Written by Jonathan Wojcik
TOO MUCH Halloween at GORDMAN'S
I have to say, I definitely never thought I'd ever use the words "too much" and "Halloween" in the same sentence, except maybe a sentence like "gee, there sure is too much stuff in the world that isn't Halloween," but when a single store has more adorable ghosts, skeletons and pumpkins than I could ever possibly afford to own, we have a problem.
"Gordman's" is another store I only discovered after moving to Iowa, and it's actually immediately next door
to a store that shall not be named
, but while that
dread abyss had roughly three aisles of Halloween and fifteen hundred aisles of weird pine tree stuff, our Gordman's had a million zillion
aisles of Halloween and not a reindeer in sight until almost the final week of September, when about 70% of its Halloween stock had been bought up and the remainder moved to the front of the store...which was still
twice as much as the average outlet.
this place is the mother lode
. Its seasonal items are oriented almost solely around figurines and lawn ornaments, but those just happen to be some of my very favorite
items to browse, and every time I thought I'd seen the last of their offerings, more jumped out from around the next corner. By the end of August, Halloween had overtaken an entire wall at the very front of the store, another section ofwall in the back, around a half dozen aisles in between and just as many of these free-standing displays, all practically piled
with the cutest, most darling spookery you will have laid eyes upon all week.
In the end, narrowing their selection down to "just" my favorites, I wound up with over forty
photos to share, making this easily the longest, most epic review I'll have ever done for a single store's Halloween stock. Ever.
In a group, these thin, pale figures are a lot spookier than they were probably intended to be. Their single eyes are shaped like black hearts for no apparent reason, and though they have adult-looking proportions, they each hold an "I WANT MY MUMMY" sign. I get the joke, sure, but at face value we've just got all these tall, bandaged corpses standing around waiting for their mother or mothers to come get them. Picture this scene with more fog and more rust and they wouldn't be all that out of place in Loud Mountain.
"Steampunk," as I understand it, refers to when you glue pieces of metal to something that doesn't usually have pieces of metal glued to it, which doesn't make any sense, but sure, whatever! Pumpkins with scrap metal facial features are totally new to me, even though I'm sure people have thought of it before the existence of these little, light-up trinkets. The green one is my favorite, with the BB container for an eye and the giant staples in its mouth, but the three screws forming the purple one's eye are pretty cool looking too, and these two aren't alone!
There are humanoid
junk-pumpkin constructs as well, smaller but more elaborate, and picking favorites is a lot more difficult. Maybe green again, because that barbed wire smile is killer
, but I love orange pumpkin's pipe arms and purple pumpkin's monocle-like wrench eye, too. Their bodies appear to be carved from wood, and actually, so do their pumpkins and hats. It might just be stylization, but I kinda dig the idea of wood and metal golems carved into the forms of witch pumpkins. With ropes for legs!
Candy Corn Owls
AAAUUUUUGGGH, have you ever
seen anything so dag-nabbed adorable?! We're actually going to face that difficult question a dozen times before this page is over. These pieces of candy corn, and
they're owls, with ridiculous head-feathers and no wings. Picture these as actual, living things, possibly no larger than real pieces of candy corn, just hopping around like baby chickens and hooting such teeny, tiny hoots it just comes out like a squeak. You wouldn't even need to eat them to get sick off the sweetness.
Cutie Pumpkin Haunters
AAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUGHHHHH, but these
though. Look at them! Those huge, blue eyes, those goofy wobbly smiles, the fact that these ghosts are tiny enough to inhabit pumpkins, how can you not fall immediately in love with those little faces? Not only that, but these items are tastefully designed, to boot. I love the cheerful, cartoonish art style coupled with the weathered, rustic texture, it's really nice and really different.
Creepy Metal Ghost
A little less cute. Actually, a lot less cute. Something about that pale, pink smile is just so
disquieting. Coupled with the penetrating eyes, it almost reminds me of that infamous, broken clown ride rotting in the woods. If you've seen it, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven't, you only need to google "clown ride."
Now, is it just me, or does the clownish, dumpy mummy here look remarkably similar to Baikinman
, the adorably inept bacterial space-demon, nemesis of sentient bread and my spiritually adopted child? He's definitely worn enough preposterous disguises that this could
be him, except that it shows quite a bit more effort than his usual attempts at going incognito, and even more effort than is actually necessary. I mean, he pretty easily fools Anpanman by just putting on a shirt and some glasses. He could just wear one too many band-aids and Anpanman would already mistake him for a mummy.
Big Spooky Ghosts!
