My name is Derek Ash, otherwise known as “The Goodwill Geek.” I’ve been blogging for 3 years now, at GoodwillHunting4Geeks. I am also a podcaster, participating in the Eclectic Mayhem podcast. I am an avid seeker of secondhand nostalgia. I look for geeky stuff in thrift stores, yard-sales, antique malls, and yes, mostly Goodwills.
What was Halloween like in your neighborhood as a kid?
I’m from Maine, and depending on the years of my childhood, that could either mean semi-rural forested Maine, or semi-suburban tourist town Maine. So I had both of those experiences. One meant traveling by car from house to house and the other meant walking with friends down a sidewalk house to house.
Mostly I remember the anticipation. The build up to the day itself was like waiting for Christmas for me. I remember the cool feeling that seeing all the orange and black decorations, and the card stock window characters would bring up in me. Halloween felt like a safe kind of danger. It was spooky, but it was celebrated. There were school parties and goody bags from relatives, and Trick or Treating. The idea of being somebody else for the night… that was a weird concept for a kid to wrap his mind around. I could pretend to be the Lone Ranger at home when I was playing any time I wanted to, but on Halloween it was something I did out in public in front of other people.
Do you have a particularly fond/funny/scary Halloween memory?
I do remember going to a Halloween party at the local Rec Center as a wee lad and being scared to death of the Haunted House they put on. I am scarred deeply by the image of a teenager in white face paint, writhing around and snarling in a pile of leaves they had piled up in the stairwell landing. I remember crying wildly. I have to stop talking about this right now.
The very best Halloween I ever had was the year I went trick or treating with my best friend in Bar Harbor. I dressed up as a “hobo mouse” which everyone just assumed was a clown costume… and after the third attempt at explaining my bizarre original concept I just went with the clown thing. But my gosh that night was amazing! It was the one major Halloween I can remember where I had no adult supervision, I went from house to house on foot, and I reveled in the night, and in the costumes, and in the candy. We went to the Village Green and dumped our candy bags out on the ground to count the pieces and we were too scared to go through the cemetery (where we played all the time the rest of the year) so we went on a spooky walk through the business part of town. We got scared when a group of bigger kids smeared in shaving cream came running through. They looked like some sort of weird post-apocalyptic mutants and we went right home after that. But the whole feel of that night just IS Halloween to me now. It felt like real magic.
Any favorite costumes from Halloweens past?
I don’t remember being wildly, insanely excited by any of my Halloween costumes… I think one year I did get to go as He-Man and I know that that would have been a banner year for me. Honestly, I get more fun out of coming up with ideas for weird costumes now as a grown up. Like the year I went as the “Eye Scream Man” or the year I went as a “Pig that Butchers Humans”. We’ve also done some great themed family costumes, like the year we all went as Devils, the year we went as Mystery Inc., and the year we all went as Mario Brothers characters. There’s something really nice about going as a classic slasher from time to time, something iconic like Jason or Freddy or Michael Myers that I just love.
What do you do to celebrate now, out in the real world?
We decorate the house inside and out, we plan costumes, we read Halloween books at bedtime from September through October, I stalk Goodwill for Halloween goodies… We stalk pretty much ALL the stores for Halloween goodies. Cereal has become a big part of our Halloween traditions including Halloween Crunch, the Monster Cereals, and anything new with pumpkin spice flavoring, orange coloring, or WHATEVER usually gets at least a try this time of year.
Do you have any yearly rituals?
Besides my blogging countdown throughout October, there’s also my Halloween read pile. This is a pile of books that I start accumulating as early as November 1st in preparation for the next year’s Halloween. I started reading my Halloween pile in late July this year though. My goal this year is to have at least 31 books read by Halloween. I favor horror anthologies, and books aimed at YA because they tend to have a sense of fun about them (creepy and fun, like Halloween should be) but really anything Halloween or horror related goes in the pile.
The dragging out of the Halloween décor is always a big one too. The kids love going through the decorations with me. We carve our family Jack-o-Lanterns. I used to try and write a Halloween poem every year, but that’s one that has kind of fallen by the wayside.
We come home from Trick or Treating to see what the Great Pumpkin has left for the kids. There’s always a plastic cauldron or a pumpkin trick or treat pail full of Halloween-y toys and goodies for each kid. We finish off the evening by doing the BIG COUNT. We see exactly how many pieces of candy each kid received.
The grown-ups (meaning 15 years and older) like the horror movies. I try to watch “Trick R’ Treat” at least once a season. Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow” is a classic. I like to give “Monster House,” “Pumpkinhead,” and a few others a view every other year or so. We do NOT let a year go by without watching the Garfield Halloween Special. It is THE BEST.
We almost always go apple picking and do a corn maze, usually at Treworgy Farms. We take my kids out to Bar Harbor to trick or treat because it just feels so good there (the same place I loved as a kid, that I mention above). The street they have cordoned off for Halloween is so perfect, and so fun that we go back year after year even though it’s like a 45 minute drive from our house.
What do you think it is about Halloween that keeps it in our hearts as we get older?
It is one of maybe 2 or 3 days (including Christmas and maybe sort-of Easter) where it is socially acceptable to believe in magic, act like a kid, and eat candy until you puke. It is THE one day where you can wear rubber masks that smell like paint thinner, scare the pants off the neighbors, and wonder if the shadows are really full of ghosts and goblins… and NOT get carted off by the loony wagon.
Inside the Spookster's Studio
My favorite thing to get was mini comic books. IT WAS INSANE. I think the issue I was given was the one where Spider-Man first meets the Fantastic Four? All I know is I wore that thing OUT. My favorite Halloween candies have to be Reese’s Peanut Butter cups though. A LOT of those go missing from my kids’ Halloween candy in the days following.
Thanks for joining the festivities this year! Where can people find you online?
I’m on both Twitter and Instagram and Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks has its own Facebook page, where I mostly share cool stuff being posted by my online friends on their various other blogs.
Before you run off to check out all the Cryptkeepers at Countdown to Halloween, here is today's audio Trick or Treat mix: The Dark Craft: Curse Upon You