiser with nails sticking out of his head. These stores are really temples dedicated to the religion of popular culture - and obviously, the periodic dubious product licensing agreement. 

...yeah, REALLY. 

Full sensory consumption. The seasonal Halloween specialty shop has absolutely perfected one of the oldest (yet sadly neglected) forms of marketing spirit, that old-school, P.T. Barnum-like business strategy that merges salesmanship with showmanship so seamlessly that you ultimately forget that you’re trying to be coerced into dropping dough on stuff no reasonable adult should find so alluring and intriguing. Or then again, maybe these stores are actually touching upon that adolescent splendor we all once felt, and thought we had lost as “adult consumers?”

You don’t just go into these stores, you feel them. Strobe lights shine in your eyes, the odor of fog machines permeates your nostrils, and you want to touch pretty much everything you encounter. You hear the Halloween specialty shop, you smell it, you feel it and you most definitely see it. All of your organs feel interlinked, and you can almost feel the living skin cells trickling up and down your arm.

 Because as we all know, the BEST gum is the kind situated between plastic skulls and rubber tarantulas.

In short? These kinds of stores make you feel young again, back when the shopping experience was more about the latter than the former. I haven’t put a quarter in a gumball machine in almost a decade, but before I waltzed out of the local specialty shop, I just HAD to pick up two eyeball-shaped pieces of candy before I left. Was I returning to a juvenile state, or did I just want to complete the circuit of empirical exposures during the ritual by tasting the Halloween spirit, too?

Beauty - as well as 25 cents worth of artificial cherry flavoring - is still in the EYE of the beholder, apparently. 

I really can’t give you a scientific reason as to why these things have such an appeal to me. . .and perhaps that lack of a well-reasoned excuse just makes my adulation of such stores all the merrier.


Check out these BEYOND AWESOME videos of animatronics-displays I encountered at my last visit to the local Halloween specialty store! 





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