Haunting Halloween Costume History

— Arnold Schwarzenegger has a scary new role: He's haunting costume suppliers who can't scare up a mask of the California governor-elect in time for Halloween.

"We weren't prepared for the California recall election. You just can't find an Arnold mask," says John Majdoch of Halloween Express, a wholesale distributor.

"When Arnold was purely a movie star, you couldn't turn him into a costume without a licensing agreement," Majdoch says.

"Now that the Terminator is a politician, he's a public figure and in many respects, he's much more in the public domain. There's a reason Halloween and Election Day are so close together. To some people, they're equally scary."

Schwarzenegger might rightly feel the demand for masks of his mug is a boost to his political fortunes. Costume suppliers say Halloween mask sales have accurately determined every election since Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980.

"We've still got Gore masks. They're not exactly a big seller these days," says Diana Krohn of Buycostumes.com. "Bush masks still sell pretty well."

"We had Bush slightly ahead of Gore in terms of mask sales on the Halloween just days before the controversial 2000 election, even in Florida," says Majdoch.

"Too bad nobody asked us before the big recount." The Hulk Set to Clobber Spidey

This year, expect pirates, princesses, gangsters and elves to show up at your door for treats. Old favorites are making a return, thanks in part to the popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lord of the Rings and Chicago.

Some big sellers from last year are still going strong, including Spider-Man, SpongeBob SquarePants and Harry Potter.

It's not easy to predict demand. Still, Halloween experts say one thing always holds true — nobody wants to wear the same outfit two years in a row.

"You can always count on superheroes. But I think the Hulk is going to prove more popular than Spider-Man," says Peter Blum of Abracadabra costume store in Manhattan.

"The turn to pirates and princesses is really a turn to the traditional, and it doesn't hurt to ride the coattails of a hot movie."

That's good news for Jason and Freddy. With remakes and new installments of old slasher films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th, Hollywood's most celebrated psychopaths are enjoying a resurgence.

Of course, there's always the guy who'll dress up in a huge box of blood-splattered Corn Flakes, hold a toy knife in his hands and call himself a "Cereal Killer." That never goes out of style. Creepy Commercialism

Halloween is one way to reflect on American history. Look at what kids are wearing and you can tell a lot about society, at least according to Phyllis Galembo's Dressed for Thrills (Abrams), a photographic look at Halloween costumes over the past century.

America has been celebrating Halloween since Colonial times. The holiday traces its roots back to ancient pagan traditions, when folks would dress up on All Hallows Eve to frighten away evil spirits.

But in the 1930s, Halloween took a scary turn toward commercialism.

Radio shows and breakfast cereal companies began marketing their trademarked characters as trick-or-treat costumes. In many a household, mom's homemade efforts just couldn't compete.

Thus, a new industry was born, as miniature versions of Superman, Dick Tracy and Mickey Mouse walked door to door, collecting candy and letting the world know their brand loyalty.

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