Whether you’ve already ordered Halloween costumes online for the whole family or are still planning out the ultimate in costume craziness to outdo your neighbours, that spooky season is once again right around the corner and it’s time to get cracking.

What is Halloween about if not the costumes and setting a spooky scene for a night of fun? In this vein, the Nation has searched high and low for fun and innovative suggestions to make Halloween 2011 the most memorable ever.

While the big thing in the communities is to order costumes off the internet weeks in advance to ensure that they arrive on time and are good to go by the beginning of October, not everyone is as organized or can find exactly what they want online.

For those willing to go it one step further and hit a major city centre like Montreal to pick up top-of-the-line ghoulish gear, spook-tacular disguises and the latest in electronic animatronics geared at scaring even the most seasoned Halloween fan, read on. The Nation has found some of the coolest, craziest and over-the-top items to trick out your Halloween and put it over the edge.

Going Medieval

Since we are not experts when it comes to costumes, the Nation decided to check out two very unique stores in Montreal to see what kinds of exclusive goods you could acquire to make this Halloween one for the record books.

For those looking to buy anything along the lines of medieval gear, such as clothing, swords, armour, helmets and just about anything that could trick out a Lord of the Rings/ Game of Thrones/ Army of Darkness (minus the chainsaw) look, look no further than Dracolite Medieval Boutique.

Sure, the items available in this shop are rather pricy as they are considered “clothing” instead of “costumes” but if you want a foam-type sword that looks authentic enough for a movie set and is safe enough for a child to use — this is the place that has it all. They also carry real swords of all sorts for big boys and girls too (very sharp and very dangerous.)

“We have a lot of LARP (Live Action Role Playing) products since we have a lot of customers who like to get together to do this. It is like Dungeons & Dragons in that it is an adventure but people will actually use these items for fighting.

“We sell a lot of these kinds of LARP products for Halloween because they are much safer than real blades or even wooden blades,” said manager Simon Charron.

Special for Halloween, the boutique brings in a whole line of handmade high-end leather masks from Nathalie Pirate who previously made similar items for the Cirque de Soleil as well as a whole line of intricate traditional Venetian ball masks, both of which are featured on the Nation’s cover this week.

Charron said Pirate makes two lines of masks — historical ones that would have been used in theatre over the centuries and which are predominantly red, and then a series of animal-themed ones.

The one featured on the cover with the long nose actually dates back to the Black Plague era and is known as a “Plague Doctor’s Mask” because a doctor of that time would have put herbs or medicines behind it to breathe in while treating sick patients.

For those looking for a different look, Dracolite had a wide selection of  masks with Celtic, armour, skull and animal themes as well as a series of other unique creations.

“The Venetian masks that we carry; these were worn traditionally to grand balls. The ones we carry are made of metal and Swarovski crystals and they are rather pricy. You can get a lot of cheap copies at costume stores for about $20 but these are high-end. You won’t find the same shapes or the same quality as these,” said Charron.

Within the store, Dracolite had a number of different Venetian masks, some adorned with many Swarovski crystals and in a variety of themes from cat to butterfly.

Were anyone to invest in either of these pricy masks, we suggest that later on they be used for home décor as they are so unique and stunning that it would be a shame to see them collect dust in a closet.

For more info:


All out Halloween A-Z

For those unsure of what they want to go with or those who are looking for a specific type of prosthetic nose, a licensed TV/movie character costume, a mask featuring any one of the last four American presidents or anything else that could fall under this category, look no further than Montreal’s Johnny Brown Theatrical Accessories.

Having been in the business of costumes and costume accessories for either special occasions or the theatre for many years, Johnny Brown manager André Secheur said Halloween has become a far less predictable affair when it comes to forecasting what will be big every year.

“About 20 or 30 years ago people would go with what they saw on TV or in the movies. So you would get a lot of Supermans or whatever because that’s what they saw and they would go with it.

“Today what happens is that we get people who come in and already have their own ideas of what they want to do. You won’t see 200-300 Supermans or Batmans anymore; there is a lot more variety in the characters now,” said Secheur.

For those interested in donning a mask as their favourite superhero or movie monster, Johnny Brown has an incredible selection. Lining the walls like trophies were masks for two different kinds Hulk masks (one high-end, one low-end), Spiderman, the clown from It, an alien, Darth Vader and Catwoman, just to name a few.

On another wall the store featured a series of form-fitting masks meant to appear more like human skin and these were available in the form of Hillary and Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, JFK and then some creepy guy who looks like the Emperor from Star Wars, but perhaps they are predicting the next president here.

