Spook Spotter: Masks and Vintage Decorations

Big Scare spook spotter

Halloween 2015 is brimming with creepy creations in all sections of the retail market.  From kooky candy to dastardly decorations, there is a lot to track down.  That’s why we’re here: to make the whole process scarily simple.

The following does not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   It is for information purposes only.

Monstrous Masks

Over the past few years, Trick or Treat Studios has gone from a relatively unknown mask maker to Halloween royalty.  They have been able to secure deals with major property-holders, unleashing latex creations beyond imagination.  From Bela Lugosi’s Dracula to Michael Myers to King Kong, Trick or Treat has captured a significant corner of the Halloween market.  Three of the most exciting masks they are offering up are the Halloween III masks, pictured below.  As you can see, the Pumpkin, Witch, and Skull look nearly identical to the Don Post counterparts as they appeared in the original film.  Check out the complete 2015 catalog of creeps on the Trick or Treat website.

Halloween III Masks from Trick or Treat Studios

Halloween III Masks from Trick or Treat Studios

Beastly Beistle

Another giant of the Halloween season, Beistle, is finding new life in its century-old library of Halloween art.  It is re-releasing several of its old Halloween cutout and die-cut decorations.  From honeycombs to cardboard wall-art, Beistle hasseveral vintage reproduction decorations on its website.  You may want to check it out, especially if you are planning a vintage-themed Halloween happening.

Beistle Reproduction

Beistle Reproduction

Halloween Cardboard Die-Cut Gallery: Bats and Ghosts

Welcome back, foolish mortals, to our haunted mansion of the macabre!  Today we continue with our series on vintage Halloween decorations!  Our ghastly line-up today features die-cut images of bats and ghosts!


Halloween cardboard cutouts reached peak popularity in the second half of the 20th century.  There are a few companies that were quite well-known for manufacturing these paper masterpieces.  The most renowned of these is The Beistle Company.  Beistle was founded in 1900 and, since then, has produced some of the most iconic images of the Halloween season.  Beistle is still in business today, and remains a giant in the party products industry, but the company’s current output pails in comparison to what was produced in the last century.  That being said, they offer a limited line of vintage reproduction products called “Vintage Beistle”.  The line-up is rather small and doesn’t delve too deeply into the massive catalog of products released from the 1920s through the 1980s.

Another manufacturer of macabre images is Eureka!  Eureka created dozens of die-cuts that defined October in the 1970s and 1980s.  Enjoy today’s images, many of which are of Beistle and Eureka products, and stay tuned for more devilishly delightful die-cut art!

Halloween Cardboard Die-Cut Gallery: Black Cats

Greetings, Boils and Ghouls!  Today we begin a new series on The Big Scare featuring images that will bring the Halloweens of Yesteryear to electric life!

Beistle Jointed Black Cat

We have created several galleries of vintage Halloween cardboard die cut decorations for your booing pleasure.  In the 20th century, these paper cutouts adorned windows and walls in homes and schools during the month of October.  The earliest ones started appearing in the 1920s.  By the 1950s, they were staples of the season.  Nowadays, there aren’t that many being produced, and the ones that are being created are nearly all computer-generated.  Fortunately, we have nearly 100 years of cardboard die-cuts to draw from for our galleries.  What’s more, every die-cut that will be featured in our galleries is hand-illustrated, designed by an artist or team of artists who captured the spirit of the season with old-fashioned ink and paint.

We launch our Halloween die-cut gallery series with images of one of Halloween’s foremost icons: the black cat!  Enjoy!  And come back in two days for more devilishly delightful die-cut art!

Spook Spotter: The Best Halloween Decorations of 2015 II

Big Scare spook spotter

Welcome, foolish mortals, to The Big Scare’s 2015 Countdown to Halloween.  Every other day, from now through October 31, we will be posting preposterously posthumous ponderings of the Halloween season.  We begin October with another installment of the Spook Spotter.

The following does not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   It is for information purposes only.

