Written by Jonathan Wojcik

Halloween at Fred Meyer 2016!

As I may have mentioned a hundred thousand overly-excited times, the end of September marks the biggest move I've probably ever made in my life, having lived since almost infancy along the East Coast and for about a year in the dry and dusty midwest. To cut an almost article-length tangent down to only an article intro, my wife and I now live in Portland, Oregon, where we're soaking up the cool, dark, damp climate as greedily as The Thing soaked up Wilford Brimley.

Naturally, one perk of moving to the clear opposite side of the country in time for October is a whole new world of kitschy Halloween goodies to hunt down, photograph and blog about like The Thing hunted down, photographed and blogged about Wilford Brimley.

One such frontier is Frey Meyer, a store chain that only exists out here in the Pacific Northwest as far as I'm aware. If you've never been, imagine a Wal-Mart grocery store so upscale that its other departments, such as clothing, jewelry and electronics, are sometimes their own little ritsy stores-within-stores, like a mall, or even accessed via escalator.

They're off to a pretty good start with this six foot tall Halloween door banner, depicting a pumpkin-headed scarecrow seductively posing in a haunted graveyard. "I know what you're here for" it says with a wink, flexing its slender yet hardened body of musty straw.

We sure do!

Heck, just look at these haunted doorbells! These are a fairly common item with a thousand variations, but these might be the coolest looking specimens I've ever seen. The sculpts are just killer, and this may be one of the first cases in which the vampire is even cooler looking than the skeleton. He just has the clammy, emaciated rat-man look that tends to make any given vampire so much better.

The witch, however, wins the prize by way of stabbing guests with a spider that is either attached to her sticky, froglike tongue or actually part of her tongue. Sure, the Skeleton gets a rather adorable little snake, but only the witch has both a tongue and a venomous critter, and as you know I'm wont to do, I can only interpret what I see here very literally; that this is a witch who consists entirely of a face with a hat and a spider tongue and who also lives as a doorbell for some reason. Why the hell not? Witches be crazy, that's the popular saying with the kids right? And they say this as a form of praise because they admire the free spirit and wild imagination of witches, and want to hang out with them at their killer parties...???

The first photograph I ever took in a Fred Meyer wasn't even when we hit Oregon, however, but in an isolated little desert town where we stayed the night on our road trip and I may or may not have gotten what may or may not be bed bug bites. I just needed batteries, but I knew this "Fred Meyer" place might also have some interesting new haunters running around. It was smaller, and its seasonal aisle paled in comparison to those I'd see in Portland locations, but these lovely ghosts have been present at all of them.

I love that intentionally weathered, slightly rotten look, which is supposed to make the decoration itself look like an old, hand-carved wooden sculpture, but since it's not made of any such material anyway, I can only end up reading the ghosts themselves, conceptually speaking, as being made of wood. Just a wooden ghost dad and his woooden ghost kids having a night on the town, singing Halloween carols, flashing their giant "SPOOKY" at unsuspecting locals. How do you even have to die to become a ghost made of wood? I'm, uh, asking for a... friend.

Check out these "push lights!" You can mount them on your wall and just bump them on and off. They come in pumpkin, of course, but more interesting is the eyeball and Totally Not Jack Skellington. That's the second Jack Skellington knockoff we've seen this year. I actually really look forward to a day when he becomes as ripped off as Rudolph, who also began as a copyrighted character.

Metallic Jack-O-Lantern mummies?! Wait a minute...why is this almost one of the ONLY times I've seen figurines of pumpkins that are mummies!? Come to think of it, I've seldom seen figurines of pumpkins crossed over with any other monsters. Where the hell are all the other mumkins? And vampkins? And frampkinsteins? And skelekins? And...what would ghost ones be called? Bookins? No, that just reads like "book," and that's far too silly. Obviously they would be BOOPKINS.

Speaking of other monsters, you can also pick up a bunch of them with no arms or legs on fancy little stands, of which the mummy, as usual, has the spookiest and cutest appearance.

Here's another weirdo witchy item, consisting of a light-up, talking crystal ball and a pair of green hands. The hands are the interesting part, because coupled with the fact that this item also speaks in a witchy voice, I once again can't help the impression that I'm actually seeing a complete, actual witch here. Why else would there be hands present, but nothing else? This witch is nothing but her own hands and her crystal ball.

