Category: Halloween

Who Remembers McDonald’s Halloween Happy Meal Pails?

McDonald's Halloween Happy Meals

Right there on the advertisement, it says these are safe for children of all ages.  Well, I’m a thirty-something kid at heart, so I want these in my life again.

As a kid, it was a big deal to me to see these advertised in commercials, and wait anxiously for the day my Mom would take me out for a Happy Meal and I could get one.  Once she saw them, she thought the bucket itself was an incredible value, so we went each Saturday until we had two of each design.  And that wasn’t just for this one year, that was every year they had these things available.  Even the original run that were all jack-o-lantern themed with different faces on them.

I used them to trick-or-treat with, and then they would spend the rest of the year as storage for various toys and gadgets in my room.  My Mom used them to store clothespins in for taking laundry out to hang on the line.  I used to think that was such a waste for such an awesome bucket, but now as an adult (somewhat), I think it’s cool that she kept the Halloween theme on parade all spring and summer long as she took the laundry out.

What about you?  Did you have these too?  What kind of use did you put them to when Halloween had come and gone?

Retro Halloween Advertisement for Kool-Aid

Kool-Aid Halloween

Whether it be the 60’s, 70’s, 890’s, 90’s, or even today, you can never go wrong with Kool-Aid.  The orange is a natural for a Halloween party, but so are the varieties in red colors.  My aunt used to always have Orange Kool-Aid at her Halloween parites, and she had to keep going back to make more, because we guzzled that stuff like we had just walked across the Sahara.

Elvira’s MTV Halloween Special from 1986

Back in the day before Netflix and Youtube, when good old fashioned television was all we had for our viewing entertainment pleasure, tv specials like these were looked forward to for days and weeks.  I remember watching specials like this, and considered them appointment television.  So here, in all it’s glory, is the original Elvira’s MTV Halloween Special from 1986.  Find a quite evening, turn out the lights, fire this up, and step back in time to 1986 for some Halloween fun with Elvira and cool old music videos.

Elvira on The Fall Guy?!?

Elvira Fall Guy

For those of you keeping track of this sort of thing, I recently did a whole post on The Fall Guy, and my fond memories of it, and you should check it out if you were a fan, or if you’ve never heard of it in the first place.

Anyway, I came across this ad while going through some old TV Guides, and I was blown away!  I felt pretty sure I had seen every episode of The Fall Guy, but I’ve never seen this one.  I’m doubly surprised because I was a big Elvira mark back in the day as well, and yet somehow, this appearance has alluded me.  I will be quick to remedy this situation and track down the episode somewhere, somehow, and settle in and watch it in what I am sure is all it’s glory.

Any of you guys and gals remember this episode?

Ernest Scared Stupid Was Hokey, But Fun

Ernest Scared Stupid

Somebody with a runny nose is gonna die.

Having already applied his bumbling shenanigans to one holiday in 1988’s Ernest Saves Christmas, slapstick neighborhood doofus Ernest P. Worrell set his sights on Halloween in 1991’s Ernest Scared Stupid. Purring singer/actress Eartha Kitt joined in the spooky/goofy shenanigans, as did an army of slimy trolls.

This time around, Ernest is in suburban Missouri, working as a garbage collector. As always, he’s a friend to kids everywhere, so when a group of neighborhood preteens asks for his help building a treehouse, Ernest naturally obliges. But this particular oak tree happens to hold Trantor, a 200-year-old evil troll, and as local crone Old Lady Hackmore warns, the troll will be released if a Worrell puts his hand on the tree the night before Halloween and says, “Trantor, I call thee forth.” Well, stupid is as stupid does…

Once Trantor is released, the mean, mucous-covered munchkin sets out to capture the souls of Ernest’s young pals by turning them into wooden dolls. That’s bad enough, but when Trantor tries to pull his wooden magic on Ernest’s pet dog Rimshot, the little snotface has crossed the line. Ernest is out to kick some troll tushie, and this time, it’s personal.

The Halloween season wasn’t as good to Ernest as Christmas had been three years earlier. Ernest’s “human cartoon” slapstick still brought in fans, but not as many as previous films had. Ernest Scared Stupid was the last Ernest movie made in partnership with Disney subsidiary Touchstone, but director John Cherry and actor Jim Varney plugged ahead without the corporate backing, turning out Ernest Rides Again in 1993 and four more direct-to-video Ernest films over the following five years.

Eerie, Indiana

Eerie Indiana

This ultra-quirky sitcom was notable for any reasons. Not only did it place the family sitcom in a unique setting and situation, its sophisticated handling of its paranormal elements also paved the way for later non-sitcom shows like The X-Files and Roswell.

The show focused on Marshall Teller, a young man who felt quite homesick when his inventor father, Edgar, uprooted the family from their New Jersey home and moved them to Eerie, a small town in Indiana. Also along for the ride were Marilyn, Marshall’s mom, and Syndi, his narcissistic older sister. Marshall’s post-move depression quickly gave way to bemusement when he took stock of his new surroundings.

