trick or treat

by Toni McGee Causey

I am firmly convinced that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who love dressing up in Halloween costumes, and those who do not.Some are pros…

You know those people who start planning one Halloween for the very cool costume they’re going to wear the next year, and they’re always awesome and the talk of the party and the one whose kids are so decked out, every kid out there is just sick with envy? That was not me. Some are not pros…I fall pretty squarely into the ‘not’ category, probably because I am what you might diplomatically call “costume challenged.” Apparently, there is a costume gene out there that I did not receive. 



My kids dreaded Halloween, I think. Sure, they loved the candy, but they had to endure their mom’s complete lackadaisical attitude toward the holiday. I’d never remember to get whatever it was they wanted to use to make their costumes, and I think they went as the same costume–karate kids–enough years in a row to be too humiliated to trick-or-treat in the same neighborhoods again. It started early, as I mentioned over here, this ineptitude toward costume design. [And my older son still has not forgiven me for the tin foil.] I cannot tell you how thankful I was when both boys were finally old enough to fend for themselves and come up with whatever they wanted to do. 

But it’s not that I don’t appreciate great costumes. Especially those which, in essence, tell a story. I was at a party up in the hills off Mulholland (L.A.) where a lot of industry people were in attendance… so you know, people who knew how to create cool costumes, and it was impressive. The one that stuck in my memory, though, was a guy who was dressed as Sammy Sosa (who’d just beaten the all-time home-run record), and his girlfriend, who came dressed as a baseball fan with his home-run ball… impaled in her left eye. It really looked impaled, even up close, the make-up was that good, and when she first turned around, I flinched. 

As a writer, I’m constantly in costume… I’m always stepping in the shoes of other people, wearing their skin, their clothes, their mannerisms, getting the feel of how they walk and talk and dress and go about their day. I loved shooting our film (which just sold to its first foreign country, Japan), especially when the lead actor asked me if the main character was left handed or right handed. I could see him putting together the mechanics (and costume) of who the guy was that he’d be portraying, and it was easy to forget, sometimes, that he had a different life outside of what this character lived.

So how about you? Are you a costume person? Or not? And either way, what’s the coolest costume you’ve seen? Or if you love them, what are you going as this year to any parties you might attend?



37 thoughts on “trick or treat

  1. Barbie

    I saw a really funny post on Twitter which summarizes how I feel about Halloween. It went like this,

    It's Halloween, I: ( ) am going trick or treating ( ) am wearing a really nice costume (X) live in Brazil.

    We don't celebrate Halloween here :'(

  2. Karen in Ohio

    I love dressing up, Toni. It's a good creative outlet, and in another life I might have been a costume designer, if only I'd thought of that as a career option when I was young.

    We were out last night and saw some pretty amazing costumes. It's always fun to see the wild imaginations of some!

  3. Debbie

    Going out to worship: God now, satan later! My friend Kathey and her mom always designed incredible costumes. Kathey has ALS now and her mother created an alien with three legs, well padded to keep her warm since she can no longer move. I'll post a photo to fb when I have it! We spent a couple of hours carving pumpkins for her and it's already a great memory. One of those you landmark on years later. Inspired by Overbite II, my friends and I tried telling spooky short stories and somehow I've promised to write one why, oh why? The idea itself is giving me the creeps!

  4. Spencer Seidel

    I'm not really a costume person, but last night I went to a party dressed as a death-metal dude, complete with black eyeliner. I kept thinking that in some alternate universe, this is exactly how I look, day in and day out, every night rocking out for a stadium of fans and then later stumbling around drunk with groupies backstage. After all, I spent years toiling away trying to make something of myself as a musician…

    But I digress. I was at one with my costume, and it showed. This has never happened to me. More than a few people told me I should seriously consider "death-metal dude" as a new look. This made me think twice about getting started on a couple of horror novel ideas I've had percolating for months. The marketing and branding potential would be great!

  5. Gayle Carline

    I'd like to be a costume person, except (as my son pointed out) none of my friends hold costume parties so I'd be all dressed up with nowhere to go. Trick-or-treating around the neighborhood is a little creepy when you're 56, no matter how cool your costume looks. My favorite costume is the one on my Facebook profile – I'm a horse. I'm also only 5. My semi-bucket list includes dressing up, just once, as Carmen Miranda. Of course, I'd have to learn the words to "Quanda le gusto", but it'd be worth it to wear fruit on my head.

