Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Halloween Superstore

I love shopping for Halloween.  Whether I'm looking for treats or a cool decoration, I always seem to find joy from a black and orange something or other.  Even when I'm not looking to buy, I can spend hours just browsing the aisles.  Halloween, more than any other holiday, provides me with such a sensory overload that I just can't get enough.  So, to give this fiend his fix, we went to Belleville, NJ to check out their "Halloween Superstore."  It's a site we visit regularly during the season and, in past years, has been my go-to spot for Halloween costumes.  I know the "Spirit" stores get most of the notoriety, but this place deserves more credit!

As soon as you walk through the doors, there's a smell of rubber masks and old Halloween make-up that rushes through your body like any good nostalgia should.  You're in a Halloween wonderland, surrounded by hanging devils, looming ghosts, and life-sized skeleton figures dressed for the wedding that never was.  Being there for only a matter of seconds, you feel as though you're in a haunted house without the threat of being scared.  That's why kids love this place, too.  It's the full Halloween experience for all ages.  And the best part, coming so early in September, is that there was no crowd at all.  I've been here the week of October 31st and, trust me, the enjoyment level drops to a two.  Much like Toys R Us on Christmas Eve, the Halloween Superstore gets crazy as we approach the big day, so getting a jump start was a great idea.

I see these dummies every year and, no matter how many times I look at them, they always freak me the hell out.  It's bad enough that they move and startle me when I walk passed, but they look way too real to boot.  If you ever see one of these butlers or maids, take a really good look at them.  I mean, really get up close and personal.  Stare them directly in the eye and tell me you're not creeped out!  It's like they took human eyes and put them into the mechanical bodies.  With that said, I'd love to one day own one of these to have set up at a party.  They're phenomenal and always attract attention.

This old hag wasn't turned on, so I have no idea why she's worth so much money, but I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I got scared when I took the photo.  Because she looks so real and had her eyes locked on mine, I thought she was going to move for sure.  In fact, I started telling myself that there was a person inside the costume and she was going to lunge out at me.  Even though I knew it wasn't going to happen, my mind started to play tricks on me.  Ahh, the power of Halloween!

What's wrong with this guy?  Why is he making such a painful, disgruntled, face?  He just got to Target and realized they still have their school stuff out.  Oh, the terror!

Downright morbid.  This is something I would not want to own or keep in my house, but fun enough to look at as I pass by.  Dead babies turn me off.  They're the one thing I don't like to associate with Halloween or the season.  That might sound hypocritical considering I don't mind dead men and women zombies or homicidal maniacs killing innocent strangers, but I'm just not a fan of this one.  But, I'll admit, it's extremely creepy and would work well in a haunted house or on somebody's porch.  None of the animatronics were turned on, but I can only imagine how awesome they all are once they're moving and making sounds.

Yeah so, like I said, dead babies are a no-go, but I'm all for beheaded men and the limbs of women.  It all makes sense now, right?  Really, at the end of the day, anything goes on Halloween.  Some people can stomach and accept more than others, but everybody knows you're going to be exposed to horrific things on Halloween.  That's one of the reasons why I love it so much.  Unless you're deranged, you shouldn't be taking Halloween so seriously.  It's meant to be a fun break from reality into the supernatural.  So, for me, decorations and props like these are A-Okay.  I just stray away from the dogs and babies.  It's like any good horror movie; you can kill 100 people and nobody cares, but kill the dog or kid and people are writing letters.  I guess I'm one of "them."

The Halloween Superstore really does have everything.  If you want the haunted house props for hundreds of dollars, you got it.  If you want plates, cups, and candles for a few bucks, those are yours, too.  That's why I like this store so much.  You get a little bit of everything and more than enough to leave your pockets empty.

This part of the store was a bit overpriced.  I've seen, and own, some of these items and they were purchased at Walgreens and the Dollar Store for only a buck or two.  Here, they were about $4.99-$5.99.  So, like anything, you have to shop around and Google a bit before you buy, but these are great products to own.  I know my goblet has been getting a lot of love on Twitter, but those shot glasses and colored cups are just as cool.  I'll have to look around for something similar before I spend the money here, but they're worth having to enhance the season.  Who doesn't want to drink Ghoul-Aid from a goblet or Fall beer from a skull shaped glass?