The town of Eerie truly managed to live up to its name. Bizarre things went on night and day: Elvis Presley lived in a little suburban house, there were two young men who had remained teenagers since the 1960’s by sleeping every night in giant plastic containers called Foreverware, and the dogs in the pound were making an escape plan that could only be heard over a friend’s set of dental retainers.

Unfortunately, Marshall’s parents and sister either were too busy to notice or wouldn’t believe him when he pointed these things out. Luckily, he found an ally in Simon, another kid his age who also believed that strange things were afoot in the town of Eerie. Together, the duo would ride their bikes around town and keep tabs on all the unusual goings-on.

Although nominally aimed at children, Eerie Indiana was smart enough to be enjoyed by older viewers. The series’ eccentric sense of humor made frequent use of in-jokes related to television and film, touching on everything from Twin Peaks to Godzilla. Also, the show wasn’t afraid to play with the medium of TV itself, something it did memorably in an episode titled “Reality Takes A Holiday.” In this episode, Marshall found a script for a television show in his mailbox and then realized his life was being turned into a show called “Eerie, Indiana.”

The show was canceled in April of 1992 after 20 episodes. However, it became popular again after the similar The X-Files became a hit, getting frequent reruns on various cable stations and building a cult of dedicated viewers. It remains popular with fans of the bizarre today for its mixture of eccentric humor and its sly knowledge of horror and science-fiction conventions.

Ouija Board

Ouija

So there’s no gray-haired psychic in your town? And you can’t sneak another call into the astrology hotline without your mom noticing the long distance charges? If you need some answers in your life, and answers more specific than the good old Magic 8 Ball can provide, the Ouija Board might be your next stop. Not only, for example, can the Ouija tell you if you should go ahead and color your hair, it can tell you what color you should choose. Fortune telling was never this specific! There is much debate as to what moves the pointer around on the board-is it the players themselves or the busybody spirit world? And if you think the 8 Ball has its fair share of literal-minded, no-fan-of-anything-you-can’t-reach-out-and-grab opponents, you should get a load of the apprehension and controversy that the Ouija inspires. All of it would make William Fuld, the board’s quirkily entrepreneurial patriarch, very, very proud.

In mid-nineteenth century New York, communing with the “other side” was all the rage. Spiritualist churches were popping up everywhere, and the city’s chic hostesses clamored for authentic mediums to attend their gatherings, so that chatty members of the spirit world could speak through them. As an alternative to all that zany vocalizing, there was “spirit writing,” wherein the medium would establish contact with a spirit, grab a pencil, and let the spirit do the rest. A doohickey called the “planchette” was invented for such parlor sessions-a small, heart-shaped plank (planchette means ”little plank” in French) with a pencil at the heart’s apex. The downside to spirit writing was that the mediums, or ahem, their spirit-communicators, didn’t always have the most legible penmanship, and message transmission tended to be a bore-and nobody wants that at a seance party.

“Talking boards,” the brainchild of three Americans named E.C. Reiche, Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard, came next. This rectangular wooden slab provided a flat surface for the wooden-pegged planchette to glide over, featuring the alphabet, numbers one through ten, and words “yes” and “no.” According to some, Kennard called the board “Ouija” after an Egyptian word for good luck, and even better yet (at least better for Ouija’s sometimes purposely murky history), Kennard claimed the board itself suggested the word. In 1892, Kennard’s ex-foreman, William Fuld, took the company over, named it the Ouija Novelty Company, and began producing the board in high volume numbers.

Ouija 2

Fuld, no marketing dimwit himself, concocted his own version of the Ouija’s genesis: claiming he invented the whole enchilada himself, and that the word Ouija was actually an amalgam of the French “oui” and the German “ja”-possibly just a way to force people to pronounce it correctly. Fuld didn’t own the market on talking boards (there was Milton Bradley’s Genii, for instance), but he certainly cornered it. In 1927, Fuld fell from a factory roof in his native Baltimore-some say suicide, some accident. Fuld’s children took over after that, and then in 1966, Parker Brothers bought the company.

Today, the board is made of folding cardboard instead of wood, and the planchette glides on velvet tabs instead of wooden pegs, but other than that, it looks nearly the same as it did over one hundred years ago. The alphabet spans the board in two crescent rows, the numbers are below that, and in the corners are the words “yes” and “no,” and at the bottom, “good bye.” All this handy data faces the player who sits at the base of the board, so if reading upside down doesn’t come easy, savvy players sometimes recruit a note-taker to jot down the letters, which can then be deciphered later.

