Written by Jonathan Wojcik


If you're reading these in order, the mood whiplash must be pretty interesting coming in from Bloodborne. If you've never been to a Cracker Barrel before, it's a pretty odd phenomenon; both a "country" themed Restaurant and a gift shop, evenly split in half between the two, and carries all sorts of candies, novelties, souvenirs and especially a whole load of holiday junk, much of it exclusive to the chain and sold only once, never to return! Like Michael's it also carries the honor of unveiling its Halloween stock the fastest of any retail chain in the country, often promptly by the first of August, and this year, the choices are exceptionally adorable.

Animated Walking Zombie

I'm glad to see more green-skinned, bug-eyed, pink-brained cartoon zombies this year. Maybe it's only the ongoing popularity of that "Plants vs. Zombies" game we can thank, but these are far preferable to the "dramatic" Walking Dead or Dawn of the Dead style zombies. This guy had been "tried" too many times to watch in action, but when you press his little bow tie, he apparently shuffles along, drops his arms off one by one, and finally drops his head!

Squeeze Monsters

These hollow, stretchy rubber goblins are a lot larger than other toys of this type, almost the size of an infant's entire head and more socially acceptable to squish between your fingers or fling around the room. I guess that's why they carry a hefty $8 price tag, which isn't quite worth it for deformed, fanged Shreks, but maybe that's just what you're into. It's at least nice to see some non-specific goblin-like creatures for the season, truly one of the more overlooked of the classic Halloween entities.

Mustachioed Pumpkin Plates

I realize these are a little bit hipster, playing into that weird, already fading obsession everybody has with facial hair, bacon and flannel, but even ironic mustaches are more amusing through a Halloween filter, and these are pretty attractive, colorful little dishes. Actually, I daresay mustaches truly are a novel addition to a pumpkin - I can't say I've really seen many pumpkins with hair. What unwholesome forces are at work for that to happen? That's just wrong. Unless it's just carefully pruned and styled mold. That would make sense.

Plastic Cups

If you can't get enough of that walking zombie's design, he also comes on a plastic drinking cup; one of those that looks like you're sucking something's brains out. A witch is also on offer, and her straw sticks out the end of her pointy hat, which is exceedingly funny to me.

Halloween Mugs

A pumpkin, a ghost, and a Frankenstoid (a term I have decided to coin so I don't have to type "Frankenstein's Monster" all the time) are a pretty bare-bones selection considering there isn't any skeleton here, but all three are charmingly stylized. I like the Frankenstoid's curly nose and overall divergent shape, while the ghost gets a bow tie, a curly mouth and mis-matched eyes, but my favorite is actually the pumpkin and I actually bought one. It may be the simplest, but there's just something I really liked about its particular mouth, nose and eye shapes, not to mention the eyes having eyeballs in them with funky purple sclera and eerie, tiny white pupils. The orange color is also way, way more vivid in person than in this photo. These are some pretty striking pumpkin cups.

Eye-popping Zombies

I'm glad rubber toys with pop-out eyeballs have been such an explosive trend these last few years, and these have the added bonus of pop-out brains! These especially look like a "Plants vs. Zombies" imitator.

Owl Shakers

UGH, these are so adorable it's almost upsetting. I had to get the skeleton themed one, because how often do you see a skeleton owl at all? The witch is easily the more adorable one, though, shorter and squatter to compensate for hat space. If you're into stylized owls in general, Cracker Barrel actually has an entire section for owls right now, basically as large as their whole seasonal selection. It's an owlpalooza.

Animated Singing Ghost

This soft, rubber cartoon sheet ghost in a little top hat basically wiggles back and forth while blasting the Ghostbusters theme song. The display model's wiggling action had broken down, however, so it was basically just the music part.

You know what would be awesome? If this was a format in which someone actually released their music. Like, if I were somebody who made music for a living, I'd definitely rather distribute it in a dancing rubber monster than a CD or a youtube video or whatever they do these days.

Shooting Ghost Game

There wasn't any way to actually demonstrate this one, but it's a ghost roughly three feet tall on a set of wheels, which comes packed with a fake gun to blast it with; the perfect training system for the inevitable dead toddler apocalypse.

Haunted Lamp

This is pretty unique. It's a very simple, cheap-looking desk lamp, the kind someone with no outstanding preferences in anything would decorate a cubicle with, except it has a rotten, severed hand clutching its chain! Why is that there!? When activated, the hand actually switches the lamp on, which proceeds to light up with a ghostly, talking skull, which I caught on video, but you won't hear much of what it has to say over the blaring country music.

Zombie in a Flower Pot

Okay, now you really can't tell me someone isn't trying to capitalize on Vegetation vs. Ambulatory Cadavers, though this corpse accidentally looks more like Hideshi Hino's Hell Baby than anything else. I thought it was covered in grody veins at first, but now I realize those are roots. When a button is pressed, the monster rises from the incredibly fake-looking potted flower, emitting spooky sounds and flashing lights, just like the actual, real tiny corpses they actually hide in most potted flowers, only this one doesn't tear around the house at night and move all your keys around.