“People really like these because they are very funny,” said Secheur

In terms of buying costumes and accessories, the selection was just about limitless. Not only was there just about every kind of packaged costume for those who are on the market for an Alice in Wonderland, angel, devil, cowboy or any other run-of-the-mill type of outfit but for those looking to construct their own there was plenty to get inspired by. The store had every type of priest hat available including sombreros, top hats, police hats, gladiator masks as well as a wide variety of ethnic garb. There were also a wide variety of rubber animal masks for those looking to dress up like a bunny, puppy, chicken and just about everything else in the barnyard and beyond.

For those looking to go all out as a mascot, for $300-350 there were brand-new confections that could be purchased in the form of dogs, lions and other animals that could later on be used for a sports team mascot.

For those looking to go really

creative when it comes to creating a one-of-a-kind look, Johnny Brown is Montreal’s go-to place for latex

prosthetics and feature an incredible selection when it comes to horns, ears, noses, chins and other prosthetic pieces.

Once more, as Secheur explained, these latex pieces are incredibly versatile as with just a little bit of oil-based make-up (available in store) your new nose can be the perfect shade of green, blue, pink or whatever else you fancy.

Specialty Items for the Home

While dressing one’s self up is part of the whole process, for those looking to really dress up the home in a spook-tacular fashion, this store had a series of animatronics (mechanized props) that even had us creeped out.

While the store had a whole graveyard full of life-sized ghosts, ghouls and zombies as well as tombstone props, some of the animated props really stood out. They included an old witch holding a cat that meows and screams, massive spring-out-and-recoil spider in webs (that will make anyone pee their pants), screeching and menacing clowns, a zombie-like old lady in a rocking chair that rocks.

There are also smaller animatronic items like zombie hands that could be set up anywhere and freak out just about anyone.

And, what haunted house would be complete without boundless fog to set that creepy vibe? For those looking to get their fog on, Johnny Brown also offers machines that will pump foggy goodness into the air or keep it down low for a ground fog look. With machines retailing for well under $100, there is years of fog-making magic in store for anyone who takes home one of these puppies.

For more info:


For the Do-It-Yourselfers

For those who can’t make it down south to go on a Halloween shopping spree or those who are just into good, old-fashioned homemade fun, here are a few suggestions that we found online that will make for some awesome thrills and chills.

Balloon Ghosts

You can make some simple and spooky ghosts from balloons, old bed sheets or white fabric of your choosing and fishing line, string or twine.

First, inflate the balloons and tie the piece of string to them long enough to affix it to whatever you are going to use such as an outdoor hanging light or whatever else you may choose. Next, cut a small hole through the middle of your fabric or bed sheet to lace your string through and voila, instant ghost.

You can also use markers to decorate your ghosts and this is something that the kids can enjoy participating in.

Beastly Footprints

To give trick-or-treaters the impression that something monster-like has recently visited your home, try using washable paint to make these easy-to-do footprints on your steps and sidewalk.

First, draw monster-like footprints onto paper and then cut them out. Next, use your cut-out to trace the image onto a sponge or simply cut around the footprint using either

scissors or an exacto knife. Next, pour washable paint into a pan and then use either side of the sponge to create left and right footprints leading up to your door.

Mason Jar Lanterns

You can easily create spooky images on your walls and outside of your home using mason jars, black construction paper and either twinkle-lights or tea lights.

First, select your jars and find paper that will fit well enough around them to cover the jar. Next, using scissors or an exacto knife, cut out the images you would like to project onto the walls or have shining through your jars. Next, simply tape your paper around your jar from the exterior and add either a twinkle-light or his old-school cousin, the tea light. These lights work similar to jack-o-lanterns but with a lot less mess.

Cardboard/Styrofoam Graveyard

If you really want to spook-out your front yard, there is no better way to do so than by adding your own do-it-yourself graveyard. Naturally not everyone has a series of headstones hanging around the house but you can always make your own by cutting out tombstones from old appliance boxes, Styrofoam or blue foam insulation.

Once cut out, spray paint them black and then paint the names on them. Adding the names can be especially fun with the help of kids who will often like to come up with silly names for the tombstones.

Haunted House Window Treatment

Never to be outdone, Martha Stewart came up with the ultimate in haunted house-crafts gear for this year in her Martha Stewart Halloween magazine. If you are really looking to go all of the way with decorating the exterior of your home for the big night, Stewart brilliantly suggested making cardboard “wooden boards” to board up the windows of your home.

To do this, all you need to do is simply cut out horizontal boards to go across your windows from cardboard so that you have a four or five for each window, mimicking the look of old-fashioned wooden boards to board up a home. The boards will need to be just a few inches longer than the width of your windows so that you can adhere the boards with double-sided tape, a staple gun, tacks or tiny nails.

To add to this effect, in the home she displays, each of the windows in the home with uniform orange window coverings applied from the outside so that very little activity or furnishings can be seen from the outside, adding to the haunted-house effect.

Whatever you decide to adorn yourself or your home with, on behalf of the Nation, have a safe and happy Halloween!