  6. Louise Ure

    I'm definitely NOT a costume person. But there's a large Russian community near my house and I'm always surprised by how many baby George Washingtons show up in their strollers.

  7. PK the Bookeemonster

    Nope, not a costume person. Perhaps it goes back to childhood. Back then (the 70s), it usually snowed on Halloween; so much so that we had to wear parkas over our costumes (so why bother?) and you'd get all sweaty behind those paper masks.
    At work on Friday, we had "reverse trick or treating": all 40+ employees giving to all 40+. Having employees jacked up on candy all day wasn't very productive. And yes, they had a costume contest and I think about 10 people participated. It was suggested to me that I come as a "bookworm" and wear a snuggie. I'm not even that creative. And I don't have a snuggie.

  8. Cornelia Read

    I love costume stuff, but have only really hit the mark a few times. My favorite was when my sister gave a "come as your partner's sexual fantasy" party in Berkeley. Apparently, most of the natives were too freaked out by the idea, so only the French parents from her kids' bi-lingual school showed up. My husband and I were on the rocks, and I was left responsible for our costumes. I bought Ray-Bans and a corncob pipe for him, since his own fantasy was that he was MacArthur. I dressed up as a French maid, which amused all the French people greatly, but I explained that my husband's fantasy was actually "that I would clean the house."

  9. J.D. Rhoades

    I always put off working on a costume until the day before Halloween, and then it's too late to do anything but dig out the old bandanna and eyepatch and go as a pirate. Again. So I've basically given up the past couple of years.

    Best I've ever seen was on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill NC, which is legendary for its Halloween party. It was a group of people dressed as a Pac-Man game. One guy in a big foam Pac-Man full-body costume, and four people dressed in different colored sheets following behind him. Every so often the three "ghosts" would start flashing blue lights under the sheets and the "Pac-Man" would chase THEM.

  10. JT Ellison

    I gave up costumes after college. I'm with you, Toni, I missed the costume gene when they passed them out. I think part of mine comes from not wanting to draw attention to myself. There's a reason why I'm a writer, not a singer or actor.

  11. Pari Noskin Taichert

    Nope. No costumes for me. And, apparently, the kids have grown out of them this year too. We're staying home, eating the candy we should be handing out and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie).

    Sure am glad I can put on those costumes in my writing though.

    Happy Halloween to all!

  12. Darlene

    I was never into Halloween–I'm more of a three foot, solid chocolate Easter Bunny person. But the munchkin has always been a Halloween fanatic which forced me to learned to be a costume person. In playschool I made her a pink bunny costume. But the most memorable was the Mummy costume. I think I used about 50 safety pins.

  13. KDJames

    When I was a kid, I'm pretty sure my older sister dressed us all up as whatever she thought we should be. I've blocked it from my memory. I'm pretty sure I made/cobbled together countless costumes for my own kids over the years. I've blocked those memories as well. Definitely not a costume person. And tonight I'm going to leave the outdoor lights off and pretend I'm not home. Didn't even buy any candy "just in case." I know, I'm such a grouch. But really, it's better this way — I'll be writing tonight and by the time I register the fact that someone is ringing the doorbell (IF I do, which is debatable), they'll be long gone.

    I did, however, drag out my now-traditional Halloween poem and post it on my blog along with some remarkable carved pumpkins one of my very talented younger sisters created. You all should go over there just to see the pumpkins. Reading of bad/amateur poetry is optional, depending on your tolerance for all things horrifying. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    [From last post: yes I did successfully get the water heater replaced last night, thanks for the concern. May also have spent my entire 2011 conference budget doing so. Sigh.]

  14. Kaye Barley

    I just love Halloween. I always have. It was a very big deal to get dressed up in costume to go out to dinner on Halloween night in Atlanta. I was always impressed with what people are able to come up with. Not having that much imagination I have always stuck with a fairly constant theme. Witch or Hooker. I'm sure a mental health professional would have some theories about me and my choices.

  15. Gar Haywood


    I'm a writer. I live a solitary life. You think on one of the few occasions I step out of my cave to socialize, I'm gonna do it dressed like Papa Smurf?


  16. Dudley Forster

    Iโ€™m in the no costume camp too. The only exception is โ€œDinner & A Murderโ€ parties. We had three other couples that were good friends and we all lived in the same area. So we played all of the Murder Party in a Box games. Alas, divorce and relocation ended that fun. Other than those parties I stay away from costumes, I feel silly and too exposed.