World of Gods and Monsters

Last year, Cost Plus World Market debuted a line of officially licensed Universal Monsters dinnerware featuring The Frankenstein Monster and his Bride.  This year, they are expanding the line with all new platters, ceramic plates, and mugs.  World Market also carries vintage soda bottles featuring the creature and his mate, lollipops with The Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, as well as Bride of Frankenstein tote bags.  What’s really creepily cool is the fact that the ceramic plate of Frankenstein’s monster features an image of Glenn Strange in the role as opposed to Boris Karloff.  Glenn Strange as Frankenstein is more iconic and recognizable to Monster kids, as it was Strange, not Karloff, who was featured on the Monster Craze merchandise of the 1960s.  Hopefully we will see more Universal Monsters at World Market next year.  Perhaps they can cut a deal with Bela Lugosi, Jr. next year and do a Dracula line of dinnerware.  “I never drink…” wine glasses, anyone?

Bride of Frankenstein Plate (World Market)

Bride of Frankenstein Plate (World Market)

More of the Night He Came Home

HomeGoods (A TJX Company) has come through again this year with some amazingly haunting display pieces for your home of horrors.  Take a look at this skull pumpkin, very reminiscent of the jack-o’-lantern featured in the opening sequence of John Carpenter’s Halloween II.  This terrifying display piece features a dramatic display of color-changing illumination.  Perfect for any fan of Halloween or Halloween.  Other pieces for sale at the TJX stores include spooky busts, haunted miniature hearses, snow globes, and glass pumpkin candle holders (pictured in the gallery at the end of our post).

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Mind-Blowing Blow Molds

The final item featured in our Spook Spotter today is a mind-blowing find – a vintage blow mold cat and jack-o’-lantern being carried at…  Wait for it…  Walmart.

The king of big box stores is carrying mass-produced reproduction vintage blow molds.  The first of these is the famous Hobo Jack-O’-Lantern.  The next is the cat with the jack-o’-lantern on its back (pictured here).


Vintage Reproduction Blow Mold (Walmart)

These blow molds have not been seen in dime stores in years, but now they are back.  Granted, they aren’t 10 cents anymore, but they are better than 99% of the other Halloween decorations out there and definitely worth the $9.00 price tag.

Now, check out other great finds from this season in our ghastly gallery…

Spook Spotter: The Best Halloween Decorations of 2015

Big Scare spook spotter

Ghastly Greetings, Boils and Ghouls!  The Big Scare is, once again, preparing for the Halloween season.  As such, we want to give you a creepy heads-up on all of the menacing merchandise on sale at retailers this year.  Here are some of the best products available for purchase this season and where to find them.

The following does not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   It is for information purposes only.

Creepy Clings

We begin our first 2015 Spook Spotter post with not only one of the most affordable products out there this season, but also one of the best looking.  Behold, these wonderfully wicked window clings available for purchase at Winco Foods.  These beautifully illustrated clings appear to use hand-drawn artwork, something that has become impossible to find in this age of digitally-designed decorations.  Nearly all of the Halloween cutouts and window clings available in stores today have been created by someone behind a computer.  These clings harken back to the days when blood, sweat, and ink went into the creation of Halloween decorations.  Seeing these in the store should bring back a lot of memories for Halloween fans who grew up in the 20th century.  The clings are available for purchase for $0.98 and are produced by a company named Mello-Smello.

Illustrated Window Clings (Winco)

Illustrated Window Clings (Winco)

Scary Scarecrow

The next item featured in the Spook Spotter is a creepy, lighted scarecrow available for purchase at Ross Dress for Less stores.  This scarecrow is a large, almost life-sized hanging decoration.  When you first see it, it looks like a traditional scarecrow with straw hands and a tattered cap, but upon closer inspection, it is far more forbidding.  Beneath the cloth covering, you can see the scarecrow’s head is that of a skull.  What’s even more alarming is the fact that the skull illuminates!  The scary scarecrow has multiple lighting settings.  It can change colors, flash different colors, or remain a single color.  This prop is extremely effective and would make a great addition to any haunt.  It retails for $19.99 at Ross.

Creepy Lighted Scarecrow (Ross Dress for Less)

Creepy Lighted Scarecrow (Ross Dress for Less)

Raucous Ravens

Raven Candleholder (Michael's)

Raven Candleholder (Michael’s)

The final item featured in our first Spook Spotter post of 2015 is an elaborately sculpted candle holder from Michael’s Arts and Crafts.

