Halloween Zeppelins

No one believes me when I tell them that Halloween balloons, like hot air balloons that you can ride in, are a thing. But I have proof!

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No people allowed. Just pumpkins.

I mean, it wasn’t the biggest craze in the world.

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She’s swatting the bats away.

But there does come a point where you see enough that you realize: “Huh, there was a demand for this kind of thing.” And more than one company got in on it.

f68499af750eadb0fe23334dfe74ef6e

One pumpkin balloon not enough? WELL, WE’VE GOT THREE!

It’s not just Halloween, either. Christmas has a ton, too…probably more. Usually, Santa’s just dumping presents from 2000 feet and hoping at least a couple land where a kid could pick one up, if it doesn’t kill them when it hits. But those are for another day…

Hall438balloon

I’m quite happy to fly for you.

This one even says that the real purpose here is to keep Halloween festivities “modern”:

46119f059384422c8409c34b85bbf446--spirit-of-halloween-halloween-poems

“The day of brooms as witches’ steeds / Has given way to modern needs, / And now, in style by parachute / They ride around their Hallowe’en route.”

Some are just downright terrifying.

60764af1ed8c0b05170f3b1886fb0404

I like the suggestion here that the hot air came from a campfire. Inefficient, but really atmospheric.

But mostly, I remain, as always, mystified:

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Granted, the balloon itself is implied. But, stlil, this has got to be one of my favorite cards ever.

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“Over the Garden Wall” and Vintage Postcards (Part 2)

[This is a continuation of a longer post. Click here for the full thing.]

 

“The Old Grist Mill” (Episode 1)

The first episode doesn’t have much to do with the old cards, but I think it’s odd how similar Wirt’s hat is to this card that’s always bugged me. Plus, with the whole anthropomorphized black cat thing with Enoch…who knows?

Untitled-2.jpg

Otherwise, I feel the first episode pretty much has its own vibe.

“Hard Times at the Huskin’ Bee” (Episode 2)

McHale says that this is one of the first episodes that they produced, despite airing second, so it makes sense that it probably owes most to the postcards for its mood.

First, many of the older Halloween cards (and often the Thanksgiving ones) try to create a nostalgic sense of early rural American autumn. The cornfield, the barn, and even the empty field where Wirt has to dig at the end all have a generally similar feel to the mood that many of the cards are going for.

AutumnBackground

Background from “Hard Times…” (Art of OTGW)

Autumn Mood

Granted, it’s a bit generic. But, still, the general pastoral feel of the whole thing fits.

But the strongest connection is of course the pumpkin people of Pottsfield. And Nick Cross says that many of them were straight from the cards:

PumpCard

Enoch’s pumpkin is definitely a “painted-on” pumpkin instead of a carved jack-o-lantern, and the citizens are a mix of paint and carved. But the one guy that just smacks me in the face as so close to one of the cards is this one:

PumpkinCarver

Lots of pictures of people carving pumpkins, but the pose and placement of this is too perfect.

For the others, “pumpkin people” were all over the Halloween cards. The thing that makes the connection to the Pottsfield people closer than just a pumpkin head, though, are the arms and legs that seem sometimes like wrapped limbs of hay.

Pottsfield

The faces in these are more painted on than carved.

There’s also this fun similarity with the pumpkin/cat dance:

DancePumpkinCat.jpg

There’s also a moment that goes by so fast, it easy to miss: two pumpkins are peeling apples, and then they throw the peels over their shoulders. But they’re not just throwing the peels on the ground. There was an old Halloween party game where you could find out the identity of your future lover by peeling apples and throwing them on the ground. It was a big theme of many of the old cards, and I wrote about it here. But these two pumpkin-lovers are obviously playing this game with each other:

PumpkinApple

“Listen, Little One! On Hallowe’en, throw an Apple Peeling over your shoulder and if it spells ‘kiss’ go to it. Its bound to work, girls. Any old thing looks like kiss to the right fellow if the time, place, and the girl are there.”

