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.

"So many things come and go," Galembo says. "But it's interesting how many characters and images remained and evolved with technology."

Of course, these days, Halloween is not just for kids. Customers are alternatively supplying sexy costumes for adults and poodle-sized witch hats for pets. Here's a look at some of this year's trickiest treats.

1. Masquerading a Mutt On a dark, scary night, dogs are great trick-or-treat companions — and of course, you and your pet will need to coordinate your wardrobes.

Doggie pirates and angels are very big this year, according to BuyCostumes.com, one of many costume companies devoting greater efforts this year to critter costumes. Other hot pet costumes: Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Superman and Zorro.

Pet Supplies Plus reports that about half their customers buy pet apparel for various holidays, including Halloween. At least 18 percent want matching wardrobes. Animal costumes range in price from $8 to $22.

2. Little Miss Muffet’s Hot Haunt If you're single, your idea of a Halloween thrill might not come in a plastic pumkin-shaped basket filled with candy. Here's some fashion advice:

For ladies, dressing like a French maid or a hooker is out. What's in? Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, Charlie's Angels and Trinity from The Matrix.

"Adults take a cue from celebrities on Halloween," says Sheri Maxwell of ExtremeHalloween.com. "You still get women who want to be sexy cats and bunnies, but dressing as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader is very hot."

For $79, women can put a new twist on Little Miss Muffet, with an outfit that would heat up any man's tuffet, and attract way more than spiders.

Many men are still donning swords and sandals, like Russell Crowe in Gladiator. But with a third installment of The Matrix coming out, Keanu Reeves clones are also big sellers, Maxwell says.

But if you're having a party, you should also expect an army of green-skinned guys, eager to play the Hulk — a costume that requires not much more than torn jeans and body paint, not to mention years of dieting and exercise. There's always the Invisible Man.

3. The Father-and-Son Elvis Experience

Are you lonesome tonight? Not this Halloween. The world of Elvis impersonation is now a father-and-son experience, now that Graceland had released the first official Elvis jumpsuits for kids and adults.

Teach your kid to swivel his hips, snarl his lips, and drive girls wild. The King's official Web site offers the legendary "Eagle Jumpsuit" — just like the one Elvis wore on stage — available in three kiddie sizes for $25 and a "one size fits most" man-sized model for $95.

After you put little Elvis to bed, big Elvis might want to seek after-hours Halloween fun. Graceland is offering "Burnin' Love" boxer shorts ($15), with flames shooting out from all the right places.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.