Oct 6, 2015

Halloween Web - Garage Sale Finds

When I decided to bring back Halloween Web this year, I was hesitant because I wasn't sure I'd get enough responses but if the internet is good for anything, it's making it easier to find like minded people.

For the people that may not know you, tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Tom and I'm married with 5 kids.  I live in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri and work in the IT industry.  I’ve been a rabid garage sale junkie most of my 48 years and write the Garage Sale Finds blog.  I like all things vintage and tend to live in the past.  Most of my house is decorated with my finds.  I love '50's and mid-century modern pieces.  I'm also a huge Halloween fan.  Ever since I was a kid, it was my second favorite holiday (it's hard to compete with Christmas for a kid).  I always loved haunted houses (carnival that is), classic horror movies, Halloween-themed tv shows, you name it.  I'm not a big fan of slasher movies, although I do love the first "Halloween" movie.

What was Halloween like in your neighborhood as a kid? 

I grew up in Oakville, Missouri which at the time was a very rural suburb of St. Louis.  The houses on my streets were spread far apart and many had very long driveways, so you really worked for your candy.  There were a few new subdivisions popping up at the time, but my mother wouldn't take me to any because she said that was dishonest to Trick or Treat in someone else's neighborhood.  In reality, she probably just didn't want to drive me there and wait for me.  Back then, kids were sent out on their own; no helicopter parenting in the '70's. (Ed.: Man, I miss those days!)

Do you have a particularly fond/funny/scary Halloween memory?

My earliest Halloween memory was when I was around 5.  I went out with my older sister and met up with some of her friends.  I didn't have any kids my age on my street.  One house in particular stands out in my memory.  They did a simple "haunted yard" setup with their kids dressed as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman.  They had a balcony on the second story of their house and the “Wolfman” would leap to the ground from there. I thought that was pretty cool. I recall "Frankenstein" pretending to choke me, but he was a little overly zealous and was really choking me.  Even though it kind of scared me, I thought it was all pretty neat.

A more recent, and truly scary, Halloween memory was in 2002 when I actually set our house porch on fire.  No more lighted jack o’ lanterns on hay bales after that!

Any favorite costumes from Halloweens past?

I wish I had photos.  My mom never took any of me.  Not that my costumes were great.  I usually made myself up.  The only store-bought costume I recall having was a Ben Cooper Spider-man that of course didn't really look like Spider-man.  In second grade, my mom had the great idea (or lack of one) to put me in my sister's bridesmaid's dress, slap her wig on me, and put make-up on (Through photo editing, I've recreated the moment below).  Not only did I bear the humiliation of wearing that to my classroom Halloween party, I went out on Halloween night wearing it.  People thought I was a girl dressed up as a princess.  I kept explaining I was a boy dressed as a girl.  Eventually, I just gave up.  Them: "What a cute princess!" Me: "Yeah, yeah, give me the candy."

One year when I was about 9 or 10, I discovered the book "Movie Monsters: Monster Make-up & Monster Shows to put on" by Alan Ormsby. I still have and love that book.  That book inspired me to try and make myself into a wolfman a la Lon Chaney Jr that year.  Of course, not having any yak hair to glue to my face or this mysterious "pancake makeup" they kept referring to in the book, I turned to my mom's make-up again.  I powdered my face with a dark base, applied eye-liner for shadows under my eyes and for good measure dripped a whole bunch of Imagineering's Vampire Blood all over my nose (???) and added the plastic fangs from the same kit.  Everyone thought I was a hobo.  Yeah, yeah, give me my candy.

What do you do to celebrate now, out in the real world?

Inspired by the memories of the "haunted yard" from my childhood, about 15 years ago, I began decorating my own yard for Halloween, adding items yearly.  It started out simple with just a bale of hay (see earlier note about fire), some jack o' lanterns, and plastic skulls, but I later built a graveyard with lighted columns and fencing, and festooned the yard with skeletons and as many tombstones as I could fabricate.  I decorate a large oak tree in my front yard as my Halloween Tree (a la Ray Bradbury's short story).  (see below)  The last couple years, I've projected AtmosFearFX's "Ghostly Apparitions" in our upstairs bedroom window. And I hand out full-size candy bars (because I want to be "that guy" in the neighborhood).  I love watching the little kids approach with apprehension. Sometimes, they're too afraid to go through the graveyard to our front door, but I always meet them at the gate.  Nobody gets shorted on my watch.  I guess I'm trying to create Halloween memories for the next generation and maybe inspire them to keep the spirit of Halloween alive when they get older.

Do you have any yearly rituals?

We always host a Halloween party for our family and friends.  In addition to the decorations, I always build a bonfire and place a large bucket outside with apples in it for anyone that wants to bob.  You'd be surprised how excited some kids get when they see that.

I try to make a point to watch the following shows/movies every year:

Halloween (the original), The Fog (the original), Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Hanna Barbara cartoon version of Ray Bradbury's "The Halloween Tree", It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (of course), the pilot episode of Tales from the Darkside "Trick or Treat", Disney's "The Adventures of Ichabod", The "Haunted House" episode of Happy Days.  I know, it's an eccentric list.

I'm also a vintage A/V geek and have a 16mm film print of the campy 1985 school short, "Halloween Safety".  My kids ask me to show that every year. (Ed.: and thanks to the internet, you can enjoy it too!)

As for songs, I have a mix of Halloween-themed songs I play from the outdoor speakers on the day of Halloween with the usuals like "Monster Mash", themes from "Psycho", "Halloween", and "Ghostbusters" as well as rock songs like Alice Cooper's "Feed my Frankenstein", CCR's "Bad Moon Rising", Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller".  You get the idea.  At night, I switch the music to the "13 Days of Halloween" cd (actually, just track 9, the sound effects) that I got out of a box of Count Chocula years ago.

What do you think it is about Halloween that keeps it in our hearts as we get older?

For me, it's reliving the memories of my childhood, the smell of the season (wet leaves, burning jack o' lanterns), those long ago dark nights when I really believed ghosts and goblins roamed the land. Back when parents wouldn't let their children leave until 7:00 because "people are still eating." We ran into the night without worried parents watching over us, we ate our candy and homemade popcorn balls while we were still out, and we went into people's houses so the rest of the family could laugh at or act scared of our costumes. Those memories are why I celebrate Halloween so enthusiastically to this day.  I hope I'm making it just as magical for my kids and all the trick or treaters that come to my house.

Inside the Spookster's Studio

The worst thing to get while trick or treating was an apple.

My favorite thing to get was Wacky Packs, Wowee Whistles and comic books. Can I have 3 favorites?  And man, no candy in there?  I have to name at least one: Three Musketeers because it was bigger than a Snickers or a Milky Way.  I would prolong eating it by biting off just the chocolate on the outside before eating the nougat.  I know, I was weird kid.

Thanks for joining the festivities this year! Where can people find you online?

Garage Sale Finds is the best way to reach me. I've been toying with the idea of starting a Garage Sale Finds Facebook page, but I have enough going on in my life!

Before you run off to check out all the Cryptkeepers at Countdown to Halloween, here is today's audio Trick or Treat mix: We Sing for the Movies: One Last Time.


  1. Woo hoo! Celebrity for a day! Thanks again, I had a blast participating.