  17. Fran

    I can be very good at costumes, and if I can get my head in the game, I enjoy it. Too many years in theatre, I guess. And I made some grand costumes for the kid. My favorite was when he decided he wanted to be a dragon — not a regular green traditional dragon but a red Chinese dragon. It was fun.

    But nowadays, I can't be bothered. I admire costumes, but my enthusiasm level has melted away. Maybe when there are grandkids on the scene. . .

  18. KDJames

    ACK! Meant to say: CONGRATS on the first foreign sale of your film! Ahem. Is there any way for us mere mortals to see this film? I've been very curious about it.

  19. Zoรซ Sharp

    Hi Toni

    Hmm, costumes … I think I'd rather stick needles in my eyes. No dressing-up box for me as a kid, although I seem to remember going to a birthday party when I was about five dressed as a cowboy, but I think that was just so I could play with a cap gun.

    The supermarkets over here are trying desperately to push US-style Halloween celebrations onto us, but I'm resisting. In the town where I used to live, the local yobs took Mischief Night as an opportunity to firebomb the local Asian shopkeeper.

    Needless to say, it's not a holiday I'm much interested in …

  20. lil Gluckstern

    I did it the easy way for years, all black, skull earrings, and a witch's hat. Alas, those days are gone forever, I think. Can't help this: I'm wondering about that pizza box, um, never mind.

  21. toni mcgee causey

    Sorry, folks, I hadn't anticipated having to be away from the computer today, or I'd have mentioned I was going to be slow to answer.

    But I love it when the 'Rati take over and run with it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you all.

    Barbie, that's funny… I'll bet you guys have some other celebrations, though, where costumes are the norm? Or are we the only psycho ones around? (wait… not sure if I want you to answer that last part)

    Karen, now I know who to bug next time when I have to come up with a costume for any party that requires them. You or Alex (who is awesome at costumes, from everything I've seen her do).

    Aw, Debbie, you're a great friend, and you've reminded me that there are funny / happy memories I have of the kids with their costumes. (Mostly involved with me snickering at what I had just forced them to wear.) (What? I can so too be a little evil and still be a good mom. I think it's a parent's duty to torment their kids a little.)

  22. toni mcgee causey

    Spencer, that cracked me up… that you maybe rethought the direction of the writing because of the great costume you got to wear. ๐Ÿ˜€ And now you know, you really *must* post a link to you as death-metal dude.

    Gayle, you have a point about trick-or-treating at 56. They might just notice that. And Carman Miranda, huh? Love it. I always wanted to go as Lucille Ball in that set-piece where she wore the roller skates, but with my ability to break things, particularly on my own body, it was probably a good idea I didn't try.

    Louise… well, at least they aren't all showing up as Snoop Dogg or 50 cents. Maybe the educational system is still sort of working.

  23. toni mcgee causey

    PK, I always wondered about the kids who had to deal with the snow. The tradition that I like that's started here for kids are where the schools and some of the churches (which cracks me up) have big trick-or-treat halloween parties, where the kids get to come in and go booth to booth or room to room, especially when it's horrible weather.

    But it seems to me a bit thick-headed to have taught our kids for so long:

    1) don't take candy from strangers
    2) don't go to a stranger's house
    3) don't ring a stranger's doorbell
    4) be wary of strangers

    And then we teach them to dress up (in costumes where they can't generally see well and can't run) and do all of those things above. No wonder kids are confused. [I did it, too, so I'm not throwing stones. It just doesn't seem like the brightest idea, in retrospect.]

  24. toni mcgee causey

    Cornelia, you crack me up, but I think I would have made him General Custer. Complete with the arrows poking out. Just sayin.

    Dusty, I love the Pac Man one. When I was googling for costume photos, I saw another one (but not as good as the one you described). I do love it when people are creative in that realm. I just don't have it.

    Pari, I think you have the perfect idea for Halloween night. I may do the same.

  25. toni mcgee causey

    JT, yep. Same here. So glad to hear from all of you that I'm not the only one without the gene.

    Darlene, I love the Mummy idea. (Man, I wish I would have thought of that…. a few rolls of gauze and I'd have been done! Geez, only 20 years too late.) (But my grand-daughter…. muuuaaaahaaaaa. She'll be trick-or-treating next year.) [and I'm totally into the Easter Bunny thing. In fact, my kids kept getting baskets long after they knew. And then long after they moved out. I finally told them no more baskets after the last couple of years. Grown men can, in fact, pout.]