Enoch in his full costume also looks a bit like a few cards that put a pumpkin head on top of big stalk of, I assume, corn:

EnochComparison.jpg

On top of that, there are just a bunch of old, weird cards out there that seem Pottsfield-esque.

a34d4f82b691554589c44611795b1d30--vintage-halloween-cards-halloween-art

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tumblr_ox25asOdGn1u5yqcfo1_1280

“Heaven and How to Get There.” This one I can’t help but find connections with…

 

“Schooltown Follies” (Episode 3)

According to Art of…, “Schooltown Follies” draws inspiration from a lot of different sources: “There was a lot of talk about Our Gang, Anne of Green Gables, and Shirley Temple while making this episode” (101). McHale also mentions Dogville Comedies, old shorts made with real dogs in human clothes. And Richard Scarry’s childrens’ books are also pretty clear analogues.

That said, there are still a few old cards that show similar things:

Victorian-Xmas-Card-Pussy-teaching-Rabbit-pupils

The compliments of the Season. Victorian Christmas card

I would love to find a card with potatoes and molasses on it, tho…

“Songs of the Dark Lantern” (Episode 4)

This episode is another that’s doing something quite different from the vibe of most of the old cards. But I did come across one thing that I couldn’t help but compare the Highwayman.

Highwayman

Probably not. But, still, the weird angles and dancing oddness of the card…

 

“Mad Love” (Episode 5)

On this one, I have to admit that I’ve come up blank. McHale says that it began as a dream he’d had, and I’ll leave it at that.

 

“Lullaby in Frogland” (Episode 6)

McHale mentions an odd stop-motion video called Frogland as one of the main inspirations for this episode. But anthropomorphic frogs were a huge part of the old postcards, something I’ve talked about before. I also know that he posted an image from the McLoughlin Brothers company on his twitter awhile back, saying that their style was a big influence on this episode.

But there are so many cards showing frogs in fancy dress and/or playing instruments that it can’t hurt to share a few here.

4c9c77049fab298b45b9e82c169277fd--frog-illustration-frog-art

695b954b1d98ac97456af986f7b911c6--frog-pics-frog-art

91775c915db6afad1848090afd3f5881--vintage-images-quilting-ideas

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c02cf0958e268a744fd8235193b58c66

d52144663367bbabd9af98832eb908d8--frog-art-vintage-ephemera

vintage_the_entertainer_frog_card-rceafba02c2ba48e59cc481d58193e38e_xvuat_8byvr_324

 

“The Ringing of the Bell” (Episode 7)

Auntie Whispers is my favorite character of the series. I actually think she’s a nod to Studio Ghibli and Spirited Away in particular (Yubaba), something that this video brings up as well.

But there are a couple of cards that just seem like Auntie to me, whether or not they had anything to do with her.

Whispers.jpg

There are also a few “hearth” cards that seem a bit like Whispers’ house.

Auntie Whispers.jpg

Hall102

Hall251redletter

If only I could find old cards with small, black turtles…

“Babes in the Wood” (Episode 8)

Most of this episode was a nod to an old sentimental opera about children lost in the woods. It came back in animation as Hansel and Gretel: An Opera Fantasy and the Silly Symphony short Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

But one small detail is straight from the old postcards: the disembodied angel heads.

Vdaycrds.jpg

And there are indeed a ton of cherubs that are depicted on these cards as completely disembodied heads with wings.

maxresdefault.jpg

00ed89fececbfc33fe9ef3e730c5f93f--victorian-angels-victorian-christmas

7031808dac80c23f2affdda784545dda--victorian-christmas-vintage-christmas

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xmas (3)

 

“Into the Unknown” (Episode 9)

Since this episode is a flashback to the “real” world, there’s not much nostalgia for early Americana going on (or at least pre-70s/80s). However, on the DVD commentary, McHale says that they modeled a bunch of the kids’ Halloween costumes on images of old costumes they found online (and I’ve posted my share here). He mentions the egg girl’s costume in particular, and I’m pretty sure this is the one he means:

EggCostume

 

“The Unknown” (Episode 10)

Dare I say it? I don’t have anything for this one. This episode is its own beast…

 

Wrap Up

Were the postcards’ influence necessary to the mood of the show? As much as I’d love to say yes, I don’t think so. The throwback nods are even more about old cartoons and animation styles, but the mood and oddities in the cards were certainly part of the atmosphere that McHale was trying to create from the beginning. Personally, I was thrilled to find two things that grab me match up so well. And, one day, if McHale or Cross ever read this, I’d love to know if they still have those cards and which ones they actually looked at during production.