Made of lightly painted, sheer fabric stretched over metal frames, these are downright beautiful in person and strikingly large for their price tags of just three bucks each, so I had
to get them. They have those "wriggly" mouths I love the most on your classic white phantasms, plus they hilariously say "BOO!" and "SPOOKY!" right on them, which is always a huge plus.
Candy Corn Man
GAAAWWWWWD. Every time I turned around in this store, the cuteness of something physically hurt the soul I don't even believe in. That's several layers
of metaphysical impossibilities, just like the existence of a giant, sentient candy corn in the first place. The precise distance between its beady eyes and jagged mouth feels perfectly
formulated for maximum cuteitude; just one inch in either direction and you might lose the whole effect.
...And then there's the way he carries just one smaller candy corn in a rusty bucket. He's so proud
to have that one, single candy corn. You think maybe he's the spirit of somebody who just loved nothing in the world more than candy corn, and possibly died choking on it? Awwwwww!!!
These are filled with candy, but I don't even know or care what kind. The main attraction are the figure lids. You've got a fairly grisly zombie with exposed brains, and then this delightful Nosferatu-style vampire with a hunchback. At least, I'm assuming it's a vampire. It's still labeled as a zombie, and it has a rather muscular frame for an Orlokian bloodsucker. The vampire laughs when you press his button, so "zombie screamer" is doubly inaccurate there, but the zombie indeed just screams and screams, and both of them have red, light-up eyes!
All on its own, this skeleton looks like you just caught it doing something terrible that it's either denying outright or just doesn't think should be such a big deal. Coupled with these scandalized-looking ghosts, it's even more hilarious. "Geez, fine, I'm sorry" it seems to be saying to its ghostly friends. "...I'm sorry that YOU got offended."
WHAT THE HELL IS THIS
We've seen cute, we've seen cool, we've seen creepy and we've seen even more cute, but nothing about this one is anything other than drop-dead hilarious. It's that same mummy pun again, but could you even immediately tell this was a mummy without reading that? What kind of mummy is just a big gumdrop shape? The oversized frown is freaking hysterical,
and to top it all off - literally - is a big yellow star sticking out of its head. WHY?
What in the Sam-hain does a yellow star have to do with mummies, and why just bobbing straight up out the middle of its dome-shaped head-body?! This is like something out of Homestar Runner or Aqua Teen Hunger Force. There are 1,000 different hilarious voices I'd want to assign this thing. This thing that we must remind ourselves is also a reanimated corpse.
The most hilarious reanimated corpse in the entire world. Bar none.
dead things to tug your heartstrings, these cuties show just how endearing something can be when it only
has eyes, which way, way more cartoons could really stand to remember. The fewer
facial features, the more innocence we tend to project onto something, which is why people can so easily feel bad for flowers or inanimate objects. Of course, the most endearing thing about these are their polka-dotted bows. They're all dressed up nice!
Pumpkins with Braces
From cute to just plain peculiar, the whole focal point of these pumpkins is the presence of giant, protruding upper teeth and gums with braces. That's...that's really weird. It's even fairly frightening, the longer we dwell on it. How did these pumpkins grow teeth and gums? Who decided they needed corrective gear? Who took pumpkins to the dentist? Why do the pumpkins even need
teeth, let alone straightened teeth? I mean, even real people don't actually usually need perfectly straight teeth and braces are kind of an obsolete and harrowing thing to put kids through that most of the world gets by just fine without. Aren't these pumpkin teeth clearly straight enough as it is? I think the worst part, the very very
worst part, is the subtly menacing slant of their eyebrows as they give one another a sort of knowing
look. They can't wait to use those teeth. The prophecy will be fulfilled.
One of my favorite Halloween tropes is the word "BOO" with something else instead of O's. We're so used to seeing "BOO" on Halloween stuff that we know exactly what these two human skulls are supposed to represent. At least, most of us do. I'm sure there's a portion of the population who don't find things like this intuitive, but we just keep warping our "BOO's" further and further from common sense.
See? This is almost too divergent a BOO for me
to process. If anything, my brain wants to see the pumpkin and the ghost as the letter A
, with their slightly triangular proportions. Still cute as hell, though.
is the best boo you can buy at Gordman's. It's large, tastefully dark and weathered looking, and those ghastly faces not only communicate "O's" fairly well, but they're damn creepy to boot.
Spooky Spoken Here
What does that mean, exactly? Is this fat ghost demanding you assimilate to local ghost culture? I guess you have no choice, the bastard has pitchforks for arms. That's horrific.