This beautiful black raven candle holder has an incredibly lifelike sculpt.  It is part of a new line of Halloween merchandise targeted at home haunters named Ravenshead Manor.  All of the products in the line are indoor pieces that can be used to build frighteningly fashionable interior displays.

This beautiful piece is highly-detailed and can hold either a taper candle or a pillar candle.  Michael’s is selling Halloween-themed LED taper candles this year that could probably be used with this product.  The raven candle holder is one of the most elegant and affordable pieces anywhere this season, coming in at $14.99.

Be sure to check out the gallery below for more photographs of all of the monstrous merchandise featured in today’s post, including a high-resolution image of this Ravenshead Manor piece.

We will be back October 1 with another installment of the Spook Spotter, followed by regularly scheduled postings every other day through October 31.  In the meantime, let us know what cool products you have found this year by leaving a message in the creepy Comments section below!

2015 Family Activities Guide for October and Halloween

eek's ideasOur friend, Eek the Owl, has shared with us some frighteningly fun ideas to make the Halloween season even more enjoyable.   He has the whole family covered: chefs, crafters, adventurers, and board game aficionados!  There’s something for everyone in our Halloween Family Activities Guide!  Feel free to take a gander and try out some of these activities with your family this Halloween season!  And be sure to subscribe to The Big Scare for even more ideas!

Any opinions expressed in the following article do not constitute an endorsement of any product or retailer.   The following is for information purposes only.  Any instructions are for information purposes only.  The Big Scare cannot guarantee you will experience the same results as we did should you opt to use these instructions.  Feel free to share ways to improve the instructions in the comments section below.  All activities should be conducted under adult supervision.


Our first wise idea involves everyone’s favorite holiday activity — baking.  And, as Eek points out, it’s not just for wintertime.  Halloween provides the opportunity to create all kind of creepy concoctions.  From cut-out cookies to brownies, they all make perfect October baking projects.


While brownies are devilishly delicious by themselves, there’s just something even more appealing about a Halloween Brownie.  Making Halloween Brownies is just as easy as baking regular brownies.  You do exactly what your favorite recipe (or box) tells you to do, but you change up a few things before putting the batter in to bake.  Rather than just pouring the batter into a pan, you want to line the pan with greased aluminum foil.  Basically what you want to do is rip out a piece of baking foil and place it in your baking pan, pushing it up against the sides, making sure the whole thing (meaning the entire bottom and all the sides) is well covered.  Press the tin foil against the sides of the glass or metal pan so that it hugs it and assumes the pan’s shape.  Ensure that there is enough room left to lift the foil up out of the pan when the brownies have baked.  Then proceed to grease (and flour) it as you normally would or as you are instructed to in the baking directions, so as to prevent the brownies from sticking.  Bake the batter as directed.  Remove from the oven and let set until cool.

Rather than cut the brownies in the pan, you are going to remove the entire brownie cake, hence the foil.  Once cooled,  you can remove the brownie cake by lifting the sides of the aluminum foil or turning the pan upside down, a method preferable in cases of wide pans.  Place the brownies on a clean surface covered in powdered sugar and remove the foil lining.  Your brownie cake should have maintained its shape.  (If at anytime it appears that your brownie cake may be breaking, consider cutting the brownie cake in the pan and removing it in smaller portions.)

Now comes the fun part.  Take some open  Halloween cookie cutters (meaning ones that are just outlines that do not have tops which would prevent the cutter from cutting through thick brownies) and cover them in powdered sugar.  (Make sure your cookie cutters are deep enough to cut through the thick brownie cake.  You can buy these cookie cutters at a number of major retailers.  They usually come in “tubs.”)  Press each cookie cutter all the way through the brownie cake, just as you would with cookie cutters in cookie dough.  Carefully remove your brownie shape and place it aside.  Continue to press cutters into the remaining brownie cake until the area of usable brownie cake has been cut.  Take the cutout shapes and decorate them with frosting, powdered sugar and candies.  Use the “scrap” brownies, the unused edges that are leftover, to add layering and detail to your treats — or just eat them!