Until then, though, if anyone else finds something simliar, please let me know. Comment or email me at weirdxmas@gmail.com.

 

 

“Over the Garden Wall” and Vintage Postcards

[First, please, if you haven’t seen Over the Garden Wall and you like my site, make it a point to watch it before October 31. It’s my favorite Halloween special, even more than It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! It’s also one of my favorite animations of any kind — simply wonderful in every way.]

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Over the Garden Wall earns its charm from a mix of nostalgia, mystery, and humor. Those are the same things I love about vintage postcards. I didn’t make that connection the first time I saw the miniseries.

But the next year when I was browsing through my old Halloween cards, it hit me how similar a lot of the images used in OTGW were to the things I share.

Then I finally watched “Tome of the Unknown,” the first pilot made by Patrick McHale (creator) and Nick Cross (art director). I saw old John Crops and his vegetable/fruit car, and I knew it couldn’t just be a coincidence.

 

CarComparison

The shape of the cut in the watermelon, the multiple layers for seats, the cucumber wheels, the gourds/headlight/mirror-things, even the way they turned the stem into a crank, I mean even the camera/viewpoint angle: it was a plain match. And that’s a pretty popular card, too — so much that people have even made actual models of it — so it’s no stretch that McHale had seen it.

Then The Art of Over the Garden Wall came out, and it confirmed what was pretty obvious by this point: McHale had used a lot of these old cards even back when he was pitching the show.

ArtBookQuotes

Christ Tsirgiotis called them weird! He knows my name!

Some episodes show a stronger influence than others. And that makes sense since each one is supposed to be a different mini-adventure in a different part of the Unknown. But now I had a project: I went through my collection to find examples of the kinds of things McHale might have had in mind for different parts of the show. And I was thrilled by how much I found.

Please know that I’m not at all suggesting they somehow “stole” these ideas. The show is intentionally borrowing from all kinds of old styles and moods and reproducing them in this new world. Plus, as Art of… makes plain, by the time anything actually made it onto the screen, it had been through a host of concept artists, storyboarders, animators, and freelancers, so to suggest than any one idea came specifically from one source is ludicrous.

But to it. I don’t have cards relating to every episode, but I’m still looking. And if anyone else has good finds, please let me know (weirdxmas@gmail.com).

 

“The Tome of the Unkown” (Pilot)

I already mentioned the car, but John Crops himself is a throwback to a really popular trope of vegetable people that you can find all over old postcards and turn of the century advertisements.

JohnCropsComparison-1

 

The folk in the “big city” and the band entertaining them also fit the bill.

VegBandComparison

There are hundreds if not thousands of these vegetable and fruit people out there.

And, of course, John Crops’ new love is a pretty dead ringer for these folk, too.

CabbageLady.jpg

Series Intro/Outro

The montages at the beginning and end of the series have a few nods to the old cards. The one that hits closest, though, is the turkey wagon:

TurkeyCart

I swear there’s a card out there showing two turkeys pulling a wagon of pumpkins, but for the life of me I can’t find it.

Now (spoiler, I guess), in the final outro, we find out that Enoch, the pumpkin leader guy from the second episode, is actually a black cat, probably the one driving the pumpkins up above. But he pops up out of the Enoch pumpkin.

Enoch

Whatever else we think that means in terms of fan theories, it’s an idea that’s all over the cards. And, granted, black cats and pumpkins are pretty standard Halloween images, so it’s no surprise they’re matched up. But just take a look at a few of these:

48f18173284928bf20510121cdd93eef--halloween-cat-halloween-vintage3353f9e5a0382796fbaf4978392f373e--halloween-cards-vintage-halloweeneb2187b33815a53fa8f4b7629041f88b

Something about cats being in charge of pumpkins or having some kind of dominance over them is definitely a trend. And, for some reason, this one just makes me think of Enoch:

2d445ff31e3abc92f031e2cfe80a9740--halloween-greetings-halloween-tags

Something about the sense of control is very Enoch.

