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Spooky Halloween Facts

Why do we get a thrill out of horror films? And what's the deal with poisoned trick-or-treat candy? Those are a couple of the subjects in the Halloween edition of the Mental Floss show Scatterbrained. You'll also hear about a scientist who did research on trick-or-treaters, the inspirations for Stephen King novels, and a 1992 British TV hoax that terrified the audience.

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Halloween Pop-Up Stores, Explained

It's a reliable sign of autumn in the modern world. As soon as school starts, a Halloween store will suddenly appear somewhere in town. It stays open for a couple of months, and then closes early in November. It will be back next year, but not necessarily in the same place. How do they manage to do that?

All of this would be impossible without the existence of vacant retail properties in need of tenants, even if those tenants only plan on being there for a few weeks. What’s bad for retail is good for Halloween pop-ups, at least to a point. These companies need vacant spaces to fill, but they also need nearby stores to draw in consumers.

Strip-mall vacancies rose to 11.1 percent during the recession, according to CityLab — not great for retailers but a huge opportunity for Halloween pop-ups. “During the crash, I would get calls before this Halloween to ask if I wanted space for next Halloween,” the anonymous Halloween express agent told the website.

Once the economy started to improve, there were fewer empty storefronts to select from, but this year, Halloween pop-up stores have plenty of Toy R Us space to lease. Next year, maybe Sears. Meanwhile, Halloween store companies will be working on inventory, staffing, and holiday trends in addition to locations for next year. Read about the Halloween pop-up store business model at Vox.

(Image credit: Flickr user Daniel Oines)

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Hispanic Halloween

Comedian David Lopez imagined the movie Halloween as if it happened in his house. Michael Meyers is no match for... well, just watch it. Bonus comedy if you are bilingual. This year, he produced the sequel.

There are other videos where Lopez (Juan) encounters Chucky, Pennywise, and Jigsaw. -via Metafilter

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There's an AT-AT in the Front Yard!

Halloween decorations come in all flavors, and aren't necessarily related to the classic monsters of horror films and folklore. Star Wars fan William Plessinger built a 17-foot-tall AT-AT for Halloween last year. This year, the improved version again graces his front yard in Columbus, Ohio. See more pictures of it at Facebook, and see a news report about the AT-AT at Laughing Squid. Plessinger did the interview dressed as a stormtrooper, more or less.

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How to Make Chocolate Dead Man’s Toes

Hellen Die of Eat the Dead (formerly the Necro NomNomNomicon) celebrates the 25th anniversary of the movie Hocus Pocus with a recipe.

In one scene in the film, Winifred Sanderson is working on whipping up a batch of her famous potion, with Mary and Sarah Sanderson helping her out. One of the critical ingredients is a dead man’s toe.  Mary drops one in, but not before Sarah helps herself to a few to snack on.

After trying a few, Die decided to make hers out of chocolate instead. On a stick. There's something rather appealing about a recipe that starts with "wash your feet," even if you don't plan to make these treats yourself. All the instructions for Chocolate Dead Man's Toes are at Eat the Dead. There's also a roundup of posts from elsewhere about the movie Hocus Pocus.

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The Roles of Tom Hanks in Halloween Costumes

Every year (except 2017), redditor aubra_cadabra and her friends do a group costume for Halloween, focusing on the roles of one versatile actor. They've done Bill Murray, Robin Williams, Will Ferrell, Jim Carey, and Johnny Depp. This year, they chose Tom Hanks. The movies represented are, from the left, Toy Story, Castaway, Apollo 13, Forrest Gump, Big, David S. Pumpkins from Saturday Night Live, and A League of Their Own.

You can see a gallery of all the costumes from from 2012 to 2018 at Imgur, plus a chart to show each costume with its inspiration, and a picture of all the friends in regular clothing. -via reddit

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Your Baby's Halloween Costume

How impossibly random could a Halloween costume be? That's what I thought, until someone pointed out that this is a reference to Kevin's Famous Chili from the TV series The Office. It doesn't say that on the package, because this is a parody of unlicensed costumes. -via reddit

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Henry the VIII and Ann Boleyn Halloween Costumes

When redditor Monkeygruven posted this picture of some family friends ready for trick-or-treat, others bemoaned that the kids didn't pick their own costumes, nor did they know who they were portraying. Maybe it was more like this.

