Written by Jonathan Wojcik

Michael's 2016!

Good old Michael's craft stores are usually one of the very first U.S. retail chains to stock their Halloween merchandise, but I've learned in recent years to hold off my Michael's coverage until at least the end of August, when they finally finish putting everything out, from the hundred dollar high-end decorations to the cheap, rubber children's toys, neither of which we're really drawing any line between. These are the most comment-worthy items Michael's is peddling this season!

Squishy Zombies

These soft, squishy, legless zombies and mummies were the first things greeting me at Bel Air, Maryland's Michael's. While mummies are usually superior in quality to zombies, this mummy just doesn't hold a candle to the zombie's mis-matched eyeballs and exposed brain matter. Its "Got Brains" shirt, as you may notice, is a statement rather than a question.

Spooky Glow Putty!

Glow in the dark "putty" available in either green pumpkin jars or purple ghost jars, which have to look quite nice with their facial features glowing. Unfortunately, I can tell this is that gelatinous kind of "putty" that eventually dries out and hardens. Cheap!

"Grow Your Own Monsters"

There were a few varieties of these, but the ballerina skeleton is clearly the best choice. Sure, the pirate ghost is holding a smaller, black pac-man ghost for no reason and that's PRETTY swell, but how often do you get a skeleton in a pink tutu at all, let alone one that can grow into a giant, spongy, slimy skeleton in a pink tutu?

Eyeball Balls

Transparent, rubber balls with smaller, floating eyeballs inside are surprisingly common, but this is the first time I've seen those eyeballs surrounded with fuzzy, rubber sea-urchin bodies. It's like some kind of mutant, one-eyed germ trapped in a gelatinous egg!

Stretchy Mini Body Parts

Sometimes, all it takes is a change of packaging to make the mundane feel special. I've seen similar body parts sold in small bags, but cram them all into a tiny laboratory beaker and you've got my attention all over again! I also appreciate how the cheap materials and colors only make these organs look all the grosser. I can almost really believe these are the clammy, pickled appendages of a very tiny, greasy man.

Battery-free Flashlights

These spooks are actually those flashlights you can keep lit by repeatedly squeezing a trigger on their side, the best part of which is really just the screeching, grinding sound they consequently produce. In a Halloween context, it only makes sense!

Foam Haunted House Kit

These are a recent item Michael's has sold many, many variations upon each year, and they're kind of like inedible gingerbread houses.

You will notice that this particular foam rubber house has some exceptional character designs, like these ghosts whose heads are possibly also marshmallows, one of which is also a cyclops with sprinkles on top.

As a child, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man confused me into thinking ghosts in general had something to do with marshmallow.

Also inhabiting this house is a spooky-eyed skeleton mummy and one of the best pumpkins I have ever seen.

Light-up Stretchy Spiders

These jiggly, jelly-like spiders flash bright colors when struck hard enough, but the real selling point for me is just that beautiful, softly translucent rubber. These spiders look so gummy and gooey I just want to eat them up.

Spooky Windups

The hopping eyeball here is a time-honored and ubiquitous classic, but it's not often I see them with creepy RED feet and irises. The ghost, which rolls on tiny wheels, is another I've seen before, but never with fangs. Meanwhile, the pirate skull and dapper pumpkin are an entirely new kind of wind-up toy in my personal experience, with mouths that flap and chatter as they hop!

Beanie Boos

It's amazing "Beanie Babies" are even still a thing. Their large-eyed "Beanie Boos" line began as a ripoff of Yoohoo and Friends, but now seems to have outlasted their popularity. Anyway, I actually love this bright orange, mouthless ghost that actually SAYS "boo" all over it. There's just something appealing about every one of those features.

Big Rubber Toads

Getting out of the "cheap toys" and into the "decor," these massive croakers are nonetheless something I'd have carried around and played with as a child. I've seen them for sale online and in Halloween-specific shops, but this is the first time I've seen them in such a major chain, and they're realistic enough that they need not even be limited to the Halloween season. There are a million and one contexts where a large toad is appropriate. I daresay there may be no context in which they aren't.

Cauldron Witches

Available in two styles, these are just large enough to serve as fairly adequate candy bowls for trick-or-treaters. Cauldrons with feet, particularly witch-like feet, are common enough that I insist on classifying them as a Halloween monster in their own right, or at least as a subcategory of witches themselves. Some witches just want to be their own cauldrons, and we should all support their decision.