 

“The Old Grist Mill” (Episode 1)

The first episode doesn’t have much to do with the old cards, but I think it’s odd how similar Wirt’s hat is to this card that’s always bugged me. Plus, with the whole anthropomorphized black cat thing with Enoch…who knows?

Untitled-2.jpg

Otherwise, I feel the first episode pretty much has its own vibe.

 

“Hard Times at the Huskin’ Bee” (Episode 2)

McHale says that this is one of the first episodes that they produced, despite airing second, so it makes sense that it probably owes most to the postcards for its mood.

First, many of the older Halloween cards (and often the Thanksgiving ones) try to create a nostalgic sense of early rural American autumn. The cornfield, the barn, and even the empty field where Wirt has to dig at the end all have a generally similar feel to the mood that many of the cards are going for.

AutumnBackground

Background from “Hard Times…” (Art of OTGW)

Autumn Mood

Granted, it’s a bit generic. But, still, the general pastoral feel of the whole thing fits.

But the strongest connection is of course the pumpkin people of Pottsfield. And Nick Cross says that many of them were straight from the cards:

PumpCard

Enoch’s pumpkin is definitely a “painted-on” pumpkin instead of a carved jack-o-lantern, and the citizens are a mix of paint and carved. But the one guy that just smacks me in the face as so close to one of the cards is this one:

PumpkinCarver

Lots of pictures of people carving pumpkins, but the pose and placement of this is too perfect.

For the others, “pumpkin people” were all over the Halloween cards. The thing that makes the connection to the Pottsfield people closer than just a pumpkin head, though, are the arms and legs that seem sometimes like wrapped limbs of hay.

Pottsfield

The faces in these are more painted on than carved.

There’s also this fun similarity with the pumpkin/cat dance:

DancePumpkinCat.jpg

There’s also a moment that goes by so fast, it easy to miss: two pumpkins are peeling apples, and then they throw the peels over their shoulders. But they’re not just throwing the peels on the ground. There was an old Halloween party game where you could find out the identity of your future lover by peeling apples and throwing them on the ground. It was a big theme of many of the old cards, and I wrote about it here. But these two pumpkin-lovers are obviously playing this game with each other:

PumpkinApple

“Listen, Little One! On Hallowe’en, throw an Apple Peeling over your shoulder and if it spells ‘kiss’ go to it. Its bound to work, girls. Any old thing looks like kiss to the right fellow if the time, place, and the girl are there.”

Enoch in his full costume also looks a bit like a few cards that put a pumpkin head on top of big stalk of, I assume, corn:

EnochComparison.jpg

On top of that, there are just a bunch of old, weird cards out there that seem Pottsfield-esque.

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tumblr_ox25asOdGn1u5yqcfo1_1280

“Heaven and How to Get There.” This one I can’t help but find connections with…

 

“Schooltown Follies” (Episode 3)

According to Art of…, “Schooltown Follies” draws inspiration from a lot of different sources: “There was a lot of talk about Our Gang, Anne of Green Gables, and Shirley Temple while making this episode” (101). McHale also mentions Dogville Comedies, old shorts made with real dogs in human clothes. And Richard Scarry’s childrens’ books are also pretty clear analogues.

That said, there are still a few old cards that show similar things:

Victorian-Xmas-Card-Pussy-teaching-Rabbit-pupils

The compliments of the Season. Victorian Christmas card

I would love to find a card with potatoes and molasses on it, tho…

“Songs of the Dark Lantern” (Episode 4)

This episode is another that’s doing something quite different from the vibe of most of the old cards. But I did come across one thing that I couldn’t help but compare the Highwayman.