Mom: Do you want to wear a scary costume or a princess costume?
Girl: I don't know!
Mom: You can be both! You can be a queen who got her head cut off!
Girl: Yeah, let's do that!
Boy: I want to have my head cut off!
Mom: How about you be the king that murdered her?
Boy: Well, okay. But how will people know I did it?
Mom: Let me tell you a scary story, a true story...

That said, the costumes are awesome. -via reddit

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Han Solo Frozen in Carbonite Halloween Costume

It had to happen sooner or later, considering how iconic the image is. You can now buy an inflatable Halloween costume that makes you Han Solo frozen in carbonite! Entertainment Earth expects the costume to begin shipping some time this month, and you can pre-order it now for $60. That includes the inflatable, a fan, gloves, and a mask. It's up to you to provide a friend to help you through doors and hand your drink to you. See a diagram of how the costume works at Boing Boing.

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Joker Delivers Baby on Halloween

You thought the Joker was disguised as a nurse, but for Halloween, he was an obstetrician! Brittany Selph and her husband Justin went to the hospital in Paris, Tennessee, on Halloween because Brittany was in labor. Her doctor, Paul Locus, was dressed as the Joker and left for a while to hand out Halloween candy. He was still in costume when he returned to the hospital in time to deliver their little girl Oaklyn at 8:20 that evening.

"When [Locus] came in our room the following morning, in normal doctor attire, he said, 'Sorry I couldn't make it in last night, glad to see the delivery went well'," said Justin. "He was a great sport about it all."

I saw this picture yesterday at reddit, and at that time almost everyone said it was staged. So many redditors assumed that childbirth in a hospital is a sterile procedure, with mandatory scrubbing and masks. That's only necessary for surgery. See more pictures of Oaklyn's first Halloween at Buzzfeed.

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Great Horror Movies for Scaredy Cats

Some people like watching absolutely terrifying movies. Some people hate horror films. But some people like the fun of horror movies but just can't handle getting too scared -for those people, this Collider list is a perfect guide to finding the right scary movie that's not too scary. The level of spookiness varies greatly from Little Shop of Horrors campiness to Poltergeist's truly terrifying tale.

If you're still looking for something spooky to watch tonight and can't handle too many chills and thrills, you won't want to miss this article.

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Halloween Levitating Star Wars Speeder Costume

Imagine walking on the street in New York and seeing Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia driving by in one of those levitating speeder bikes from Return of the Jedi! YouTuber Jesse Wellens (previously at Neatorama) and model Carmella Rose took a ride around New York in their Star Wars Halloween costumes and delighted everyone with their speeder bike.  

(YouTube link)

Well, everyone except a stormtrooper (Casey Neistat) who thought they were going too fast. And then a NYPD officer. Oops. See how the speeder bike was built in this video and how the stunt was filmed in another video. -via Tastefully Offensive

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A Gotham City Rogue's Gallery for Halloween

Regimas and his girlfriend are cosplayers. They host a Batman Halloween party every year, and this year's theme was Arkham Asylum. They had everyone dress as a different character from the Batman universe. All the guests went the extra mile with their costumes!

Alright time for some explanation, people claimed their own characters and it was first come first serve, my girlfriend and I are cosplayers so people came to us for tips and stuff but they all made their own costumes. Then we printed the signs from the guest list and handed them out upon entry and took a photo with a DSLR. We were just as blown away as you guys are the with all the effort they put in.

Some characters didn't show up for the party, and others missed the picture taking. You can enlarge the image at imgur. A good time was had by all. -via reddit

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When Halloween Was All Tricks and No Treats

The "trick" part of trick-or-treat has almost been forgotten these days. The typical Halloween greeting we use to ask for candy is indeed a threat, but one that children don't take seriously these days. However, before World War II, Halloween mischief was serious and rampant.

Immigrants from Ireland and Scotland brought their Halloween superstitions to America in the 18th and 19th centuries, and their youngsters—our great- and great-great grandfathers—became the first American masterminds of mischief. Kids strung ropes across sidewalks to trip people in the dark, tied the doorknobs of opposing apartments together, mowed down shrubs, upset swill barrels, rattled or soaped windows, and, once, filled the streets of Catalina Island with boats. Pranksters coated chapel seats with molasses in 1887, exploded pipe bombs for kicks in 1888, and smeared the walls of new houses with black paint in 1891. Two hundred boys in Washington, D.C., used bags of flour to attack well-dressed folks on streetcars in 1894.

