If you’re a parent who wants to avoid buying licensed Hollywood Halloween costumes for the kids, e.g., Batman, Spiderman, and all those Disney princesses, good luck. According to online retailer PureCostumes.com, originality is on the outs. The more recognizable a character’s outfit is, say from a superhero box office hit, the more popular that costume will inevitably be. And even in hard economic times, Americans aren’t afraid to pay for fun and fear – and heroes. Last year, according to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent $2.5 billion on Halloween costumes ($1 billion for kids, $1.2 billion for adults, and $310 million for their pets – dogs love to go as cats). Toss decorations, pumpkins, and candy into the cauldron, and the average American spent $72.31 on the holiday.
We can thank a man named Ben Cooper (b. 1906 on the Lower East Side of NYC) for being the first to buy a license to produce and sell Disney costumes. That was in 1937; costumes often sold for only $1.25. (Today’s store-bought toddler-sized Spiderman goes for $20-30.) Ben Cooper, Inc. flew its highest in the 70s with popular masks of Nixon but the entire industry was spooked by the tragic 1982 Chicago Tylenol murders, in which seven people died after taking manipulated painkillers laced with potassium cyanide just one month before Halloween. The idea that the tamperer was still at large did not encourage trick or treating. The Feds haven’t yet found the villainous Tylenol killer. Just last year, they requested DNA samples from the incarcerated “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski as part of the on-going investigation into the Tylenol killings. The U.S. Marshall’s office recently auctioned his infamous disguise – a gray hoodie and pair of sunglasses – for $20,025. That’s scary expensive.