The unspoken rules that go along with this game are legion. Never play it alone. Never play angry. Never, especially in the case of permanent hair color choices, let the Ouija be the final authority. Play at night, because according to Ouija aficionados, there is less traffic in the psychic atmosphere. Decide on one person who will ask all the questions, because there is less confusion to any, um, spirits who are out there, navigating said psychic traffic. Candlelight is recommended (the spirit world having always been a big advocate of energy conservation), and two players are best. The board is best placed atop the two players’ knees, but a table is okay if the candlelight is making a jittery player’s knees knock. Warm the planchette, or pointer, up by moving it around in circles, but then stop moving it altogether. Check for white around the fingertips, which indicate someone is pressing down, and then ask a clearly stated question. Hopefully, if the atmosphere is favorable and the traffic is light, the spirits will take over.

Or will they? Some believe the board is just a reflection of the players’ inner psyches no spirits at all, just us good old fashioned, earthbound folks who guide the pointer unconsciously. Fair enough, but let’s face it, sometimes the pointing isn’t always unconscious. Those same rascals who occasionally “borrow” from the bank in Monopoly when no one is looking are also known to form words on the Ouija Board deliberately. And then, of course, we feign great surprise (with a sly mental nod to their junior high drama class teachers) as that magic planchette spells out exactly what we want to hear.

Parker Brothers likes to avoid negative Ouija connotations, but when dealing with a supposed conduit for incorporeal intelligences, there’s a certain degree of creepiness can’t be helped. The board was supposedly banned in Britain during the 70’s, and there are plenty of parents and religious groups today who’d just as soon their kids just play checkers. Of course, all the mystique just sells more boards and makes impromptu Ouija sessions feel nicely forbidden and scandalous-a feeling you just can’t get from checkers.

The Monster Squad

Monster Squad

Long before the phrase “virtual reality” was coined, wax museum caretaker Walter accidentally brought replicas of Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man to life with his “crime computer.” The trio of leading men from horror’s golden age joined Walter to form the Monster Squad, dedicating themselves to a new after-life of fighting crime.

This show’s tongue-in-cheek attitude was reminiscent of the 60’s Batman series, but The Monster Squad didn’t reach the airwaves until the 1976-77 season, which was heavily laden with live-action series. Like many of its contemporaries, The Monster Squad featured a hip vehicle—in this case the squad’s van—and high-tech gadgets like the team’s belt communicators.

Character actor Vito Scotti played one of the villainous foes our heroes faced, a mad scientist dressed as a man on one side of his body and a woman on the other. Walter was played by Fred Grandy, who went on to TV fame as Gopher on The Love Boat. After ten years on that show, Grandy spent eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Alas, The Monster Squad was not as long-lived, returning to the grave after only one season.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Kolchak

It was woefully short-lived, but this horror/sci-fi series has become one of the most beloved series of its kind over time. First introduced in a 1972 made-for-television film called The Night Stalker, Darren McGavin starred as Carl Kolchak, a crusty old reporter for the Independent News Service in Chicago. The film, which had Kolchak investigating a vampire in Las Vegas, became the highest-rated television film of its time, and its sequel, The Night Strangler, found similar success. ABC subsequently ordered a series, which began its run in September of 1974.

McGavin continued to play the role of Kolchak in the new series, squaring off against a new otherworldly menace. Kolchak cut an intriguing and distinct figure, dressed in a light-blue seersucker suit and a straw hat. His personality was gruff and sarcastic and always put him at odds with authority figures. Vincenzo was his editor, who was driven to the point of ulcers by Kolchak’s penchant for bizarre stories. Emily Cowles was a fellow writer at INS who was friendly with Kolchak and also happened to be the only person he trusted.

The plotlines followed a consistent pattern: Kolchak would stumble across a series of grisly and mysterious killings and realize that something non-human played a role in the murders. Inevitably, the local authorities would want to keep them quiet, and Vincenzo would not believe Kolchak’s theory. Kolchak would risk life and limb to get to the bottom of the story and fight off the villainous menace in the process. Of course, the evidence would always slip through his fingers and thus cause others to not believe his story.

During the series’ run, Kolchak faced off with everything from vampires and werewolves to aliens and androids. The biggest favorite among fans of the show was “Horror In The Heights,” in which Kolchak stumbled across a demon while investigating a story about a rash of deaths among the elderly. He quickly discovered the culprit was a Hindu demon called the rakshasa that tricks its victim by taking on the appearance of the person he/she trusts most before killing them.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker only lasted one season, ending its run in August of 1975. However, it has become a huge cult favorite amongst fans of horror and science fiction. Many people even consider it to be a blueprint for the later and more successful The X-Files, which shared much with Kolchak in terms of style and substance. Even Chris Carter, the creator of that show, has acknowledged the important influence this show had on his work. In the wake of The X-Files’s success, all of the Kolchak: The Night Stalker episodes have been released on video, including the two made-for-television films. As a long as there are viewers who like a good scare, Kolchak: The Night Stalker will always be in demand.