The joy of being spooked
Our annual visit to Spirit Halloween
Last year while living upstate, a Spirit Halloween shop opened in an empty big box store in Kingston, occupying dead mall real estate (as they are designed to do). Our kids have professed a love for Halloween and all things spooky for as long I can remember; their favorite movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ada wanders around in a witch costume 365 days of the year, and we discuss the concept of “spooky” at least once a week.
As Halloween crept closer, we would often drive around looking at other house’s sprawling cobwebs, giant spiders, hanging skeletons, and inflated witches, and the kids would bemoan our lack thereof, pleading with us to “make our house spooky,” our gourd selection never quite fitting the bill.
One afternoon, Jacob was with the kids in Kingston, and decided to drop by Spirit Halloween, thinking it was everything they craved. The store is largely organized by types of costumes (historical, scary, movie-inspired, witch, superhero), then kid and adult, but what’s not immediately apparent is the large number of animatronic figures—zombies, clowns, ghosts, full-on head-cut-off man-sized gore that are motion-triggered throughout the store.
They had gotten fairly deep towards the back of the shop when one of the kids set off Zombie #1, unleashing deep, guttural screams from the children. Julian was three and Ada was five and Zombie #1 set off Zombie #2, then a bloody clown, and as a headless monster started flashing its lights, waving its arms, and moaning in their direction, the kids went all-out apoplectic and lost their little minds. Julian was effectively out-of-body terrified, and Jacob had to grab both children and run from the store. For at least six months, all Julian could talk about with a distinct tremble in his voice was Spirit Halloween, being scared, and how we could never go back there again.
Cut to last weekend: we’re back in Kingston and Jacob needed to make a trip to Lowe’s to buy some duct for our HVAC (homeownership is not sexy!). It just so happens to be across the parking lot from this year’s Spirit Halloween. At this point, we’ve already decided on our costumes (Ada wants to be a scary witch and Julian wants to be a creepy carrot), but the kids see the shop and beg to go inside.
I remind Julian of last year’s trauma and yet he is insistent: he won’t be scared. We decide on a safe word—“JACK SKELLINGTON,” (from The Nightmare Before Christmas) which is the cue for “this is too scary and we need to leave immediately,” and we go through the sliding glass doors into the shop. We make a slow wander through the witch accessories, past the trick or treating baskets, and past a glowing holographic graveyard. We cruise around the back where there are bloody clown masks, and Ada asks if we can go back to the witch area. At this point, Julian is clutching my arm, and just as we cross the center of the store, we set off a bloody animatronic Beetlejuice. Julian starts screaming “JACK SKELLINGTON! JACK SKELLINGTON!,” eyes already bugging out of his head.
I look at Ada, who has just picked and is begging for a product called “dark witch tiara” and look at Julian who is whimpering and screaming “this is too scary for my brain” over and over again. We have to walk back past the Beetlejuice both to check out and exit the store. I explain this to the kids. Julian is pale and terrified. I pick him up suitcase style and charge to the register to pay too much for the tiara. The Beetlejuice starts flopping its arms around again. Julian is moaning. Ada is excited. We pay for the witch tiara and leave the store into the parking lot.
Jacob stumbles out of Lowe’s, which didn’t have the duct he needed. “How was the Halloween Store?,” he asks. Ada shows off her tiara and reports that it has “real gems.” Julian adds, “It was good, papa. I really wasn’t scared at all.”
Recommendations for the kids:
Watch: Ada Twist on Netflix is very well done.
Warm wear: This merino wool base layer set from H+M is affordable, comfortable, and we have it in both colors for the kids.
Play: Procured this National Geographic colorful marble run with glow-in-the-dark marbles for J’s 4th birthday last weekend and he is pretty damn thrilled.
Upstate kid-friendly all-in-one: Hit Kelder’s Farm in Accord if you need to get your fall fix in for one-stop mini golf, pumpkin picking, a giant gnome, apples, hay rides, jumping pillow, playground, and cider doughnuts. Class it up afterwards at Westwind or Arrowwood Farms or go check out Inness.
Recommendations for grown-ups:
Read: This newsletter from The Hustle (via my husband) which describes how Spirit Halloween became a $500m+ business.
Listen: This inspiring interview on the Broken Record podcast with the composer of White Lotus, Cristobal Tapia de Veer that contains a gem of a story about Kanye, and who comes across as incredibly genuine, creative, and as seeing so much absurdity in pursuing fame and fortune over what you love to do.
Watch: Scenes from a Marriage if you’re feeling a lot of emotional fortitude. Cinematic, incredible writing, a true Feelings Rollercoaster. Also, Agnes Callard’s terrific piece about it in The New Yorker.
Winter is coming: Glerups are still the best slippers. I’m partial to this slip-on style. My first pair lasted 5 years of hard wear.
That’s it for this week. Winter is coming. Can you feel it? Stay warm.
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