The best* costumes in Spirit Halloween’s 2021 lineup

By best I mean...

I’m looking at a skeleton wearing a hard hat who, I suppose, is supervising the production of pumpkins. In its arm, there’s a clipboard that reads “Halloween Factory.” Together, we—the skeleton and I—watch as the brightly-painted gourds move along the conveyor belt situated between us. They cycle endlessly, beautifully. Somehow, this skeleton has eyes, not at all coinciding with the laws of natural decomposition. Absurd, I think. The two glowing LED eyeballs are either staring at me or past me, but definitely not at the task at hand. If there’s a more succinct distillation of capitalism, I haven’t seen it. 

Around the corner from Halloween Factory, there’s an animatronic red-eyed ghoul named Punctured Pete with a stake plunged into his abdomen. He writhes in agony. The sounds of his perpetual suffering create a stark contrast to the “Purple Rain” sluicing out of Spirit’s PA. Next to Pete, a monster with a spinning blade arm tells me to “duck, or you’ll be a dead duck ahahahah.”

Goddamnit, I love this place. I love Spirit Halloween. 

There are few things that make me spooky-kooky-and-altogether-ooky than standing on the hallowed grounds of whatever the seasonal novelty chain has decided to inhabit. Be it an old Hollywood video, discount shoe store, shuttered grocery outlet—these buildings are already haunted by the Ghosts of Consumerism Past before Spirit even plasters its very creepy logo onto the windows. Reanimation, resurrection, parasitic infestation— these are the powers of Spirit Halloween, and I’m all for it. 

Spirit Halloween is also cool because it’s like a store designed by a middle schooler. Everything is super dumb and crude and you feel just a little bit sticky the moment you step through the doors. It’s like someone saw the video for Rob Zombie’s “Dragula” and said, “This, but a store.” 

But even better than the lurid animatronic monsters that shock you when you step too close (dear lord, Scary Scarecrow got me!) are the prepackaged costumes that Spirit rolls out each year. 

As a Halloween lover, it pains me to think that someone would just buy a premade, preplanned costume and call it a day, but I also know many people don’t have a lot of free time to ideate, plan, and create something original. Also, a lot of people are just basic. But hey, if bros still want to buy a $20 piece of red fabric and call themselves a Spartan, who am I to judge?

There aren’t too many outrageous costumes this year, or at least I didn’t see them (remember Skeleboner?), but that doesn’t mean Spirit is now a place where dignity thrives. 

In honor of spooky season, here’s a rundown of the best(?) costumes Spirit has to offer. 

Cops

Spirit is just edging to be a lingerie store, and I’m certain that a handful of people do stock up on their sexy nighttime wear at the Halloween superstore. And as much I want to discourage any sort of law enforcement worship, I can’t help but feel that this is how cops should actually dress. I mean, wouldn’t it slightly level the playing field if the person arresting you had, like, super-short shorts? Sure, Dirty Cop Officer Ed Banger looks tough, but underneath that cold, hard stare is a man willing to show his vulnerabilities. This dude is not bogged down with the usual insecurities that are so common in police types. 

“Oh duh, you’re Combat Cutie! I should’ve known.” 

You can’t reform this. 

Stranger Things

Umm, 2016 just called and asked for their costumes back! Sure, I was into Stranger Things when it first came out, and I’ll watch the new seasons as they come out, but I’ll also continue this painful trudge through life until I’m nothing but dust and surgical mesh. What I’m saying is: Doing something doesn’t mean you have to like it. Keeping up with Netflix’s Stranger Things is one of those things that just now feels obligatory, and dressing as a character from the show in the year of our 2021 would feel just as novel and fresh as if someone dressed as Ken Bone. 

You can’t just put on a floral shirt and call it a costume. How am I supposed to know whether you’re Hopper, Miami Vice, or Jimmy Buffet? 

Dear god, why “similar to human hair”? Why couldn’t it just be “real hair”? 

Not a Stranger Things costume, but near the Stranger Things section. I stood by this costume for a solid minute, waiting for a dude to run in, beeline to this thing, grab it from the hook, and loudly exclaim, “FUCK YES, I GOT THE LAST DALE DOBACK COSTUME!” 

Period pieces

I genuinely thought about buying this one—not because I want to be a mobster, but because I plan on going to a lot of ska shows now that live music is back. Always make sure to think beyond Halloween. This is an investment, not a costume. 

Sometimes you just can’t be funnier than the packaging. 

Kid stuff

You put a kid in any costume and it’s automatically scary. Hell, look at Basic Black Cape kid. Like, they’re not even trying to sell it with that description, but if I ran into Basic Black Cape kid in a dark alley, I would curl up and cry myself to death. Don’t even get me started on tiny Plague Doctor and Creepy Scarecrow. These are what await us in hell. 

See this, Gen Z? This is how you pick yourself up by the bootstraps. This baby isn’t trying to be an influencer or social media star. This baby is not complaining about free healthcare. He’s got a job and he’s happy about it! The only negative thing I can say about this costume is that there are no adult sizes of “UPS Baby.” 


THE WEEKLY GOODS

Go to these

City Heights is gonna be lit this weekend (hopefully not literally, considering that lightning set a palm tree on fire close to my house this past week). On Saturday, head over to Til-Two to see Zig Zags, New Skeletal Faces, Vedic and Tzimani blow the roof off the place. I’ve gushed over New Skeletal Faces plenty of times in this newsletter, but I haven’t seen their glam/thrash/goth/metal spectacle since before Covid, and I need a fix. Also, Zig Zags’ unhinged stoner-garage rock is pretty much tailor-made for Til-Two. Then on Sunday, Lemonheads’ singer Evan Dando is going to be doing an acoustic show at Tower Bar. To be honest, I’m not super familiar with Lemonheads’ music, but that’s a flaw that I’m trying to remedy this year in anticipation of San Diego writer Jim Ruland’s forthcoming biography on the famous/infamous ‘90s rockstar. 

Donate to this

Sometimes you witness something that shakes your faith in humanity. Such was the case when Avonte Hartsfield, the owner of restaurant Rollin Roots revealed, that his food truck had been torched in what appears to be a culmination of escalating hate crimes. Now, Hartsfield is raising money to replace the truck and help establish Rollin Roots in a brick and mortar location. Please donate if you can

Watch this (all horror picks until October 31) 

I wish I could’ve been at the legendary premiere of The Blair Witch Project at Sundance. But I knew a few people who went, one of whom was Tommy Heffron—who is the older brother of one my best friends, Mike. Tommy was infamous for his penchant for fucked-up shit, but it was rumored that even he was scared during that film, and if Tommy Heffron was scared, well, god help us all. However, before Blair Witch Project, there was Ghostwatch, a BBC program that aired in the UK on Halloween in 1992. Formatted like a Geraldo-type investigation, Ghostwatch followed a team of reporters broadcasting live from a house that had been allegedly haunted by a poltergeist. Due to its realistic format, a lot of people thought it was real—the BBC reported receiving 30,000 phone calls during its broadcast due to the troubling nature, and two kids were diagnosed with legitimate PTSD after watching it. I mean, no shade to Tommy Heffron, but Blair Witch Project has nothing on Ghostwatch. 

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Julia Dixon Evans edited this post. Thanks, Julia. Go follow her on Twitter.