The PennyWhistle Halloween Book is one of those books that you already know everything about by looking at the cover. Published in 1989, this book contains everything you and your children need to know about giving and enjoying the happiest, scariest Halloween parties of your life. It’s full of PTA Mom warmth and cheese. I remember the Moms who volunteered for the Halloween parties in the elementary school cafeteria, which was dressed up with a few orange streamers for the occasion, but still reeked of tater tots. The PTA Moms handed out perfect, airy cupcakes and spoke to us like we were little puppies. There was also always that one gruff PTA Mom who brought grapes, and this book does not remind me of her.
Then there was my mom, who shamelessly passed off Jell-O No-Bakes as homemade pies. You had to admire it.
The Penny Whistle book is another one of the girlfriend’s acquisitions for the countdown. She grew up with this very book. She and her mother used to sit down and read the book together every season, though they never did get around to actually doing any of the ideas. You already know why: because you already know everything there is to know about this book—that the ideas are complicated and convoluted as fuck, and nobody—none of us—has time for that shit.
During the course of the Halloween Countdown, I may attempt some of the ideas presented in the book. But today I wanted to highlight the costumes section of this book, quaintly called, The Penny Whistle Costume Closet. Barf, Penny Whistle.
The costumes suggestions begin with ultra lame such as a Thermometer (white clothes + drawn red lines), a Traffic Light (black clothes + felt circles), or a Carrot (orange clothes). Then there’s the awkward, suggestions involving pinning a ton of balloons to your kid: a Bunch of Grapes, a Hot Air Balloon. And then there’s the ridiculously awkward, taping up cardboard boxes all over the place, like an idea for a Ice Cream Soda costume which also involves spray-painted fiberfill. Jesus, man. The fumes.
And then there’s the just plain stupid. I present Penny Whistle’s Top Eight Stupid Homemade Halloween Costumes of 1989:
Admit it, if you saw a kid come to your door wearing hangers, a hat box, and shoes strapped to his chest, you’d think…
God, what would you even think? I’d think this: wearing four shoes on your chest has got to be smelly.
2. Swimming Pool
Bottom line is: a blue leotard is not going to make that costume alone. You can’t be a pool wearing just blue. Penny Whistle knows this. So they came up with the ingenious idea to make a diving point off your head with a little doll. What a twist. Instead of being the diver or swimmer for Halloween, you’re the pool that they jump into.
Bonus points if you can find a little doll in diving position.
3. Tossed green salad
Make no mistake, it literally says to pin vegetables to yourself. Strap a green pepper around your waist. And wear carrots. If you want to know the most stupid idea in the book, it’s that. Wear carrots.
Whoa, weird kid alert. What’s a kid wearing a bunch of lettuce glued to their head doing looking for candy?
Be a kitchen! A colander becomes a hat. A spatula or whisk can get in the mix. Use the cast iron pans, it’ll make ’em tougher. The beauty of this is one is anything from the kitchen can become involved. Except the serrated knife, which is for bread only.
5. Money Tree
Be an expression in the English language for Halloween. Be an idiom! For an extra scary evening, use real money.
6. Floor lamp
What kid in August starts excitedly chattering about being a floor lamp for Halloween? A great way to get your Halloween candy stolen.
7. Garbage can
It says to use identifiable trash. I say go with the pizza rolls box and a couple of empty beer cans. Attach a limp stuffed animal to the can, too. It’ll probably scare old people. They get scared easily.
8. Grafitti Pad
This not a terrible costume per se, in fact, I can see how this could be quite fun getting all the kids in the neighborhood to sign you.
Of course, as cruel fate will have it, only the least-popular kid without friends would ever choose this costume. Hey Guys, will you sign me? Guys! Hey guys. Will you…