Have Gory Halloween Costumes Taken the Fun Out of Dressing Up?

Kids aren't wearing homemade ghost outfits or Richard Nixon masks anymore. Today's trick-or-treaters prefer to dress for a post-apocalyptic America

The other day I wandered into a pop-up store. Pop-up stores are those instant retail outlets set up seemingly overnight to make a quick buck. They’re big during the holiday season.

This one, on South Street, was a Halloween pop-up store.

I had a few minutes to kill so I thought I’d wander in and check out the hot masks for Halloween 2011. Take in the zeitgeist a bit. I figured Lady Gaga would be big, the True Blood characters and the perennials, of course—Hannibal Lecter, Jason, Bill and Hillary Clinton.

But instead what I found was a full-fledged creepfest: corpses rising out of crypts and masks with giant screws and eyeballs dangling from them. Where was the fun stuff? The imaginative get ups?

This wasn’t the scary innocence of Halloweens past, your average Boris Karloff monster mash; this was a depiction of the Apocalypse, a pop-up store vision of our last days, a down-and-dirty creepfest of the highest order, a peek at what the world might quickly look like if Rick Perry took the oath of office.

I quickly fled.

Look, I understand; the fun of Halloween is the scary stuff—goblins, witches, scarecrows. You don’t treat, maybe we slam your storm door with a handful of candy corn. I get it.

But this is just too creepy. Do we really want to dress up as though the end days are upon us? If we do, won’t that mean the terrorists have won?

Better to go back to the future. To make our own costumes from stuff we have around the house, like we did back in the creepy days of Richard Nixon.

You can be pretty scary with just a little imagination.

A strategically placed pillow around the belly and butt area, and—boom!—hello Chris Christie! Or Rush Limbaugh! Wait, wait, Andy Reid!

Whatever, it’ll work; you’re going to scare people.

Or if you really want to freak people out, you can wear a black shirt, make a collar out of white cardboard and go as a diocesan priest.

Okay, now I’ve gone too far. I’m probably destined for hell.

Which I’m betting looks a lot like Halloween pop-up store.

Tim Whitaker is the executive director of Mighty Writers, a nonprofit program that inspires city kids to write.