In a world seemingly run by electronic entertainment, it’s sometimes hard to remember that other forms of fun exist., like board games!  And when those board games have a Halloween theme, their fun level quadruples.

There are a number of Halloween-themed board games available on the market, and plenty more that can be purchased secondhand.  One of the easiest games to track down is Halloween Boo-Opoly.  Much like the game from which it derives its objective, Boo-Opoly allows players to buy properties, many of which will be familiar (like Elm Street) and many of which will be new (Gourd Walk).  The old railroads are now different creatures of the night, and the utilities consist of Jack-O’-Lanterns and Witch’s Brew.  Instead of houses and hotels, players may buy Haunted Houses and Full Moons.  The gameplay is quite similar to Monopoly, but there are some slight differences.  Overall, it’s a fun game with a nice design.  The only thing that would make it better would be if the playing pieces weren’t just plain plastic pawns, and instead were shaped in the forms of Halloween characters.

And if Boo-Opoly isn’t quite your game, there are plenty of other options.  From vampire games to zombie games, a trip to the local toy store is certain to reap a nice harvest of spooky entertainment — especially at Halloween.



Most families pick up pumpkins from their local grocer (or the super-center which has invaded their neighborhood).  And while it is great to have access to affordably-priced pumpkins, there is just something missing from the experience.

So, while you may opt to get your larger carving-friendly produce from the grocery store, a trip to the local (or not-so-local) pumpkin patch should be in order for your family this year, even if you don’t make your big pumpkin purchase there.  Not only do many patches provide fresh, right-off-the-vine pumpkins, they also provide a ton of activities for your family.  The experience that pumpkin patches provide is unprecedented.  Many of them have games, hayrides, corn mazes, and photo opportunities that the grocery store can’t possibly match.

So, even if you can’t afford a large pumpkin from the patch, your family should still make a visit, maybe pick up some Indian Corn or smaller pumpkins, and take advantage of everything that is offered.  It will be a memory your family will never forget.


Now that you have found the perfect pumpkin and are already to carve it, you probably are wondering what to do with all of those insides!  We have the perfect solution — for the seeds at least!

Here is our recipe for delicious baked pumpkin seeds…

1.  Immediately after carving your pumpkin, remove the seeds and rinse them thoroughly.  After they have been cleaned, pad them dry and let them sit for several hours in a warm place.

2. Preheat oven to 300 F.  Once the pumpkin seeds are completely dry, place them in a mixing bowl and add 1 tablespoon melted butter for every one cup of seeds.  Mix the seeds so that they are completely coated.

3.  Sprinkle in garlic powder and salt, enough to taste.  Mix until every seed has a light covering.

4.  Pour the seeds onto a foil-lined baking sheet.  Spread the seeds so that they form a single layer.  It is important not to have them overlapping.

5.  Place the seeds in the oven and let bake 50 minutes, mixing them every 15 minutes or so.

6.  Add additional seasoning as desired and enjoy!




If you have ever wandered into an arts and crafts store in the fall, you have undoubtedly seen a variety of pre-packaged art projects that can be used to dreary up any bright October day.

Kid-friendly foam kits, which let you and your family create haunted scenes out of small pieces of pre-cut foam, are just one example.  The variety of these kits has really expanded in recent years, and now you can create all kinds of things: graveyards, haunted houses, masks, monster boxes, cars, and more!

A lot of these kits don’t actually require much skill.  Some come with foam stickers, meaning you don’t even have to glue anything!  That is why they are good for the younger set as well as the older crowd.  But each kit is different, so be sure to read the box for details before considering a purchase.

One of the nice things about these kits is that they allow for a lot of customization and personalization.  You have the freedom and ability to place characters and other scene-setters in a variety of places on the foam bases, while still maintaining the same structure suggested by the manufacturer.  You can even add your own foam pieces or mix pieces among a number of kits.

These kits get the whole family involved in the building process and make great decorations when finished.  And there are a variety of ways you can incorporate the kits into your Halloween festivities.  You can buy one to assemble with the kids on a stormy evening, you can buy a number and have a family foam-building contest, or you can have a variety available at a kids’ Halloween party, set up tables, and have the party-goers bring their own creations to life.