    KD… I just realized the time and that the actual trick-or-treating starts in 45 minutes… and I don't have the candy. Looks like lights out here, too. [I, too, have blocked the memory of the halloween years from when I was a kid. Completely blocked. No earthly idea if I even wore a costume.]

    Oh.. on the film… it's supposed to be selling to one of the biggest distributors in North America for DVD sales, but I have been hearing the producer's rep explain this for a couple of months and I still have no clue. I'll announce it if it ever happens. I'm proud of what we made, but with micro budget movies, there's not an easy distribution channel (for pay–other than free on the internet). There are avenues opening up, though, so we shall see.

    Thanks for asking! And I'm glad you got the hot water heater replaced, but bummer on the budget.

  26. toni mcgee causey

    Kaye, now you just need to combine them into a hooker witch to have the slam dunk. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Gar, agreed. [Though I'd make the exception for a pirate costume.]

    Dudley, I agree–you've really got to live somewhere where big halloween parties are the norm, I think, before you find enough people comfortable in the costumes to stop feeling strange yourself. [Now, I see acting in plays and such things as a murder game a totally different activity, which I didn't even realize 'til you wrote that. huh. The things we learn about ourselves here.]

    Fran, what a cool mom–the red dragon sounds awesome. And I'll bet he has loads of terrific memories of the things you made for him.

  27. toni mcgee causey

    Robin, post photos! ๐Ÿ˜€ (or you know, just have fun–he wants you there, which is a cool thing)

    Zoรซ, I was the same way–I didn't mind going if I could tote the guns. [It was never fair that the boys got the cool toys and I was stuck with dolls. or (gag) a princess costume. Of course, my granddaughter is all about princess costumes, so I have some serious reprogramming to do. ๐Ÿ˜€ ]

    Lil, I wondered that same thing. And then somewhere on a site where that photo was posted, it was described not as a "Jack" in the box… I'll leave that to your imagination.

  28. Stephanie St.Clair

    Hi Toni,

    I'm so not a costume/Halloween person. I attribute my lack of enthusiasm to one traumatic Halloween where my mother cut holes in a large black plastic trash bag and had me climb in. Then she stuffed it with newspaper and tied it around my neck before announcing that I was going as a "fig" that year. Not exactly what a ten year old girl dreams of wearing at Halloween. ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. toni mcgee causey

    Spencer, that is awesome! You totally rocked the death metal look. (Really.)

    Stephanie, can I just say something…. I LOVE YOUR MOM. I so would have totally done that, if I had thought of it. (My kids just fainted.)

  30. Catherine

    Growing up in Australia we didn't celebrate Halloween. The closest I got was being dragged to church for All Saints Day.

    We did however have a scattering of occasions where I ended up in costume. Mum dressed me as Marie Antoinette for something in Primary School. She cut down one of her old ballroom dancing dresses and made some mad wig out of cotton wool swirls. She also did me up in full makeup, including a beauty spot. I said to her no one would get who I was…which horrified me as a shy kid…having to explain to people anything in detail. She nixed my idea of bringing a head in a bag…I'm not sure now if it was because I was a gruesome kid, or it was my way of rebelling against all the satin and lace.

    Congrats of the film Toni, that is very cool news.

  31. Reine (Marie-Reine)

    I just received a card from my stepdaughter reminding me of our first Hallowe'en together when I took her trick-or-treating up in Los Feliz where relatives lived. We dressed up as very unoriginal witches and took our twenty-something butts out collecting candy. I don't know why we did that, but it has become a family favorite to talk about. The photos come out. The emails go back and forth, and the Denmark contingent has joined in, since she was pregnant with her daughter who is danish (long story- don't ask)!

    So Toni, that's a meatsa-meatsa pizza-pizza?

  32. Anonymous

    Spencer. Nice. But may I suggest a little more shadow on the upper lids next time and you totally forgot the black nail polish dude, what were you thinking? and no lip color? yeesh. metal guys would be so disappointed in your stage presence offering.

    BUT……..not in your music…….!!!!!!

  33. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I wasn't born a costume person, despite all that theater background, but when I moved to LA after college and was thrust into all those theme parties, I realized that costumes are a group effort – it really adds to a party to have everyone make even the most minimal effort at the theme.

    So I started with minimal efforts and then got more imaginative. It's a small thing to do to make other people happy, and now I really don't have much self-consciousness about it.

Comments are closed.