Highwayman

Probably not. But, still, the weird angles and dancing oddness of the card…

 

“Mad Love” (Episode 5)

On this one, I have to admit that I’ve come up blank. McHale says that it began as a dream he’d had, and I’ll leave it at that.

 

“Lullaby in Frogland” (Episode 6)

McHale mentions an odd stop-motion video called Frogland as one of the main inspirations for this episode. But anthropomorphic frogs were a huge part of the old postcards, something I’ve talked about before. I also know that he posted an image from the McLoughlin Brothers company on his twitter awhile back, saying that their style was a big influence on this episode.

But there are so many cards showing frogs in fancy dress and/or playing instruments that it can’t hurt to share a few here.

4c9c77049fab298b45b9e82c169277fd--frog-illustration-frog-art

695b954b1d98ac97456af986f7b911c6--frog-pics-frog-art

91775c915db6afad1848090afd3f5881--vintage-images-quilting-ideas

ba166e2fb07b3f9e444071661d70176f

c02cf0958e268a744fd8235193b58c66

d52144663367bbabd9af98832eb908d8--frog-art-vintage-ephemera

vintage_the_entertainer_frog_card-rceafba02c2ba48e59cc481d58193e38e_xvuat_8byvr_324

 

“The Ringing of the Bell” (Episode 7)

Auntie Whispers is my favorite character of the series. I actually think she’s a nod to Studio Ghibli and Spirited Away in particular (Yubaba), something that this video brings up as well.

But there are a couple of cards that just seem like Auntie to me, whether or not they had anything to do with her.

Whispers.jpg

There are also a few “hearth” cards that seem a bit like Whispers’ house.

Auntie Whispers.jpg

Hall102

Hall251redletter

If only I could find old cards with small, black turtles…

“Babes in the Wood” (Episode 8)

Most of this episode was a nod to an old sentimental opera about children lost in the woods. It came back in animation as Hansel and Gretel: An Opera Fantasy and the Silly Symphony short Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

But one small detail is straight from the old postcards: the disembodied angel heads.

Vdaycrds.jpg

And there are indeed a ton of cherubs that are depicted on these cards as completely disembodied heads with wings.

maxresdefault.jpg

00ed89fececbfc33fe9ef3e730c5f93f--victorian-angels-victorian-christmas

7031808dac80c23f2affdda784545dda--victorian-christmas-vintage-christmas

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xmas (3)

 

“Into the Unknown” (Episode 9)

Since this episode is a flashback to the “real” world, there’s not much nostalgia for early Americana going on (or at least pre-70s/80s). However, on the DVD commentary, McHale says that they modeled a bunch of the kids’ Halloween costumes on images of old costumes they found online (and I’ve posted my share here). He mentions the egg girl’s costume in particular, and I’m pretty sure this is the one he means:

EggCostume

 

“The Unknown” (Episode 10)

Dare I say it? I don’t have anything for this one. This episode is its own beast…

 

Wrap Up

Were the postcards’ influence necessary to the mood of the show? As much as I’d love to say yes, I don’t think so. The throwback nods are even more about old cartoons and animation styles, but the mood and oddities in the cards were certainly part of the atmosphere that McHale was trying to create from the beginning. Personally, I was thrilled to find two things that grab me match up so well. And, one day, if McHale or Cross ever read this, I’d love to know if they still have those cards and which ones they actually looked at during production.

Until then, though, if anyone else finds something simliar, please let me know. Comment or email me at weirdxmas@gmail.com.

 

 

Peeping Pumpkins

Creepiness is in the nausea and shivers of the disturbed. It’s hard to say what’s actually going to creep most people out because some of us freak at jump scares, some get grossed out by innards, and some are terrified of garden gnomes (true story). But this trend bugs the hell out of me:

Hall16peeping

Whatcha doin’, Billy?

Peeping Pumpkin cards. And there are a lot of them.

Hall98peeping

I like your doggie.

There are far too many old Halloween cards of pumpkins staring at children through windows with these hungry leers on their faces. And, granted, I know they’re supposed to be generically scary. But, come on, things spying on children when they’re vulnerable?