People can talk about and love the modern decorations of our time, but I'll always have a soft spot for cardboard cutouts and window clings.  To me, they're the most suitable decor for Halloween and the most nostalgic.  I remember, as a kid, my teachers always stapled the same Dracula head cutout on the bulletin board every year.  It was cheap, yet effective.  They're the same decorations you see in old episodes of Roseanne and Home Improvement and I just love them.  They're corny, they're older than I am, but they mean so much for what they were and what I remember.  On Christmas, you can be fancy and elegant, but Halloween is the complete opposite.  Only in September and October can you tape a cardboard mummy on your wall and consider it art.  Hey, I even consider it fashionable.  These are my favorite types of Halloween decorations.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Halloween Superstore without Halloween costumes!  Belleville has plenty to offer for children and adults!  We walked up and down every aisle at least twice to get a good look at every old and new costume for sale.  As we did, my only wish was that I had invitations to multiple Halloween parties because I want to wear all of them.  For the last two-years, I've gone as Macho Man Randy Savage and made the costumes myself.  This year, I have no idea what the plan is and it's already stressing me out.  Halloween costumes should probably be low on my list of priorities, but you'd be surprised by how high it ranks.  President Obama has Syria and the economy, I have cereals and costumes.  Tough jobs, I know.  But seriously, I'm super excited to show it off, I just don't know what "it" is yet.

I really like the Beetlejuice costume because you can wear it again and go as Robin Thicke.  Hey Hey Hey!

I don't think any fully grown adults should ever go as Chucky, but I have a friend who's a little person and he loves dressing up as the good guy doll.  That's how you use what God's given you to your advantage.  He puts on the costume, stands still in a corner, and runs after anybody who gets too close.  I'd do the same thing, but I'm too big for Chucky and too small for Leatherface.  I'd channel my inner Billy Loomis and go as Ghostface, but I did that when I was 12.  I'm all confused, now..

There's a new line of costumes out called "Wicked of Oz," and they're all really... Wicked?  They're obviously based on "The Wizard of Oz," but are much more ferocious looking than the original costumes.  Take this Cowardly Lion, for example.  This isn't the lovable wimp we've all come to know and love, he's a ruthless killer.  The Tin Man was also for sale and looked like he was put together with old machinery, brass parts, and steel.  I guess they're taking a more realistic approach.  Maybe it's the "Dark Knight" version of "Wizard of Oz."  Either way, they'd look amazing if you dressed together as a group.  That's something I've never done, but wouldn't be opposed to as long as I'm the post popular character from any group we choose.

More hanging props and decorations, all of which were for sale.  Even if I had the room, I'm not sure what I'd do with them, but I want them all.  For now, I'll stick with the "Beware" sign.  I could put it on my door to scare away the 30-year-old men who Trick-or-Treat without costumes in Jersey City.  But they'd just steal it.

My favorite section of the store is their mask display because they have so many masks, from so many years, that they obviously can't get rid of.  Nobody wants to spend money on a wrestling mask from the Attitude Era when they can buy something brand new, but that works for window shoppers like me.  I love looking at old masks, and the fact that they're wrestling masks makes it even better.  

 I used to have the Vince McMahon mask.  My Dad wore it in Salem, MA while my cousin went as Mankind and I went as The Rock to form The Rock & Sock Connection.  I was about 13-years-old, so it didn't look all the believable, but I probably couldn't pull it off any better today, anyway.  My cousin looked a lot better.  Lots of people were chanting "Foley, Foley!"  Meanwhile, they thought I was a tiny Mexican man.  I guess the glittery shirt didn't help matters.  Oh well, I tried.

The Superstore obviously ordered too much inventory in the late 90s because those South Park masks came out around the same time as the WWF and WCW masks.  Napoleon Dynamite and The Grinch came out soon after, but they manage to hold up well.  I really like the Frankenstein and and Burger King masks, but probably wouldn't waste my Halloween dressed as them.  Although, I did go as Frankenstein in the 2nd grade.

