So you haven’t come up with a plan for a Halloween costume yet?
Not to worry. Do what the entertainment industry does: Recycle an old idea.
Ask around and you discover that many people can recall a favorite or at least most memorable costume from Halloweens past.
“I was Casper the Friendly Ghost’s friend, Wendy the good little witch,” said Wendy Schuller, head women’s basketball coach at Eastern Washington University.
Pam Pierson, marketing coordinator at a Spokane assisted living community, remembers being a little Dutch girl one Halloween back in her Connecticut childhood. She wore real wooden shoes. “They hurt like hell.”
Nevertheless, she got her picture in the local newspaper.
For some of us, at least those who have observed Halloween over the years, all those costumes turn into a blur in our memories.
Still, for others, there is a clear No. 1.
“Absolutely, no doubt,” said Ryan Crocker, United States ambassador to Afghanistan, recalling growing up in the Spokane Valley. “A not-so-friendly ghost. I am sure now that I just looked silly, but I felt like the terror of the world.”
Maybe you went as Superman or the Lone Ranger. Or the Wolf Man, a witch, a character from “Planet of the Apes,” Cher or a “Star Trek” crew member in a short, short dress.
Of course, not all memorable costumes were worn as children.
“My all-time favorite Halloween costume was when my husband and I went as a couple of boobs,” said Jody Hamilton, a Spokane lawyer.
“We took flesh-colored trash bags (kind of hard to find now) and glued a circle of brown fabric on them with a Playtex baby bottle nipple in the middle of the fabric. We then stuffed the trash bags with newspaper, cut a hole in one side and wore them over our heads. Individually, it was kind of hard to tell what we were, but when we stood side-by-side the light bulb would come on.”
She didn’t mention if anyone took liberties.
Web producer Nicole Hensley said she does not have an impressive record of coming up with great costumes. But one year in college, she experienced a brainstorm.
“I thought, instead of being a pirate, why not be a pirate ship?”
So she fashioned a vessel that had her in its midst and ran up the Jolly Roger. Then she set sail with a supply of rum for Halloween revelers.
“The rum was gone by the end of the night,” said Hensley.
Speaking of holiday spirits, Spokane advertising executive Dennis Magner said he was “drinking age” when he wore what might be his most memorable costume.
“I once dressed as a school crossing guard that had had a run-in with a motor vehicle … with tire tread across my yellow rain slicker, a dangling eyeball and plenty-o-blood.”
Marketing executive Paul Chapin was newly married to a nurse when he dressed as a female nurse wearing a lot of red lipstick.
“It was her idea and she still remembers how hard it was to find white hose and a nurse’s outfit to fit a stocky man. With a 5 o’clock shadow, it wasn’t pretty.”
“Hideous,” said his wife, Susan.
Which, given the context, can be considered a compliment.
Of course, sometimes the weather plays a role in determining what people wear on Halloween.
There are adults who still shake their heads in dismay about being made to wear a coat over their outfits when Oct. 31 turned out to be a bit nippy.
But some places get so cold on the night before November that kids don’t complain about dressing warmly.
“Growing up in Alaska, Halloween costumes were all about the mask,” recalled Helen Higgs, head women’s basketball coach at Whitworth University. “We all wore our down coats, mittens, hats, et cetera. We covered our face as much for warmth as anything.”
Higgs remembers bringing more than one mask so she could get back in line and double-dip at houses where four-star treats were being handed out.
“I think my most effective combination was Casper and Wonder Woman.”
Episcopal pastor William Ellis remembers the burnt-cork beard his dad rubbed on to complete young Bill’s hobo costume.
Radio host Verne Windham recalls a once-glorious Cowardly Lion outfit that had been handed down and seemed to be afflicted with an alarming case of the mange by the time he got his turn.
“I wore it anyway,” he said.
Some costumes are remembered because they symbolize an especially happy time. Others bring back vivid memories of friends and places.
And sometimes they still seem special because of the family connections.
“My mom always made our costumes,” said Carol Snyder, a North Sider recently retired from the American Cancer Society. “When I was about 6 years old she made a monkey suit for me. I also had a monkey face mask.
“My older brother played a toy accordion and I danced and held out a cup for our treats. I think I even had a dog collar and leash on.”
The look was a big hit. “People made a fuss over us.”
Later that night, Snyder and her brother got to report that to their mother.
People didn’t high-five back then. But you can picture the scene.
Some treats last for a long, long time.