These have some lovely artwork on them, but their alleged contents are even darker than usual. Most Halloween bottles are labeled stuff like "Eye of Newt" or "Graveyard Dust." Here, we've got a zombie virus
packaged with a chubby cartoon ghost, a disease that could bring about the end of civilization
. There's also something pretty skeevy about a "truth serum" hocked by a vampire, and I don't even know
what "liquid phantom" is supposed to be.
Creepy Hand Candle Holders
I've seen items like these before, but I feel kind of tempted to get the green "witch hand" here and actually use it,
just because it would look so incredibly sinister with a mostly-melted red candle, like the palm is just perpetually erupting with a geyser of blood.
Skeleton Shelf Sitters
...What's that middle one doing with that pumpkin, exactly? Let's move on.
Witch and Scarecrow Sitters
I love the style of these two. I don't know how, but it really gives me an older "Studio Ghibli" vibe, or maybe one of its many imitators. These just really really look like they came out of some 1970's anime adaptation of The Wizard of Oz.
You don't see a lot of witches with protruding tongues, either. Always a plus.
Metal Yard Pumpkins
Another green, orange and purple set of pumpkins, but totally unrelated to the junk-kins we met earlier. The orange one doesn't even look like it belongs with the other two, which are basically palette swaps, but they're all the same brand and year. Maybe they differ because the orange one is the boss and the purple and green ones are its palette-swapped twin flunkies, always screwing things up and goofing off when they're out on the job!
Yeah, just a cat head on a long pole sticking out of a pumpkin. There were others scattered about the shelves, so I know it's not missing any limb or body pieces of anything. What would this really even represent? A cat with a giant long neck? Maybe the pumpkin just uses the cat head like a lure.
See, though? I'm not making it up, there are several of these inexplicable pole-neck creatures.
Skeleton all done with your shit
If you ever wanted a statue of a skeleton to look up at you like you're the most boring thing it's ever had to suffer through since rotting in a casket, you're in luck!
Good lord these are unnerving. A detailed, fleshy human-like face anywhere it doesn't belong is distressing enough, but the intense, judgmental stare of the one on the right is even worse.
These look almost exactly like these foam rubber pumpkins that were all the rage in the 80's. They were creepy then and they're creepy now.
I can't help it. When I look at this skeleton, I don't see anything other than a skeleton posing for some sort of skeleton pin-up calendar. Maybe one day you follow a trail of Halloween candy and you find this skeleton posing like this on all these pumpkins it piled up in your bed.
It has been a while now since I've screamed over something cute. Maybe you just heard me, faintly, echoing all the way to wherever in the world you are. These happy phantoms have bells for eyes, stitchy smiles, and are yet another creature carrying i>one piece of candy corn. WHY is that as cute as it is? Look how pleased they are with themselves, they really think one candy corn is something special.
Er, I mean...of course
it is! You did SUCH a good job finding that one candy corn, ghosts!!!
Skeletons wearing pumpkins for heads aren't nearly as common as you would expect them to be, but at least Over the Garden Wall
brought the idea back into vogue among cartoon nerds. The expressions on these pumpkins are lovably dopey, especially while they carry around almost identical pumpkin heads in their bony claws. Those are for your
head, but first we need to something about all that meat you're trapped in!
I don't know why I adore these as much as I do, but I bought the one on the left immediately.
Sure, they're just bags of sand (or something that feels very much like sand) with spooky faces printed on them, but it works. They really stand out, and the "dirty" effect is quite nice, as are the little patches really sewn onto them. Just imagine these ghouls bouncing and rolling around, just old potato sacks full of ghost-matter. Wonderful. Also, they were only five bucks!
Evil Metal Owls
GOD. I don't know if I can handle much more cuteness. Especially not from that devil
owl, who came home with me for another five bucks. I must admit I'm not usually too big into devils as Halloween monsters, and I think it's because they remind me too much of the skeevy, anti-Halloween, church-obsessed neighbors I had growing up. I see a Halloween devil and early memories of their judgmental nagging immediately creep back into my subconscious. Of course, I should be well over that by now, and logically it should make me enjoy a good old fashioned red-skinned seasonal Balrog all the more, shouldn't it? In any case, combining it with an owl
made it all the harder to pass up, and I think this particular specimen's off-kilter eyes were what really sealed the deal.
I'm also pretty big on infernal owls just thanks to the Ars Goetia.
People sure did think owls were sincerely frightening and unwholesome back in the day, and they are
, especially considering how many aliens, ghosts and mothmen they've inspired well into the modern world, but our pop culture simultaneously treats them as just the goofiest, most adorable fat googly-eyed birds, and that's fair too.
