Modern monsters for Halloween

Do we really need imaginary fiends to be frightened this Halloween? Don't take it personal, Frankenstein. It's not your fault, Freddy Krueger. Even newer, sicker members of the dread set - yes, even you, Jigsaw Killer - are creeping lower on the ...

Modern Monsters
Models (from left) back row: Nate Sutton, Phaidra Yunker and Kellan Davis. Front row: Ellery Tofte and Beau Brandner, all of the Northern Prairie Performing Arts Touring Co.

Do we really need imaginary fiends to be frightened this Halloween?

Don't take it personal, Frankenstein. It's not your fault, Freddy Krueger. Even newer, sicker members of the dread set - yes, even you, Jigsaw Killer - are creeping lower on the creepy scale, into Stay Puft Marshmallow Man territory.

Why? The fictional seems trivial when the economy is tanking, an uncertain election is looming, the planet's getting hotter,and our little place on it is about to get frigid. For now, at least, make-believe macabre is out. Our goose bumps come from modern monsters.

Sure, you'd rather tangle with a depressing 401(k) statement in a dark alley than a werewolf. But which is more common in your life, being in a dark alley, or reading the day's headlines and thinking, "Oh, crap"?

Unfortunately, the ravages of reality aren't always easy to illustrate and probably can't be bought at one of those makeshift Halloween stores. We've provided help for some obvious examples, but don't let our take on society's anxieties hamstring you. Sky's the limit when the sky is falling.


Swing voters

A swing voter mulls lunch: "I like the Reuben's stance on sauerkraut and Swiss cheese, but the veggie burger might lower my blood pressure. Is it too late for breakfast? Wait, I had eggs yesterday. What are the specials again? Oh, really? That sounds un-American."

We've been staring at this election menu for a year now. Those unsure about what to order aren't that hungry. But no one is as popular in the weeks before a presidential election as the swing voter.

Politicians, the press and pollsters seek them out, wondering what might woo them. They are puzzled, popular and, to the rest of us who've known who we're backing for a year or more, petrifying.

No, you say? It doesn't freak you out that the outcome of the election turns on the votes of people who aren't yet sold one way or the other? What? You're one of them!? Quick, get me some garlic, a wooden stake and an issues grid!

Costume-wise, playing the swing voter is a snap. A mix of red and blue and a befuzzled look is all you need. We went the extra mile with face paint, custom-sewn sweats and a windsock - no one lets the wind whip them around like a swing voter, after all.

- Dave Roepke

The pink slip


What is that?!

It stalks your every waking thought, howls from every dark shadow and lurks behind your last pay stub. It's .... it's ... AHHHHH! A job termination notice!

Government bailouts, erratic stocks, menacing headlines - in these uncertain economic times people can be pretty jumpy about their jobs. You can take advantage of it by becoming - what else? - a pink slip; that classic, dreaded notification that the company thinks it would be better off without you.

The best thing about this costume is it's easy - downright minimalist, even. All you have to do is don a pink slip with the word "fired" stenciled on it.

It may be best not to wear this one to office Halloween parties. No reason to give your employer a convenient segue to let you go. ("So, Hanson, I see you're wearing a pink slip tonight. Hah-hah. That's funny. Speaking of termination ...).

- J. Shane Mercer

Global warming

Everywhere you go, everyone is scared to death of global warming. It's enough to spook the wolfman right out of his fur. You, however, can turn this rampant dread into costume gold.


Imagine the shrieks of terror you will elicit from every corner of the room when you show up at the party in this dashing ensemble of doom. All it takes to embody global warming is a blue T-shirt painted with a map of the world, a blue stocking cap and some fake ice cubes atop your noggin to represent a melting polar ice cap. Other accessories are optional - such as toy buildings in the middle of the oceans on your shirt symbolizing cities flooded by rising tides.

Some have said global warming is as mythical as the boogeyman. But the only thing mythic about this costume is the mythically sized splash you're going to make at the next Halloween shindig. Hey, nothing says "impact" like solar and aquatic annihilation.

- J. Shane Mercer

The bailout, er, rescue plan

Congress is typically more crippling than terrifying. But watching its members try to calculate the political effect of approving a bank bailout that's light on the specifics and as expensive as the defense budget was enough to make anybody who was paying attention reach for the Maalox.

Factor in an upcoming presidential election, and the bailout talks had the jittery feel of a horror movie - albeit one where the red fluid was ink and viewers eventually have a chance to choose a new cast.

So expect people to turn away in fear - or perhaps pen a sternly worded letter - when you show up as the bailout bill, decked out in an Uncle Sam costume handing out money. Only cough it up to people willing to say they are from Wall Street, and make them promise to use it to help out Main Street. Yes, you might get punched.

Uncle Sam get-ups can be rented - that's how we got ours - but all you really need is some flag-wear and a white beard. We used fake money. If you opt for the real stuff, please let us know where you're partying on Friday.


- Dave Roepke

The impending Valley winter

Is that shiver running up your spine the imminent chill of winter in North Dakota and Minnesota, or sheer, paralyzing terror?

There is no scarier monster in this region than the winter, with its temps in the negative 30s, snow up to your neck and, of course, wind strong enough to decapitate. That's why all letters from folks in this region to loved ones in other parts of the country mention the weather conditions within the first two lines.

To get the look of this frigid, frightening fiend, decorate some white jogging pants and a white T-shirt with polyester stuffing (like Poly-Fil). You can darken the stuffing with a light mist of black spray paint if you want it to look like snirt (that snow-dirt combo that appears after the snow's been on the ground awhile).

A few Christmas-ornament icicles hanging down and a shoulder fan simulating the incessant wind complement the ensemble. Be afraid. Be very afraid!

- J. Shane Mercer

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