My appreciaton for witches has SKYROCKETED since last year.

Slapping clown stuff onto a skeleton doesn't usually look quite as good as either an actual clown or a regular skeleton, but the monochrome of this specimen is pretty tasteful and looks particularly good on a bones.

I know this isn't the kind of quip I usually make, but for once, but this is one baked-ass witch. Baked or drunk or high as a kite on something. Actually, being a witch, that's entirely appropriate and the answer is likely a combination of toad secretions and fungi. "hEyy kIdss yOuuu gOtTa tr-trY tHis...you GOTta..you...this ERGOT *weak air guitar*"

The one major downside to Fred Meyer is their seemingly nonsensical pricing. Some items we've looked at were fairly reasonable, but others? Those doorbells are more than twenty some bucks, which is why I didn't buy any, and these tiny little snowglobes are $5.99. I don't think I've ever seen snowglobes of this size and quality for more than three bucks, and even that was pushing it...even if one of them is some sort of hilariously fat owl with a space helmet, presumably how it can breathe comfortably when it isn't Halloween. MUST BE NICE.

Fred Meyer also offers a variety of light-up skeleton children. It's actually not very often I see pumpkin-headed skeletons, though that's still not the same as the pumpkin itself also being a skeleton. The best aspect of these, especially the witch, is how strongly they communicate "trick or treaters getting electrocuted."

This little wall decoration is more interesting the more I dwell on it. For one thing, it's a framed skull. An entire skull hung up in a lovely picture frame. Also, its eyes light up, so we know it's haunted. More importantly, it's also emerging from what looks like a page out of a book at a distance, but up close, the only text is "Happy Halloween" between 65 and 72 times. Yes, I attempted to count them and account for how many that skull could be covering...unless it's a cheating lie and the skull was specifically placed here to make it appear like there were more "Happy Halloweens" than we're actually seeing. Not in my class.

No, no, I said a pumpkin that is also a skull. Not a skull inside a pumpkin. Still really cool, though. If you're going to buy a fake light-up pumpkin, and I'm certainly a fan, you may as well buy one with a skull erupting out of it too.

Best of all, there's even a light-up hollow skeleton body to go with it! These bodies can really be for any pumpkin or pumpkin-sized object, and I believe I've spoken in the past about the possibility of putting a fishbowl on top. Not with an actual fish inside, of course, unless it's only hanging out in there for maybe a day to show off your fishbowl-headed-ghoul creation. Fish don't like bowls. With an adequate lid, though, you could put a tarantula or some cockroaches in there and they would probably be fine.

Now, these light-up figurines are interesting in three ways: they've all got REALLY cute and striking design styles, they're sculpted to look like they're also made entirely of burlap for some reason, and they've all got gaping, empty stomach cavities occupied by an orb spider. Are these, like, subtle variations on Oogie Boogie? The ghost is cool, yes, but once again I'm slightly more drawn to that cute witch, and even moreso because even her skin has the burlap texture. She's not just any witch, but some sort of magically animate witchy rag-doll with a spider for a digestive system.

I was just showing you this fine HOCUS on our last page, but I didn't take the time to actually review it yet. Of every Hocus I've ever seen, this specimen exhibits the most drastic hat-to-leg ratio, enough that, as some pointed out, it might even be an entire regular witch hiding herself inside a very, very large hat, but I'd still rather think large hats are just something Hocuses value.

Perhaps that means this light-up Hocus feels inadequate in comparison, but what she lacks in the gigantic hat department is easily made up for in her long legs, polka-dotted stockings and curly shoes, so she shouldn't feel bad. You know what they say, you're either a leg man or a giant hat man, right? That's what they say??

Last but not least, and probably the most expensive thing here if I bothered to actually check, is this needlessly large, heavy statuette of a disembodied skull with a princess crown and bird wings. The way the wings connect where her neck ought to be tells me that this isn't just a case of any old skull with the body removed, but that this is her complete form, a winged skull who is also the princess or possibly full-fledged queen of Halloween.

You will show her royal majesty the respect she deserves, even if not ESPECIALLY when she's perches on telephone poles to scream at nothing in particular and fights with seagulls over stray french fries.