When these things happened in small towns, it was fairly easy for adults to figure out who did it. They either gave the miscreants a good dressing-down and made them repair the damage, or else they sighed and were thankful it was only one night a year. But the urbanization of America meant that strangers were living close together, and people did not feel like putting up with property damage and vandalism anymore. Read about the many efforts to turn Halloween away from tricks and toward treats at Smithsonian.

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Amputee Preschooler is Ready for Halloween

Scarlette Tipton is three years old. Her family celebrates Halloween in a big way, and Scarlette gets as many costumes as her imagination can handle. See, Scarlette's left arm was amputated when she was less than a year old due to cancer. She's in remission now, and her mother Simone Tipton is teaching her to embrace her difference.

Tipton told Mashable, "We just want to make Halloween extra special for her. It’s my husband and I’s favorite holiday and she had her amputation the day before her first Halloween. She spent it intubated, on all kinds of pain meds, but she was a survivor! So now Halloween means something more to us."

See more of Scarlette at Mashable.

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The Ultimate Halloween Candy Power Ranking

Every year as trick-or-treat approaches, we see lists of ranked candy going around the internet. Most are opinions, hoping to draw comments. Some are based on sales or some other concrete metric. But now Walt Hickey did some real research. First, the website FiveThirtyEight staged a poll where people would select the better of two kinds of candy at a time, in order to rank their popularity. Then he crunched more number to determine why some candies rose to the top. Neither the expense nor the sugar content explained the rankings.

So if it’s not price or sugar, there must be something about what’s in the candies that make some better and some worse. With the fervency of a stay-at-home dad who recently learned of a child’s mild peanut allergy, I scoured the internet for descriptive ingredient data about all the candies in our data set. Were they chocolate? Did they contain peanuts or almonds? How about crisped rice or other biscuit-esque component, like a Kit Kat or malted milk ball? Was it fruit flavored? Was it made of hard candy, like a lollipop or a strawberry bon bon? Was there nougat? What even is nougat? I know I like nougat, but I still have remotely no clue what the damn thing is.

A statistical analysis of ingredients in the ranked list indicates that we indeed have preferences that are common across the population. Duh. So Hickey proposes designing a Frankenstein bar, if you will, that includes all the popular ingredients. I disagree. The Reese's Cup proves that often the simplest ideas are the best. Read the ranked list and the nuts-and-bolts research that went into it at FiveThirtyEight. -Thanks, Tim!

(Image credit: MBisanz)

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Josh Sundquist's 2017 Halloween Costume

Every year, Josh Sundquist (previously at Neatorama) comes up with a delightfully clever Halloween costume that incorporates the fact that he has one leg. For Halloween 2017, he returned to his early love of trampolines by becoming the bouncy Tigger!

See Sundquist's costumes from previous years.

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"This Is Halloween" Light Show 2017

Tom BetGeorge always goes all out for his Christmas light shows. This year, the neighbors are being treated to the same attention to detail in a Halloween light show! This house in Tracey, California, tells the story of The Nightmare Before Christmas, starting with the song "This is Halloween."

(YouTube link)

With tons of LED lights, projections, computer-controlled sequences, music, and a drone to record it, this is a step beyond in Halloween decorating. I have two ceramic pumpkins with a string of orange lights stuck inside each. -via Geeks Are Sexy  

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Glass Shard and Skull Cake

No one would serve a cake with glass shards in it -at least no one you'd want to know- but these just look like glass. Food artist Hellen Die (the alter ego of TV writer Tye Lombardi) shows us how to make this gruesome cake that should only be served at adults-only gatherings.

This cake is dangerously delicious.  A deep dark buttermilk chocolate cake wrapped in thick white marshmallow fondant stabbed with shards of sweet sugar glass, topped with a white chocolate skull, and drizzled in sweet raspberry blood is a showstopping way to say Happy Halloween!

Learn to make all the components of this Halloween dessert at the Necro-nom-nom-nomicon.

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The Most Haunted Place in Each State

Looking for somewhere scary to visit before Halloween? You don't have long left, but don't worry, Thrillist has you covered with a different scary place in each state. Even if you live in a huge state like California, a state beside you might have a haunted destination nearer to you (unless you live in Alaska, of course).

The only problem with the list is that it chooses to combine haunted house attractions like Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando with purportedly real haunted places like the Villisca Axe Murder House in Iowa. Both might offer fun frights for the adventurous, but going to to a real cemetery is a lot different than visiting an amusement park. 

Either way, the list has a lot of great destinations for Halloween fans.