Hall566

‘Sup, girlies? Wanna know what’s under my skirt?

It just leads to far too many, well, criminal suggestions. But they kept coming.

Hall338peeping

Is it better or worse to know there’s an actual human out there?

And just to add to the ick factor, you’ll also see a lot of cards with the same thing pointed at young women. At least this one shows them taking some kind of protective measures:

Hall513spell

Wasn’t always pumpkins, either.

But most of the time, they were just frightened victims:

Hall473

Pluck. Sure.

Really, though, it keeps coming back to creepy things staring at children in totally unhealthy ways.

Hallo2017 (5)

She’s getting ready for bed, and you’re smiling as you watch. Nice.

I suppose this is better than what we’ll see in a couple of months at Christmas time. You expect goblins and ghosts and monsters to be creepy.

Hall164peeping

I think this kid’s bigger problem is that his house is floating in space.

There are even more cards of Santa and St. Nick staring at children through windows. Ah, the joys of the holidays.

Hall402

You are prey, children.

Halloween Costumes OF DESPAIR!

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Disease or costume? You be the judge.

Before you could grab a cheap mask at the drug store, you had to make your own costumes. And some people weren’t very, well, good at it, especially in the pre-Pinterest world. Luckily, other peoples’ miscues provide plenty of nightmare fuel for us.

7dc50e5d-a447-4a10-9deb-3c7c0257d757-1002x1020 - Copy

Scoliosis was a popular costume in the 50’s.

Some of these costumes are all over the internet as clickbait, but I thought I’d still throw up (pun intended) some of my favorites. And please send me any you find, too! (weirdxmas@gmail.com). I’ll post more as they come in this month.

1vintage-rabbits - Copy

There’s a story behind this that I don’t want to know.

3b463e19f50ac9b8d6109d4682637580 - Copy

She can’t blink. Sad.

404e7f7651eb83c32d5764536d2367d0 - Copy

Baba Yaga!

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Real guns. America!

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I know it’s an old, old picture. I still want to run away.

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And whose childhood are you ruining today?

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Probably not a Halloween costume. But, come on, this is too, too good.

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Apocalyptic sewer rat cosplay.

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We spread a message of doom.

http _a.amz.mshcdn.com_wp-content_uploads_2014_10_Halloween-costumes-2

I…Wow.

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Intense chicken.

stuffyoushouldknow-14-2013-09-vintage-halloween2

“But, mom, it’s not finished yet!” “JUST GO OUTSIDE!”

stuffyoushouldknow-14-2013-09-vintage-halloween36

The put a mask on a bloated corpse.

stuffyoushouldknow-14-2013-09-vintage-halloween43

We dressed as Great Aunts Velma and Maureen.

stuffyoushouldknow-14-2013-09-vintage-halloween44

Do you think I’m sexy?

vintage-halloween-costumes25

Our plans now are final. We shall do this…

vintage-halloween-costumes-death-dead

That’s intense, disturbing commitment to a costume.

It’s hard to know sometimes what’s actually creepy, terrifying, odd, strange, or just misinterpreted. I’m sure many of these, especially the kid ones, were meant to be amusing. But a little anachronism never hurt anyone, right? RIGHT?

Freakishly Huge Pumpkin Heads

For a Jolly Halloween

Joy and rage are neighbors in her heart!

I’m gonna start this post with a trigger warning for myself: GIANT HEADED PUMPKIN THINGIES APPROACHING! GIRD YOUR LOINS!

Hall11

No, child. DON’T BE TEMPTED!

To be honest, most of the older Halloween cards aren’t all that strange. The ones that are creepy are supposed to be, and most of them are supposed to be lighthearted. But there are a few trends that drivemenuts

48aaf1d65f85ba94e582a6412519f7e9

Kitty play in mouth? Kitty want taste good?

This is a series from a company called Barton and Spooner (as far as I can tell), and these bulbous, pumpkin-headed things terrify me. Like, I honestly don’t like to look at these cards. I was updating my site once, and I’d forgotten I had one in the queue, and I had to put the phone down for a few seconds to recover.

f57842b314cc18ba100a4d6dc3e950b2

I once knew peace and love. No longer.