This is probably the only photo from that Halloween, but it was one of my favorites.  At school, we were all allowed to dress up in our costumes, but we couldn't change until after lunch.  That only gave us a few hours to rock our macabre and I couldn't wait to dress like Frankenstein.  But, from what I remember, it was a disaster.  I brought my costume in a plastic bag, took it into the bathroom, and changed myself.  But the make-up and rubber head top were not working out.  You can hardly see in the image, but my face is green.  It doesn't look great, and that's with the help of my inartistic teacher, but it was the best I could do.  God only knows where the rubber piece went, but that was the selling point.  I still remember seeing this costume on the rack at Toys R Us thinking, "Whoa.. I need that Franky head."  Had we been allowed to dress up all day, my Mom would have made sure I left the house looking like Herman Munster, but we're lucky we got any party at all in elementary school.  Regardless, I love this image for the memories I have attached to it, but have no idea what I'm holding in my hands.  Looks like I swiped a cupcake and Reese's.

As you walk down the aisle, the masks get more and more scary.  This end of the wall was insane.  We have Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Hannibal the Cannibal, Jigsaw, Leatherface, and a Nun that creeps me out the most.  They're all awesome.  I've been looking for a Freddy mask that moves with your face, like those silicone latex masks that sell for over $500, but no such luck.  In the meantime, I might settle for that bloody Michael Myers mask.  I've never seen that before, but that's gnarly.

Every year, I look for a decent Freddy or Jason costume.  I've always wanted a movie quality version that would stand up well next to any other seen on the street, but I never seem to find one.  These over sized creature reachers would definitely attract attention, and I almost bought one a few years ago, but decided against it.  They're awesome, and are close to what I've been looking for, but I know how difficult it is to see and move in one of those costumes.

I bought the giant pumpkin head creature reacher for a family Halloween party in 2008.  It was a huge hit...for about 15 seconds.  Everybody loved it, we took a few pictures, and then the party started.  I had two choices - I could either stand there, in the house, unable to move my hands, see, and breathe, or I could take off everything pumpkin related and go as a hay sack.  Unfortunately, hay sack was the easier route and, in a matter of minutes, I went from wearing a $350 costume to being a regular Joe Schmoe.  Needless to say, I put that bad boy up on Ebay the following year.

Are these new?  In recent years, I've seen countless Mario & Luigi combinations, but they're usually homemade.  This year, I see they've released the hat and obscenely large mustache.  That's pretty awesome.  I think you kinda have to already look the part, but the duo always makes for a great tag team on Halloween.  Personally, the best I've ever seen is "Fireball Mario."  Somebody went all out in Salem, making their own costume and throwing colored tennis balls at the ground, bouncing them toward visitors.  He must have spent a fortune on his bag of balls, because he never went to pick them up, but it was worth it.  If you've ever been to Salem for Halloween, you know how important it is to stand out if you're getting dressed up.  I need to get back there.

I'm willing to bet that I used one of these exact make-up packages when I painted my face green in 1994.  The design and images never seem to change on the cardboard backing, and I like it that way.  That clown and witch on the bottom pegs have been around for at least 15 years.  If I have it my way, they'll be around for 15 more.  They're just as big a part of nostalgia and Halloween as anything else.  They're underrated, sometimes forgotten, but always bring back memories whenever I see them hanging there.  I would never buy them, now.  Unless I was using make-up on a consistent basis or needed something quick, there's no way I wouldn't choose something better over the cheap stuff.  If it's Halloween, I'm going to go the extra mile.  Besides, my face always felt itchy when I had that stuff on.  For the price, ya gotta figure something's up with the ingredients.  They're fun to look at and cheap to buy, but that's about as far as it'll go these days.

When I was a kid, that make-up was all to be offered.  Now, you can buy fake teeth, fangs, colored contacts, fake noses, and big ears.  God already gave me a pair of Dumbo's, but now you can apparently go as me, this season.  It's crazy how much is offered, but I always wonder how this stuff holds up compared to higher quality products sold online.  I'd love to hear from somebody who knows their stuff because, honestly, I have no idea.  I tried using spirit gum for a Macho Man beard, and it didn't all.  I had to draw the beard on with eye liner and I don't know if I've ever written a more manly sentence than this.

There are new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costumes for 2013, but they were completely sold out!  I don't know if I would have purchased one, but I wanted to see what they looked like in person.  Online, they appear to be based on the original cartoon which, for me, would be amazing.  The Shredder costume I saw made my jaw drop, but only the four turtles were once available at the Superstore and they were all gone.

