Written by Jonathan Wojcik

Thirteen Things From Dollar Tree

   It's usually rather infrequent that Dollar Tree, America's most ubiquitous dollar store, offers any Halloweenery worthy of its own article. The last time I even touched upon its stock, I had to include Dollar General and Family Dollar in the same post to pad it out. They usually only stock basics that we see year in, year out...but it seems like they stepped up their game in 2014, with a bigger and more varied selection than I've seen on their shelves in a good five to ten years. There was so much worth getting, I even had to narrow it down. At first, I was even going to call this "Thirteen Dollars at Dollar Tree," but then I realized I technically spent more than that on only thirteen different kinds of items. How can the introduction to a page about stuff I bought at Dollar Tree go on this long? How do I ever manage to hold your attention at all with the shit I'll pad out into a huge, unwieldy paragraph? Jeez.


   Very attractive for only a buck, I enjoy just how cartoony and weird this cackling skull appears, and the fact that it's actually a skull and crossbones, but with complete arms, which are sort of presenting the ominous message to us like it's a birthday cake, except it's just a bunch of tiny bones taunting us over whether or not we'll choose to proceed.

Bobble Skulls

   These simple plastic skulls and necks on minimal black bases are really quite tasteful, even if they only bobble ever so slightly. I especially like how they're put together crudely enough that no two are cocked quite the same on their necks. Of course, the most interesting thing about them is that they come in both "realistic skull" and "snarling album cover skull" flavors. Maybe they're twins, one "good" and one "evil," but surprisingly, the angry looking one is the nice one. They still get along, of course, just well enough to keep forgiving each other and learning hilarious new lessons each week.

Mummy Gift Boxes

   I sure hope you like boxes, because these aren't the first ones we're going to review here. You get two of these for a dollar, sized to nest within one another, and really, who could resist cube-shaped mummies with googly eyes at technically just fifty cents each?

Sparkly Fly

   One of my top two or three favorite animals and an under-appreciated Halloween critter, now available in a tacky, glitter-encrusted decoration with bendable legs and wings! They come in either purple or red glitter, and are reasonably large - at least filling the palm of your hand.

Tarantula Skulls

   These come in packs of four, each containing two "plain" skulls and two skulls with a bunch of adorable, fluffy tarantulas crawling out of them. That's an awfully silly place for eight-legged guinea pigs to be! I guess they include the mix for people who, for some bizarre and inexplicable reason, enjoy skulls but not necessarily skulls covered in spiders. It's worth noting that last year, they sold similar four packs of skulls both with and without earthworms coming out of them. Those skulls were overall much, much creepier looking, and they were even double-sided, whereas these newcomers are plain, brown cardboard on the back. Still, I appreciate that they're entirely new designs. Maybe next year, we'll get a third kind of cardboard skull, only half of them will have an infestation of tiny cats or hermit crabs.

Mummy Door Knocker

   This thing is way too lightweight to actually function as a door knocker, but it at least looks pretty cool, presumabbly gripping the handle way back between its wisdom teeth. This is one of those Dollar Tree items that looks a lot more expensive from a distance, like it might be ceramic instead of a nickel's worth of recycled plastic.

Giant Lenticular Heads

   Even larger than real heads, these are just slightly animated, which is a bitch to show on camera, but you can probably guess what changes as you view them from different angles. We've got a lady Frankenstein's monster crackling with electricity, and unusually, bleeding a little from the edge of her mouth. Does this one actually eat people? We also get a skull both on fire and bleeding, a double whammy of hardcore spooky skull action! I'm pretty sure there was also a Dracula among these things, but not nearly as exciting as these two. I also admire that they opted for the more interesting female monster over the the inclusion of the same old, repetitive Boris Karloff lookalike.

Coffin Boxes

   Unlike the mummy boxes, these must be purchased individually, but each of the three styles comes in all three possible sizes, so you can mix and match your nesting cardboard monster coffins any way you want! A vampire coffin inside two mummy coffins? Three skeleton coffins? A mummy-on-skeleton sandwich? My favorite, naturally, is the green-skinned mummy all wrapped up like a creepy burrito, though the skeleton's purple and green coffin is the most attractive. I also like how he's tipping his hat to you when you exhume him from his grave.

Skeleton Hand

   This one is interesting to me almost because it kind of isn't. It's just an oversized, rigid plastic skeleton hand in a bag. It's so simple, at first glance downright forgettable, but at only a dollar, you can easily buy a huge load of fake skeleton hands and do all kinds of neat things with them. Stick them out of your potted plants, string them up as part of a mobile, glue them in the center of a creepy wreathe, glue googly eyes all over them, maybe fuse a bunch together into a makeshift costume? Just cover yourself in black fabric, then cover that in plastic skeleton hands. Be a skeleton hand golem.

Inflatable Ghost

   This isn't a new item by any means, but I kind of feel a newfound affection for it. I guess after so many years, I took for granted that you can so easily, so cheaply buy nearly baby-sized inflatable ghosts with goofy eyes and big tongues hanging out. You know an off-brand ghost is probably an example of Asian stock art when it's got the tongue. Licking stuff is seen as one of the iconic forms of ghostly mischief in Japan and China - that's why "lick" is a ghost-type move in Pokemon, and causes paralysis because getting licked by a ghost is paralyzingly spooky. Really, pay attention the next time a japanese cartoon features ghosts. They're at least 50% likely to lick somebody, and that's probably going to make them "freeze up" in terror. It's totally a thing.

Spooky Stuff Boxes

   At last, our final Dollar Tree Halloween Gift Boxes. There was a third variety that just didn't impress me, but like the coffins, each comes in three different sizes. The artwork on these is just so pretty, isn't it? One is a mauseoleum with an awesome skeleton bursting out, while the other is a decrepit house in the middle of a zombie outbreak, with a pretty awesome half-skeletal, dreadlocked zombie chick on the front.

   On their sides, the boxes feature an acceptable but unremarkable Dracula, and a dude zombie with a cleaver in its head and a dangling eyeball! It's also busting through a brick wall as easily as the Kool-Aid man, something almost the entire zombie genre counts on them strictly not being strong enough to do. I also like the freshly severed hand just hanging out, indicating these are zombies under Return of the Living Dead or Dead Alive rules, every last scrap of flesh given unnatural life - the best kind of zombies.

Bone Gazebo

   If you thought the dreaded gazebo was already a formidable monster, here's your unofficial gaming miniature for an undead version. Let's call it the Gazebones. Spooky! You'll notice by happy coincidence that while I was taking this picture, a tiny spider scurried out of those dead leaves. If you can't see it, I'm not telling you where to look. You'll have to play Where's Waldo for a moment.

This is part of a whole vast set of tiny resin tombstones, cobblestone walls, mausoleums, creepy houses and figurines to build your own miniature graveyard scene, but only the gazebo, for whatever reason, is an unholy construct of the dead.

Tie a Mummy

   Oh man, those kinky outdoor bondage monsters are back again! I'll miss the skeleton and that adorable witch, but at least these newcomers feature an equally adorable, one-eyed mummy, who looks just tickled pink to be in this situation. It was even, apparently, in the middle of trick-or-treating when somebody decided to tie it to a tree, like that's just the "treat" it's gotten from one particularly weird neighbor and it couldn't be more excited. It can't wait to find out what's next.

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