Shopping’s a Hellish Experience

Our Visit to a Pair of Pretty Awesome Year-Round Halloween Stores 

September 13, 2012 — Hitting up a Halloween store, a really great one, just underscores how much we half-ass our lives the rest of the year. I mean, every day we get up and put on the most banal, unoriginal clothes. On Halloween, the range of costumes that we can attire ourselves in is only limited by the imagination. For most of the year, we decorate blandly, restrainedly. On Halloween, our extreme makeover is fog machines, giant animatronic monsters, lighted everything.

And the Halloween store makes that point with aisles and aisles of how morbidly fantastic our lives could be if we only buy enough stuff made out of black rubber.
At Halloween Costume World

This year, we started our season by visiting two Massachusetts Halloween stores, the Halloween Outlet and Halloween Costume World.

Both are that rare beast known as the year-round Halloween store, so they’re pretty hardcore Halloween destinations, even if their Halloween displays are toned down during the non-peak months. I’ll start with the Halloween Outlet, at 540 West Boyle Street in Worcester.

Halloween Outlet has been around for two decades, and its slogan is, “We sell fright right.” The exterior of the store absolutely demands that you pull into the parking lot, and it’s on that black asphalt where the cool stuff starts. A massive jack-in-the-box demon dominates the space and overshadows a pretty excellent Halloween hearse. The area directly in front of the store was chalked with green and purple tentacles, and the exterior was lined with display windows decorated for a gross, gross Halloween.

My favorite aspect of the store was the fact that there was an adult entrance and a kids’ entrance. We had a young child with us, so we split up the party. In some profound statement on life, the kids’ entrance was locked, so they had to come through the rated R door anyway. Fortunately, that only meant that they had to walk through a short entryway where bodies wrapped in black bags hung down head-first from the ceiling, forcing you to bump your way through them for a couple of seconds. Nothing too traumatic. However, we were there at the very edge of the peak months, and it looked like they were still in the process of rendering it kid-unfriendly.

Along one of the walls was an amazing series of animatronic and pneumatic monsters. A ten-foot-tall skeleton that creaked wearily to attention when we passed. A large, demon pumpkin danced on its three legs. Clowns doing I’m not sure what because I had my eyes closed by that time. At the back of the store were a series of life-size zombie dioramas: an apocalyptic Main Street, ruined and crawling with the undead, and a disgusting bedroom with a vomiting woman and a decaying obese man in bed who looked like some kind of zombie Jabba the Hutt.

It was a pretty intense store, and not the type of place where you would shop for mere pumpkin-scented candles or Martha Stewart-style decorations.

Next we ventured on to Halloween Costume World at 480 Water Street in Fitchburg, just north of Worcester (pictures start at the end of the text). Its exterior isn’t as lurid as the Halloween Outlet, and is painted to look like a friendly stone castle.

After seeing a few of the really cool “not for sale” items in the store and then perusing his website, I can’t shake the belief that the owner of this particular establishment is a multi-millionaire and that this store is one of his passion projects. I might be projecting, though, since I’m always on the lookout for a quirky rich guy to give me a grant and fund this OTIS thingy that I currently only pay for in pounds of flesh.

First off, the store lives up to its name with just rows and rows of costumes-in-a-bag, latex masks, and various accessories (including one glass case filled with high-quality, realistic looking antique weaponry). And while Martha Stewart wouldn’t shop here either, it had lots of home décor, as well: giant rubber rats, bats and snakes, things to stake in lawns and drape over entryways.

Spaced throughout and then concentrated at the back of an adjoining room was just a pitchfork mob of full-sized monster figures. In the back room, they were all wired for sound, movement, and light, and the guy—whom I’m assuming is the afore-referenced and similarly assumed multi-millionaire—proudly turned them on for us (since again, we were there before the real busy season), treating us to a symphony of shrieking old women in creaking rocking chairs, skeletons clacking jaws and banging away at a large pipe organ, glowing demon eyes and flickering bone chandeliers. It was joyous.

Beyond that concentration of animatronic figures was a massive empty space that he was at the time in the process of transmographying into a haunted house called the Haunted Mansion. Actually, I say empty, but that’s because I’m redefining the word to mean “containing a full-sized spring-loaded female demon figure with an awesome 12-foot wingspan.” Also, the outside entrance of what would soon be the haunted attraction part of the store was flanked by two actual coffins, one of which, strangely, was a U.S. Air Force branded one. I found that deliciously creepy for some odd reason.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the tricked out Harley-Davidson motorcycle in a skull-and-top-hat shell towing a coffin. I just spent the last 10 minutes looking through the thesaurus entry on “way cool” and couldn’t find the right words, so please scrutinize the picture I included below.

Both Halloween Outlet and Halloween Costume World were great, whether you’re going to stock up for the holiday or looking to imbibe some atmosphere. I would try to rate one above the other, but since they’re only about four or five miles apart, nobody really ever has to make a choice between them.

All pictures from here on are of
Halloween Costume World.

My family. Whom I will never look at
the same ever again.


  1. Both places look great! We'll have to stop by them on our way to Salem this October. So glad the OTIS H'ween blog is back!! :)

  2. England is full of spooky castle ruins and graveyards where tombstones are so worn all you can see are the skull motifs but they don't go in for Halloween in a big way. I suppose when you're tripping over stories of witches, demons, and phantom coaches and can boast of whole towns decimated during plagues you don't have to play at horror but darnit! it wouldn't hurt to hang a few bags of fake cobwebs during Halloween! I suppose I have to be happy with sitting in pubs who laid their foundation stones in the 15 century. Even the estate agent's office where we rented our house could boast of being the site of a public house where Oliver Cromwell once visited. The agent told me that underneath were vaults with passages to the waterfront. If my office sat on top of something like that I'd set up my desk down there!

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  4. Just visited a Halloween store in Hadley, MA, where they sold zombie lawn flamingos that looked like they were rotting. Excellent.

  5. Have to come here in early September some time in the next few years. Would love to see many more pictures to see what else they have to offer. <3 this!