"Happy Haunting" Witch Sign
I kind of regret passing this up. I don't usually go for Halloween items that aren't "creatures" in some obvious way, but I'm in love with the textures and colors of this thing. It was gone when I went back, so I hope whoever bought it really appreciates that swampy, warty green hat.
Tasteful Light-Up Panels
It must be a sign of my age that I'm increasingly tempted to buy stuff that would actually look nice in a conventional, mature adult's house, or maybe it just says something about me that I think these "Trick or Treat" and "Spooky" signs actually fit that description? Aside from being beautiful, I really enjoy the scene on the "Spooky" one, with the larger shadow-ghost looming over the more inoccuous sheet ghost. There are many ways to interpret this scenario. Maybe the little ghost projects a more menacing shadow-form, or maybe we're witnessing the hunting behavior of a ghost-eating spirit of darkness.
This particular Gordman's had only one set of these romantic cadavers, and each was missing an opposite leg, which tells all sorts of possible stories about their relationship. Of course, they seem to be gazing lovestruck at anything but
one another. Positioned just right in your home, you could be greeted every day by one or both of these tiny skeletons staring up at you. Luckily, they're both okay with how much the other would rather jump your
bones. They have an open-casket relationship.
MORE evil owls!
Another, completely different witch owl and devil owl?! They don't feel quite as heart-tugging as those perfectly round ones from earlier, but it's interesting that this devil is green,
and that is just says the word "SPOOK" on its chest. That's a new one on me, actually. I've seen "spooky" a million times, but never just "spook." Is it the noun
spook or the verb
spook? A label or a command!?
These look SO cool. They have long, dangling legs complete with little stick-figure skeleton toes, which don't really fit in the photo, but they don't have any arms to speak of - just those rad, tattered spider-web capes with fancy signpost ends, like a metal skeleton weathervane. I might actually pick one of these up, but I have no idea where I'd put it. I have quite the collection of large, metal Halloween yard ornaments by now, but I've never really had a yard of my own...and why would I risk putting anything so beautiful and desirable outside to face weather and vandalism and thieving squirrels!? SQUIRRELS! STEALING MY
GIANT METAL GHOSTS!!
"Ghoul Friends" Sign
Why do older women use "girlfriend" so platonically amongst themselves? It's so weird. It has to be at least a little frustrating and confusing if you happen to be a woman romantically
attracted to women. I guess there's no reason we need to interpret this sign as the former scenario, even if that's probably the intent.
But where was I? Oh yeah, I just really like the contrasting colors on this, plus the fact that these "ghoulfriends" include both a purple and completely black skeleton, or at least nearly-skeletal beings, it's hard to tell if those are bare bones or just bony, knobbly legs. We're also left to imagine what the rest of these ghouls look like, and you know my mind just wanders to a million possibilities far more abstract than we're probably supposed to gather. In fact, how do we know there's even actually three
of them? What if four or more of those legs belong to the SAME ghoulfriend?
A pumpkin that says "spooky" on it isn't usually anything to write home about, but give it veiny, bloodshot eyeballs, make those eyeballs light up
when you put batteries in the thing, and there's no way I can go home without it. So I didn't. The slime green of the "spooky" sign is gorgeous, too, and would you believe this incredible find was also
just a little over five dollars? That's actually kind of the average price for this entire selection. Holy cow.
ABSOLUTELY APPALLED Ghosts
This sign - with light-up eyes! - is supposed to be one of those "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" things, but instead all these ghosts just look horrified and repulsed by what they're seeing, which is apparently you,
the viewer, unless they're looking over your shoulder while you browse the web, you gross-ass skeev
. I think the third ghost is what really sells this piece, one eye recessed into a darkened socket and the other just grotesquely sewn shut. Plus, it looks like it's trying not to vomit. Tying it all together is the unusually ornate, fancy patterns on these ghosts; apparently their skin is made from some pretty tasteful fabric.
And they're about to ruin it with barf because of you.
Oh my GOD
THESE LITTLE SHITS.
Who told them they could be this precious!?! Who told them?!
Can you even stand
those little smiles? The one in the middle is just so nonchalant, head just slightly tilted like it's not sure why you're screaming but it doesn't particularly care all that much, either.
The best thing about these skeletons is probably that they're technically life sized.
I mean, we were all exactly these proportions at some
point, weren't we?
What I'm trying to say is my brain immediately reads these little dweebs as skeletal fetuses. With hats.
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