One in particular is the Beistle Jointed Skeleton.
The green-tinted Beistle Jointed Skeleton WAS Halloween.
When that particular design was hung on my bedroom door, I knew it was time for candy, costumes and leaves.
Coming home from school, before throwing my bookbag in the corner of my room, I would run down the hall to be greeted by that smiling, empty-eyed sentry that came to represent all things Halloween to me.
I remember it distinctly: the green tinge to the bones.
The fact that he was two-sided: a glossy side and a matte side. Glossy side was always out. Stylin'.
The way the skeleton was poseable.
I would constantly adjust his arms to look less "dancy" and more "menacing"--- at least as menacing as you can make a jointed skeleton look in two-dimensions. You didn't want it to look like he had his hands on his hips in a scolding "Where have YOU been all day?!" look. Nothing worse than a nagging skeleton.
No it was crucial to have the hands and arms in a pose to almost look like he would leap off the wall, like the knight in Young Sherlock Holmes and try and chase me with outstretched limbs.
The Beistle skeleton remained in the basement when it wasn't October, and I would visit him often. Taking him down off the shelf, blowing any dust off him, and making sure the Christmas decoration boxes didn't squish him.
Somewhere along the line (and I'm convinced it was the Great Spring Cleaning of '87) Mr. Beistle disappeared. 'Course it was a few years later when I went looking for him that I made the discovery of his disappearance. My mother pleaded amnesia and with each successive year, I wished I had that very skeleton back on my door to celebrate Halloween with me again.
Now at this point in the story you'll say: well why didn't you just go buy another?
I half-heartedly tried to find a similar one while window shopping in certain years, but I didn't start to actively look until the past few.
The advent of the internet puts everything at our fingertips now.
With a few clicks and keystrokes we can order just about anything and have it brought right to our front door.
But I enjoy the hunt.
And so I swore that unless I found the skeleton in an actual brick-and-mortar store, I would not purchase him. You see, to me, Halloween decorations are like adopting an animal at a shelter: you can't pick them, they have to pick YOU.
Last year... in a fortunate stroke of serendipity... I found him.
I was in Los Angeles in October and wandered into one of the few Ma & Pa party supply shops in the city: Vine American Party Store on Melrose Ave. It wasn't hard to get me in the door, they had all manner of inflatable Halloween decorations on the sidewalk and two huge display windows decorated to the hilt with Halloween merchandise---think Macy's in NYC in December.
Up the wooden stairs I went ("Hey they have creaky stairs in the store!") and found a little, less-traveled corner with many a dusty-but-unfaded cardboard jack o' lantern.
And then I saw it.
It hung in its pristine, unopened packaging. Face smiling out at me.
I carefully removed it from its metal peg, hands shaking with excitement, and flipped it over.
There was the smiling face again.
TWO SIDED! This was the one!
I thought about buying the remaining five on the peg, just to have back-ups but thought better of it.
It looked vintage.
It looked perfect.
The price tag?
Two dollars and fifty cents.
I was drawn to a second decoration, which I can vaguely remember and can only imagine it was tacked to a 3rd grade bulletin board in my early schooling.
The very '70s-looking glow-in-the-dark ghost pack (see left).
I took my treasures to the counter, beaming like I'd won the lottery.
The woman at the counter was super nice and helpful and we struck up a conversation about how great the vintage Beistle decorations are.
She went on to say that they had a few more cases in the back and they put out some every year, but "people these days tend to go for the blood and guts more than the older decorations."
"Not me." I said.
I wanted to keep everything intact as long as possible. I enjoyed the script of the Beistle logo. I enjoyed the mini-ad for the Beistle jointed werewolf on the back of the tag.
This was an experience I hadn't had when my parents had purchased it.
I only got to enjoy the skeleton already open and hanging on the door.
Now I would take in every moment of the experience.
I flipped him over and over. Carefully deciding if I wanted him to be matte or shiny. It was a tough choice as to choose one glossiness over another meant committing to the skeleton looking one direction or the other.
Going from my memory and, in effect, sticking to tradition, I went with the skeleton looking to the left (matte).
As you can see from the first picture in the post, he's glorious.
I had my choice of size while in the store and went with the largest they had: 55 inches. Once home and mounted on the wall I realized that I had picked the size proportional to myself.
As a kid, the skeleton seemed huge at 22 inches. As an adult, a corresponding 4 foot 7 inches seemed right at the time even though it's not the exact size I had in my childhood.
So came the end to my quest. Adventure Completed.
In thanks to Vine American, I would ask that should you ever be in the Los Angeles area, and have a zeal for vintage Beistle Halloween decorations, be sure to find them in the month of October. You won't be sorry.
Where are they?
Up the creaky wood stairs...
And into your heart.