I think it’s the forced-jollity on their faces. The weird uncanny valley of the childlike lower half combined with the impish macrocephaly (look it up) that just makes me want to put my closet down as a forwarding address.

52f9a2e3ab6dcc52009eb251632e16c7

I don’t know where I’m going!

It’s also that the expressions are always so over-the-top manic-with-a-dose-of-too-much-cocaine. There’s no hiding from the PAIN OF HAPPINESS in these faces.

Hall273

Dear God, what IS that? WHY is that?

Like that thing up above. It’s a Frankenstein monster of vegetable wrongness. But it’s grinning and grinding its teeth into a powder of glee. It shouldn’t exist.

6da8b581e02a0548e7a7c29957c44608

For once, cat, I’m on your side.

I happily do not own any of these physical cards. I would not willingly purchase them. If someone, only a sadistic enemy, sent me one, I would burn it. Publicly. As a statement of warning to mankind.

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No, no, no, THEY’RE GOING TO REPRODUCE!

But others seem to find them amusing, which proves once again that I am a stranger to my species, or at least the part that enjoys looking at really screwed up freaks of holiday nature.

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Oh, you’re somethin’ all right…

But, you know what? Writing this took too much out of me. These cards have now been on my screen far too long, and I need a nap. If you enjoyed this post, I grieve for your soul.

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Making Halloween Difficult

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Yarn. Throw it. Then do some stuff, and…yeah.

Halloween used to be a time for regular people to cast spells and get their fortune told. “Good Christians” could be reassured that this was all just a game and play along with darker, mysterious forces in safe way. Or so it’s fun to think. Mostly, this meant games trying to figure out who you’d fall in love with, which were probably just a socially acceptable way to flirt at parties. You would carve an apple, or look in a hazy mirror, or even pick a cabbage. (Yes, cabbage. Even kale, before kale was koole.)

But sometimes, things went overboard, as things often do.

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So, find an owl at just the right time, catch it, pluck a feather, eat it (wash it first?), and someone will ask you to marry them between midnight and 6:30 am.

A lot of the cards have these elaborate, overly detailed rituals you’d have to follow which seem far more complicated than they should be.

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Wait, first get a hand held mirror. Then you gotta walk backwards after figuring out how long a damn “rod” is. Oh, and hold a lit candle! Then you’ll meet your fate which, by that time, is probably falling down and setting your house on fire. Especially if there’s a horde of black cats running behind you.

Some of this may be due to the fact that in the early 1900’s, Halloween parties became a big “thing.” According to Lisa Morton, this was a very intentional way to get1898book kids, especially boys, off the streets and away from pranks. (Morton, 69) There were even books and pamphlets, like the popular Hallowe’en: How to Celebrate It by Martha Russell Orne, detailing games, decorations, and party activities to keep your guests occupied. I’m guessing some of these cards are drawing on the kinds of “advice” given by pamphlets like these rather than talking about long-held traditions that have an actual history.

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Run to your room without being seen…yeah, pretty sure this is just an excuse to steal up there and neck with your “friend” without getting caught.

But maybe not. Maybe these cards hold secrets to effective methods of divination. Maybe if I follow this, I’ll find out that I shouldn’t have married my wife but should have totally gone for that sweet, sweet chick back in high school who, last I heard, had 5 kids, a couple sources of alimony, and a police record.

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I’ve shown this before, but, still…that’s a lot of damn work. I mean, what if your garden doesn’t have beets?

But I doubt it.

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What if the feather isn’t a peacock’s but a dove’s? Or a mockinbird’s? Or a standardwinged nightjar’s?

My bet is that some poor copywriter was told he had four hours to fill the blank space on these cards with “spells,” and he spewed out some crap.

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Again…the set up for this is far too effort-heavy for my tastes.

I don’t want to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, though. If you’re up for it, give any of these a shot and let me know what happens. Just be sure to set aside a couple of weeks for all the prep work.

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References

Morton, Lisa. Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween. (London: Reaktion Books, 2012).