Kids, on the other hand, have the opportunity to dress as their favorite Ninja Turtle and I LOVE that!!  Thanks to Nickelodeon and a new generation of fans, the TMNT are reaching a level of popularity that hasn't been seen since the early 90s.  As a fan of the franchise, this is great news!  The more money they make, they more merchandise we see.  Thankfully, they're smart enough to market to me and my age-group which means even more nostalgia.  I'll take that, but I'm even happier to know that there are a group of kids out there who are excited to pick their favorite turtle and act like them on Halloween.  It makes me happy to know that, 20-years from now, they'll be looking back on 2013 with the same fond memories I have for Frankenstein.

I saved this one for the end because, honestly, I don't think I've seen a more impressive Halloween costume in years, especially for $60.  I'll never forget the mass hysteria caused by Mighty Morphin Power Ranger Halloween costumes in 1995.  In my area, they were sold out everywhere!  And this was before the Internet age where you can just go online and find whatever you want for a higher price.  When something was gone, it was gone.  I would have been devastated if I was unable to dress up as the Red Ranger, but my Aunt found one at a Mom & Pop Toy Store in Bayonne, NJ and wound up paying 5x the retail value just to make sure I wasn't disappointed and could make my friends jealous.  I remember how cheap the costume was made, with one of those plastic masks and elastic bands, but I really felt like a Power Ranger when I had it on.  The only downside was that it wasn't the Green Ranger.  In my recollection, the original Green Ranger costume was never officially available... until now!

The body suit is one thing, especially with that gold armor, but the helmet is what makes this a childhood dream come true.  Could you imagine having this as a kid??  I wanted a real Power Ranger helmet more than anything in the world and, looking back, I can't believe how lucky I was to have that be the worst of my problems.  But compared to my plastic mask, I would have killed to have a helmet that snaps on and off the way theirs did.  Now, with this new costume, we get a version very close to the original.  Basically, you get two sides that Velcro together to create a helmet.  It's still plastic, but there are no eye holes.  You see through the helmet the same way you'd see through sunglasses.  The Red Ranger was also available, but it had two eye holes cut through the mask.  Ew!  This one is a trillion times better and I'm debating whether or not I want to buy it.  I know there are much more "official" costumes available online, but they're expensive.  For the price, this may be the best route.  Now, if only I knew some karate..

Overall, this is one of the coolest Halloween stores I've ever been to and that's why we continually go back to visit Belleville every year.  If you're looking for something, chances are they'll have it.  Now, I haven't been to a Spirit Store in years, but I can't imagine it being much better than the State Fair Halloween Superstore.  I'm trying to think of what can be offered there that wasn't here, and I can't think of anything.  However, I think there's a Spirit Store relatively close to me and I'll probably check it out, soon.  Until then, I need to figure out what to be for Halloween.  What are you wearing on October 31st?


  1. "This old hag wasn't turned on, so I have no idea why she's worth so much money,"

    That right there, is worth the trip! rofl

    If you want a good mask cheap, the trick is to customize it. I had a Freddy one in 1988 that's still being used every year. We cut the slit a little higher and then epoxied some velcro strips to the flaps so it would close nice and tight. After a little while of wearing it, it gets warm to the touch.

    If you ever decide to come up to Salem, in October or otherwise, lemme know!

  2. Haha thanks!

    Ahh great move with the Freddy mask. I'm going to have to look into that because that sounds like it work well!

    Are you from Salem? I used to go every year with my family. We went from 1998-2009 for Halloween or the weekend prior. Not sure why we all stopped, but I'm definitely looking to get back next year, if not this year.

  3. Great post, as always. Is this a store that is always set up and just open in September and October? The signage is different than the temporary Spirit stores you see around here. That is cool if you have a store that you know will be open every year around this time. Here in Massachusetts, we have Spirit stores and another one called Halloween Scream--the problem is you never know where they will show up since they come to whatever vacant stores there are.

    I also live just outside of Salem--about 10 minutes away. It is a great time and people do go all out. If you are a Halloween fan, it is something to put on your Halloween bucket list. Hopefully you'll get back up here again, Cliff. If you do, look us up!

