I'm sure everyone is familiar with the stores that specialize in costumes and home decor that crop up a few weeks before Halloween. You start to notice them September in the locations that can't ever seem to hold a business that isn't seasonal. In my area, they started opening up in August, officially making Halloween the new Christmas.
I don't mind it. Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I love seeing the new merchandise that will someday scar neighborhood children. I used to fantasize about buying everything that would transform my place into a haunted house or a ghoulish graveyard. Cobwebs and candelabrums on the mantel, books containing spells and potions decorating the shelves, even spooky silverware for the occasion. Then I realize I'm the kind of person who can appreciate all that, but not the kind who actually wants to do it. Not like my neighbors.
The people who live across the street go all out when it comes to Halloween. The yard is set up like a desecrated graveyard, replete with an in-progress human sacrifice (usually a volunteer) taking place right in the driveway. Ten-foot tall wrought iron fences are erected at the curb, from which dangle dozens of baby dolls. The neighbor, Jim, wearing a top hat and white face paint, takes residence in the middle of the street where he draws pentagrams using chalk. The most recent addition was a gallows three years ago. They rigged it up so that rope, while appearing to be around the neck, actually hooks into a harness that holds the weight of his oldest son. When approached by a trick-or-treater, the son wriggles and spasms, terrifying everyone. The inside of the house is done up as well, but my daughter is too scared to go inside (she tells me this is the year).
The point of this digression is that even though the little toddlers who come through my neighborhood scream and cry when faced with this spectacle, they don't want to leave. They want to see everything go down as long as it's from a safe distance. And it's the same thing with my kids when we go to the Halloween store.
As soon as my kids catch wind of one of these stores being open we have to go. Everyday if they could. My wife and I wouldn't mind taking them so much if they actually seemed to enjoy themselves when we were there.
They both apprehensively approach the door, tiptoeing as though they are going to wake a sleeping dragon. Once inside, they get their feet wet in the kids section. Among the M&M, Power Ranger, and Power Puff Girl costumes they find temporary sanctuary. From these first few aisles they peak out at the more mature products: zombie babies, bloody corpses, and terrifying phantoms.
It's generally at this point that one of us has to pick my son up. My daughter is good for walking on her own, clutching at her mother's hand for a few more minutes. I hold my son in my arms while he tries to both see and avoid every ghoulish thing in the place. I'm not usually one for terrorizing children, but if you ever need a good snuggling from your little one, bring them to one of these places.
When the kids were smaller, we were able to venture all the way into the back of the store without them protesting. That's where they keep the most hardcore items. Full-size witches cackle while four foot spiders lie in wait. Much of this is motion-activated, which even scares me a little bit. It doesn't matter that you know something is going to jump out at you, it still startles you when it does. Luckily, in the past few years they have attached these products to little plates you have to step on to activate. I have been given permission to step on several displays, but only after the kids have been placed a safe distance away and I have promised no one will be injured.
Eventually, the kids are freaked out enough that they want to leave. We are usually still in the parking lot when they both start talking about going back to the Halloween store.