NYC Halloween Store Employees on the Best, Worst, and Wildest Costumes They’ve Ever Seen

Published October 31, 2019

Helena Bonham Carter photographed by Peter Lindbergh for our May 2012 issue.

This place has everything. Clowns. Colored lights. A massive black cape you’ll wear exactly once and then keep in your attic before selling at a yard sale. Joe Biden’s face on a very limp mask. It’s not New York’s hottest club; it’s New York’s hottest Halloween store. Although if the smoke machines, “Thriller” remixes, and general aura of bad decisions are any indication, it is also New York’s hottest club. Having gone in to excavate all the gory details of Halloween store horror, I got out of Halloween Adventure in the East Village with a $49.99 pirate-wench costume that I was certain I would wear to the grave. But first, I was regaled by tales of valor from the least easily fazed people on earth: New York City’s Halloween store employees. You know them–they’re on the front lines between you and public humiliation at the Village Halloween Parade. They’re the ones ready to make sure your Jules-as-Claire Danes-as-Juliet-as-an-angel wings fit right and your carefully applied Phoebe Waller-Bridge birthmark is just so. They’re here for you to confess your wildest ideas and darkest desires and, unlike priests or therapists, they are under no obligation not to tell us all about it. Long may they reign.

Before every spooky storefront turns into a pumpkin at midnight tonight (or a Christmas store), the vanguard of this city’s quirky cutting edge spills its guts on everything from fake cleavage to how many Keanu Reeves costumes is too many Keanu Reeves costumes.

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MICHAEL
Spirit Halloween, Soho

“Some people come here wanting to be superheroes. But they also come here wanting to be very specific characters from their favorite anime. One little girl wanted to be a bat zombie sorceress. Who is also wearing a grim reaper mask.”

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KEVIN
Halloween Adventure, East Village

“The weirdest thing I’ve ever seen? I’m so jaded now. One guy asked me for just the string that a mask comes on. Only the string. I said no and he said, ‘What about some kind of foam?’ And I said no and he said, ‘I know this store better than you.’” 

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SOLEIL
Ricky’s, Soho

“Someone came in looking to recreate the look of that rich Italian guy on a yacht. He was a younger guy in his 20s and he came in here trying to look really old. We had facial hair and silver hairspray and aging makeup. And tanning stuff that we sell year-round, so he bought that as well.”

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ALI
Spirit Halloween, Midtown

“The most creative costume I’ve ever seen is someone who bought a banana. A full banana suit. And then they bought cop equipment. So they were a cop banana.”

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KEVIN
Halloween Adventure, East Village

“Someone told me that, as a whole group, she and all her friends were going to be different Keanu Reeves. She was doing John Wick, so I got her a beard. Another group said they were gonna go as different Matthew McConaugheys. Alright, alright, alright.”

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KELSEY
Spirit Halloween, Midtown

“People come in and ask for fake boobs. We do not sell fake boobs.”

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MICHAEL
Spirit Halloween, Soho

“In 2017, there was a political section where all the Trump stuff was and there was a border patrol costume there. People found it funny then, but once border patrol agents started killing people—or, I guess, they’ve always been doing that, but once people started paying attention to it–we stopped selling it. We definitely don’t sell that anymore.”

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ANITA
Spirit Halloween, Midtown

“Someone got mad at me because of my outfit. They thought they could buy it here, but I had gotten it at a different store. So they told me I was no help. It wasn’t a costume. It was just jeans and a shirt. I guess it looked like Kim Possible?”

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SOLEIL
Ricky’s, Soho

“Have you seen that one show, Euphoria? Yeah. We’re going to run out of glitter.”