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Halloween Costumes for Babies in Carriers

Look at this little darlin' in her first Halloween costume! Three-month-old Macie is Rapunzel, and her dad is her tower. Macie's mother Megan made the costume, and tells us about it here. The there's amberilyn, who played Secret Service agent to her son's POTUS last year.

#TulaHalloween #tulaween

A post shared by Amber Marie (@amberilyn) on Nov 1, 2016 at 10:27am PDT

You can see eight pages of great Halloween costumes that incorporate a baby in a carrier at Bored Panda. -via Metafilter

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A Disappointing Trick-or-Treat Night

Halloween is the first candy holiday of the dark days of winter. The temptation can be too much for some of us. But once we get through Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter, we'll be ready to go without for a while. Meanwhile, you have to forgive us adults who haven't quite grown up yet. This is the latest comic from Alex Culang and Raynato Castro at Buttersafe.

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The Forgotten Romantic Rituals of Halloween’s Past

Young people used parlor games for fortune-telling at every holiday, but Halloween is when the spirits are closest to the material world. In centuries past, many games and rituals surrounding Halloween were used to determine who one would marry, or whether one would marry at all. Evidence of these rituals survives in postcards, and many of them had to do with apples. We bob for apples for fun, and for the enjoyment of seeing others completely soaked, but at one time, apples could tell your fortune. Peel one and toss it; the shape it falls into will be the first initial of your true love. Mark apples before bobbing for them; which one you retrieve will tell you your future. And trying to bite swinging apple on a string could seriously lead to a kiss when you're competing with the opposite sex. Even stranger was the use of the produce most often associated with Halloween: cabbages. Read about the bygone fortune-telling rituals of Halloween at Messy Messy Chic, and see of collection of vintage Halloween greeting cards that tell the stories.  

(Image credit: Flickr user Dave)

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Halloween in the City of Bones

Where's the best place to celebrate Halloween? In the land of the original Gaelic festival of Samhain, which is where Halloween originated, of course. The city of Derry, Northern Ireland, revived Halloween in a big way in 1986, and today the annual festival is one of the biggest Halloween parties in Europe. Last year, 75,000 people showed up.   

The only remaining fully walled city in Ireland, Derry looks the part for Halloween. The massive stone walls that girdle the city and the Gothic Revival Guildhall just below the ramparts could be a set from a 1960s Hammer Film Productions horror flick. Families were walking about in full ghoulish makeup that would have made George Romero (“Night of the Living Dead’’) proud. We had stumbled into a Renaissance Faire crossed with a nightmare — in the best possible sense, of course.

We followed the throngs to the plaza in front of the Guildhall, where the Haunted Harvest Market was in high gear. We found vendors selling jewelry for every imaginable piercing, face painters who were creating the sunken eyes and random gashes to fit any type of undead character, and the street food vendors of “Hell’s Kitchen.’’ Band after band provided a soundtrack that ranged from traditional Irish music to Irish country to heavy metal rock.

And that was just the first day of the festival. Read more about Halloween in Derry at the Boston Globe.  -via The Week

See also: The official website for Derry Halloween.

(Image credit: Flickr user Greg Clarke)

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Japan's Halloween Trains

How does one celebrate Halloween in Japan? The holiday wasn't a thing until a critical number of American ex-pats made it so, and they dressed up in costumes and did what the Japanese do -ride the commuter trains. In the 1990s, trains became a place for partying on Halloween, and even in the days leading up to October 31st, much to the annoyance of officials and regular commuters.

Year after year, the Halloween trains continued to get more and more rowdy. At the turn of the century, I remember hearing English-teacher friends say that if their school found out they rode the Halloween train, they’d lose their jobs.

Everything seemed to reach fever pitch in 2009 when protesters appeared at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo carrying signs that read, “Stupid Gaijin, Get out of Japan!” and “We Japanese Don’t Need Halloween!”

This was after police had to patrol train station platforms on Tokyo’s Yamanote Line the year before, holding up English language warning signs for the Halloweeners.

Things have changed. This year, the train company in Osaka is sponsoring public Halloween party trains, one for adults and another for children. Maybe it's a case of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." At least that way, the party trains can be separated from the everyday commuters. Read the history of Japan's Halloween trains at Kotaku.  

(Image credit: Flickr user Tim Brockley)

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Curse of the Dancing Mummy

Have you seen the dancing mummy on your local weather report? He's a CGI mummy doing the twist, and he's the star of a very popular Halloween graphic that appears to be used at least once a year in every television market. What wasn't included in the graphics package was a warning that this mummy has a supernatural power. He makes every meteorologist who looks at him start dancing. Badly.