Pumpkin People

Michael's has a gendered pair of pumpkinoids EVERY single year, like clockwork, but always a slightly different design. Rarely an outstanding design, but I'd be remiss if I didn't include this year's pair. As usual, the "lady" pumpkin has the much more adorable outfit.

Hanging Skull and Crossbones

Strangely, a three-dimensional skull and crossbones is something I've very rarely seen as a Halloween decoration at all, and this one goes through the extra trouble of featuring plastic chains and shackles. Perfect for any pirate, poison, or poisonous pirate theme you may be going for this year. Did I make that poison pirate joke already? I think I did. I think I did in a different article, but I don't care. I just want them to be a thing.

Miniature Ghost Fence

Of all the tiny dollhouse-size miniatures this year, nothing is cuter than this tiny ghostly fence. I'd really like to have this fence for real, honestly, but I've neither the experience, money, energy, time, tools or facilities to make large things out of wood anytime soon, so I'll just have to settle for this pocket-size imitation. Yeah, pocket-size. Why shouldn't somebody carry a tiny, fake ghost fence in their pocket?? Give me a reason, coward.

Tiny Mummies ON THE GO

AAAAUUUUUGGGGHHHH, this is so cute I can't stand it! I think these are for scrapbooking, or something? I don't even know! I think you're just supposed to glue them to whatever the hell you want, and can you think of anything in your entire home that would not be improved by these little, innocent mummies marching with such intense determination? Where are such tiny mummies even headed?!

Lounging Skeleton Bowl

This is presumably a candy dish, but you could also put loose change or just about anything you want in there and it'll look like this chill skeleton is taking a bath in it.

Mummy is Watching

Every year, we're assailed with a new tidal wave of mummy/mommy puns, and this time, we're reminded that either our moms or our dessicated cadavers are watching. Watching for what, we don't know. I like the skeeziness of those bloodshot eyeballs, though.

Tiny Signs

These wooden signs are only about three inches tall! There's a bunch of them available, but these three are the best. I hand-picked the three best and I put them on the ground to take a better picture of them. It's a miracle I've never once been tailed or pulled aside by security at any of the hundred some stores in which I've paced in circles, inspecting every single Halloween object and repeatedly attempting to obtain a usable photograph. I don't even want to think about how much time out of my life has been spent doing this in total.

Spooky Skull Keys

Oh, I get it, SKELETON keys! And in three different sculpts, but only negligibly different. I guess if you really, really need three oversized, fake keys with skulls on them, you'll want them to be at least a little varied.

Fake, Cardboard Book Boxes

They look like small, fake books that would never realistically exist, but they're actually also boxes you can put stuff in! It's a crying shame they aren't just actual books, though. I'd love a book just called "POISON" with that gorgeous cover.

Some Other Mummy is Watching

...And yes, if the hanging, bloodshot mummy isn't quite your cup of tea, there's also this standing figurine making the same exact joke in an entirely different art style. Who along the chain of command is responsible for this? Who picked out two completely different "mummy is watching" gags for the same store, the same year? I want to say this is some kind of social faux pas. It's gotta be, just a really obscure one.

Red Velvet Skull

This is one of those things that makes less sense the longer you dwell on it, but also becomes steadily cooler. There's something at once hideously gaudy and tastefully gothic about a fake human skull covered in fake red velvet. It's the kind of thing that's really only going to fit into a home with just the right aesthetic throughout, like "hideously cursed pool bar."

$100 Creepy Clock Wreathe

Yeah, that's right. This thing is $99.99. Granted, it looks rad as hell, but I don't think the clock even functions, and you could probably make an even cooler one yourself for a heck of a lot less. Still, it's the idea that matters, and this is a pretty nice looking idea. Thanks for the free inspiration, Michael's.

Eyeball Roses!

Roses with eyeballs in the middle are a common sight throughout horror video games and fantasy, but I've never seen them actually sold as decor! The glittery eyeballs could be better, but you can always put your own, more realistic eyeballs in there. I realize the same is true of any other fake rose, but most fake roses don't come in purple or orange and don't have bendable black stems. I'd love to see a Halloween costume using these as appendages or eyestalks, there's just so much you can do with them!