Another great option is the Cookie Decorating Kit.  We all know the classic Gingerbread House kits that come out at Christmas.  In recent years, many manufacturers have introduced Halloween-themed kits.  Take for example, the Cookie Graveyard kit from Target.  It is easier to assemble than a house, but just as fun.  The kit contains a cookie base, cookie tombstones, icing, as well as bat, bone, and ghost decorations, in addition to other candies that can be used to help decorate the edible display.  If you can’t track down this particular kit, check for alternate versions at other retailers.  There are a ton to choose from!


While you may already have enough chocolate in your house during the Halloween season, you may still be tempted to get some more, especially when you can create your own candy concoctions!  Companies like Wilton produce a lot of chocolate molds and kits that function as great activities for the whole family. Spooky Chocolate Dipped Pretzels are just one example.

The kit includes everything you need to decorate your pretzel rods:  6 fun-shaped mold designs (4 Rat molds, 3 pumpkins, 3 bats, 3 spiders, and 3 skeleton molds), 16 oz. Wilton Candy Melts brand confectionery coating, 4 disposable decorating bags, 1 decorating brush, 20 pretzel bags with ties.  The only thing you will need to supply is the bag of jumbo pretzel rods.  (You may also want to buy some additional chocolate.)

All you need to do is stick the chocolate in a bag, put it in the microwave, squish the bag with your hands, and then pour into the molds.  Stick them in the fridge for about 30 minutes.  And voila; you have some awesome Halloween treats for all those special little boys and ghouls in your life!  What a terrific idea for parties!  And these would make great gifts for the office staff on Halloween day!

The best molds are definitely the rats.  These things are huge – and you get 4 rat molds, so you can make a whole family at one time.  The second best molds are the skeletons, followed the pumpkins.  The bats and spiders are fun, but my final versions didn’t turn out as great as the previously mentioned molds – though they are still pretty nifty.  Regardless, this kit is well worth the affordable price.  It makes for a great weekend activity to do with the kids or with yourself.  Plus, how can you beat the spooky, edible payoff?  The product is available to purchase at various locations: craft stores and other retailers.  And if you aren’t a fan of homemade chocolate creatures, there are plenty of other food craft kits out there – like the JELL-O Jigglers and the Rice Krispy Treat Pumpkins.


But not all craft projects come out of boxes, and Eek always wants to foster as much creativity as possible, so he suggests you head out to your local retailer to find materials for your next project.  Some craft shops sell Paper Mache.  Recently, Michael’s offered up miniature Paper Mache skulls.  Eek had a lot of fun with these and wanted to share some paint-scheme ideas to get you started:

1.  Paint the skulls the colors of your favorite sports teams.  Even consider painting a logo on the top!

2.  Paint your skull with a base color and then add “metalic” coloring for a shiny look.

3.  Give your skulls a classic Halloween treatment by painting them orange and black.

4.  Give your skulls a tie-dye look.

5.  Use stencils to add images to the top and back of the skulls.

Once you’re done, consider adding them to your current Halloween decor.  Or how about using them as table toppers or as party favors?  The possibilities are endless.

We will be adding to this page as we think of more activities, so why not subscribe to The Big Scare for the latest undead updates?

The Meaning of Halloween | An All Hallows Toast 2013

Mothers have a holiday.  Fathers do too.  Veterans, the United States of America, laborers, pilgrims, grandparents, and Jesus all have holidays.  But do the children have one, a day that is all their own?  Yes.  Yes, they do.

There exists one night each year when the children make the rules, when they use their imaginations to the fullest, when they are given free reign of their worlds, when every door opened offers the opportunity for reward.  That night is Halloween.

Halloween is the one day out of the year that truly belongs to the children, the ones ages two to twelve, and the ones ages thirteen to 102 who refuse to grow up.  Halloween is the one night of the year when it is alright for each of us to return to the fantastic world of childhood, when we can allow make-believe things to scare us, and when we can dress up, be silly, and be ourselves – just as the children do.

So, here is to the children, both young and old, to the fantasies of youth, and to the one night when imagination knows no boundaries.  Here is to our holiday.  Here is to Halloween.