  4. Thanks, Maria! The Superstore is always set up, but actually changes themes throughout the seasons. In November, they'll become a "Christmas Superstore," which is probably what they're known best for. In the Summer, they sell pool equipment and outdoor decor, but I usually only visit during the Halloween months. As for Spirit, we have the same problem here. One year we had one 15 minutes away in the mall, the next year the closest one was an hour away.

    You're absolutely right about Salem! Anybody who is a fan of Halloween needs to visit at least once in their life. The last time I was there, I was under the drinking age so didn't really get a chance to fully experience the environment, but I'd love to take the ride up, even if it's only for a night. If I do, I'll be sure to let you know!!

  5. I grew up on the south shore and moved to Salem in the early 00s. Then we were forced to move from our apt and moved to a nearby city. Salem's only about 10 min down the road and I'm there every Halloween. :D

  6. That is an awesome concept, to change "themes" with the seasons. I often thought that would be a sweet concept for a pastry/cookie/bread place in a mall food court. Constantly changing their offerings with the seasons.

  7. That would be a great idea! I'd imagine they'd make a lot of money, especially from September through January. Those months alone would be enough to keep it open. You may be on to something!

  8. Ahhh that's so cool! I love everything about Salem. I've only been there during the Halloween season, but the town itself is beautiful. It's so nice to find cool people who live in and around Salem. All this talk is making me want to go back even more. If I were you, I'd be there every Halloween, too!

  9. Yeah it is a great place to visit even during the "off" season. Locals will tell you that's the best time lol.

    My favorite years are either when Halloween falls on a Fri/Sat (extra big crowds) or Sun/Mon because then it's packed for the weekend leading up to it and I get extra nights I can go scare people :D

  10. I remember being there on a Halloweekend as a teen and it was amazing! My cousin and I dressed up in our costumes. We sat on a bench to rest our feet and, out of nowhere, a 2-hour long line formed to take pictures with us. We felt like rock stars. We couldn't walk 3-feet without somebody trying to stop us. Little did they know they were posing with a couple kids under 18-years old Ha! Later that night, we sat in the cemetery and posed as statues. Whenever somebody came to close to get a better look.. We jumped out at them and they ran like hell haha Honestly, most of my favorite Halloween memories took place in Salem. Such a great place!

  11. Ha, I know that feelin! My stepdad inherited and improved my old Freddy costume years ago when I created my new character. We constantly get stopped for pics. He has one place he goes downtown and just hangs out to take pics with people.

    One year I was doing the "statue" thing and a couple of smartass teens came up to me trying to figure out if I was real. Then one of them punched me in the face. He just about poo'd himself when I sprang to life grabbing him by the shirt and nailing him in the shin with my steel toe boots yelling "WHAT THE F- IS WRONG WITH YOU?"

  12. Funny you mention that because the same thing happened to me. Some guy walked by and, just to be a jerk, took a swing and ran. Not sure if he knew I was real or not, but he was probably hoping I was just so he can take a cheap shot and say "Oh I had no idea.." But a small price to pay to scare and have fun with a whole bunch of normal people! At least you got revenge with those boots! haha

  13. That and changing the displays to match the season/holiday.

  14. awesome post man! I'm surprised they let you walk around the store and take photos like that. All the Halloween stores around here are SUPER bitch about that. Often having employees on the sales floor with the specific task of yelling at folks with camera phones trying to snap shots. Personally, I still don't see what the big deal is.

    I love the huge selection of masks at this store too!

  15. I was getting stares from a few employees. I thought they were going to ask me to stop, but I think the store was just too empty for them to care. My girlfriend was taking pictures at the Yankee Candle Boney Bunch launch and the douche told her to stop or leave, so she left. If that's a rule, for whatever reason, then I get it. But at least be courteous when you ask somebody who doesn't realize it's a big deal. If anything, people like us help support their business by writing about it.

  16. Thank you, Josie! Yeah, you're right. I remember my Mom making me a Tin-Man costume when I was around 3 or 4. It was basically tin foil wrapped around cardboard, a funnel painted silver, and some face-paint, but it came out great. That's what you had to do, then. Now, you can literally be anything you want on Halloween.


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