(YouTube link)

News Be Funny  made a compilation of clips using this same graphic at dozens of TV stations. Maybe your local weather forecaster is in there! -via Tastefully Offensive

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13 Secrets of Halloween Costume Designers

People spend over $9 billion on Halloween every year, and a big chunk of that will be for Halloween costumes. Keeping us supplied with scary, funny, creative, sexy, and trendy costumes takes teams of designers busy all year long. But they swing into high gear when a new meme pops up just before Halloween.


A lot of costume interest comes from what’s been making headlines in the fall: Costumers have to be ready to meet that demand. “We’re pretty good at being able to react quickly,” says Pilar Quintana, vice-president of merchandising for “Something happening in April may not be strong enough to stick around for Halloween.”

Because the mail-order site has in-house models and isn’t beholden to approval from big box vendors, Quintana can design and photograph a costume so it’s available within 72 hours. If it's more elaborate, it can take a little longer: Both Yandy and Weeks had costumes inspired by the Cecil the Lion story that broke in July 2015 (in which a trophy hunter from Minnesota killed an African lion) on their sites in a matter of weeks.


It may be morbid, but it’s a reality: The high-profile passing of celebrities, especially close to Halloween, can trigger a surge in sales. “Before Robin Williams died, I couldn’t sell a Mork costume for a dollar,” Weeks says. “After he died, I couldn’t not sell it for less than $100.” This year, designers expect Hugh Hefner to fuel costume ideas—unless something else pops up suddenly to grab their attention. “Last year, when Prince died, that was almost trumped by [presidential debate audience member] Ken Bone,” Berman says. “He became almost more popular than Prince.”

Another thing about selling trendy costumes is that a customer won't want to wear the same costume a year later, so there's another sale coming. Read more secrets from Halloween costume makers at Mental Floss.

(Image credit: MVASCO)

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The Best Vampire and Zombie Movies of All Time

For most horror movie fans, one of two movie monsters will always reign supreme -vampires and zombies. Fortunately for those who just can't get enough of these two terrible creatures, Collider has taken the time to rank the best films that feature each of the creatures. The vampire list includes the classic Dracula (of course) as well as more modern classics like Fright Night and Blade -but sorry Twilight fans, you'll have to look elsewhere for your validation. 

The zombie list has all the George Romero films you'd expect as well as some more clever takes on the genre -like Sean of the Dead and Paranorman (though I felt Fido deserved a place on the list as well).

So visit Collider to see their ranking of the best vampire movies and the best zombie movies and then come back here to debate their choices.

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The Whale's Halloween Costume

Webcomic artist Liz Climo always has a great time dressing up her animal characters for Halloween. I think the whale's idea is pretty clever, even if he does have to explain it. I love the banana porpoise and Superotter, too. Then there's Batman and his psychic, and the witch and her cat. Be sure to check back for more critters getting ready for Halloween at Hi, I'm Liz.

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The Year of the Witch

The Salem Witch Trials get all the publicity, but it was far from the only witch panic that invaded colonial America. In Hartford, Connecticut, witch hysteria gripped the community in 1662 and 1663, so much that it came to be known as "The Year of the Witch." It all started with the death of eight-year-old Elizabeth Kelly, who died of an unknown ailment. Suspicion instantly led to Judith Ayres, who nobody liked anyway. She was arrested for witchcraft, and for good measure, they arrested her husband, too.

Judith and William were subjected to that indispensable part of any good witch trial: the "water test." The couple were bound hand to foot and tossed into a pond. If they floated, that was proof positive they were witches. If they sank, well, at least Judith and William would have the satisfaction of knowing that they would die vindicated.

To no one's real surprise, the pair floated like a pair of corks. A ghastly death at the gallows awaited them.

Luckily for the Ayerses, there were a few people in town who had not come down with the prevailing hysteria. These supporters managed to arrange a jailbreak, and the couple fled to Rhode Island, leaving behind their two sons, ages five and eight. One wonders what sort of lives those boys went on to have.

Unfortunately, the departure of Judith and William did not signal the end of the Hartford witch panic. In truth, it was just getting started.

The young girls of Hartford started talking about witchcraft, and accusing others of the practice. One suspect named an entire coven, including her own husband. Read the account of the Year of the Witch at Strange Company.

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