Night of the living deadhead

Halloween is fast approaching, a holiday that is all about good taste, decorum, and style. And nothing says elegance more than a $35 “slutty nurse” costume from Spencer Gifts.

Actually, that’s not true. There are plenty of “do-it-yourself” ways to make a bold and humiliating fashion statement this Halloween. I asked readers for some daring – but ill-advised – Halloween costume choices they’ve made or witnessed over the years, and many suggested different dead rock stars. Others, however, found even more creative ways to be tasteless.

  • Ellen Miller Sonet: “My husband, Steven, and I met at a Halloween party where the theme was ‘Dressed to Kill.’ This was during the Toxic Shock years, and someone dressed as a tampon.”
  • Wendy Whaples Scully: “My best friend and I went as jockstraps to a rugby party. We sewed larger-than-life jockstraps from sheets and stuffed them with pillows. The trouble was, we knew what we were, but the drunken rugby players hadn’t a clue!”
  • Beth Duke: “When I was about twelve months pregnant, I attended a party as a Guernsey cow. That was fairly humiliating.”
  • Jeff Rhind: “When I was seven years old, my mother made me wear a homemade, full-body, white bunny costume. There’s a picture of me smiling for the camera, but I remember distinctly how awful I felt.”
  • Marna Ehrech: “One year, my first husband and I went to a Halloween party and he was a pencil and I was a pencil sharpener. It was as bad as it sounds.”
  • Patrick Dodge: “Once, I dressed up as an old man on Viagra. I grayed up my hair, put on some spectacles, and picked up a cane. As for the rest of my costume, let’s just say I was generous to myself: A paint roller, a belt, and a pair of very large, very ugly pants.”
  • Alexandra Kilgore: “When I was a little girl, I really wanted to be a ballerina. But living in Vermont meant I would have to be a ballerina in a snowsuit. So, my dad suggested I be a gorilla ballerina, since he had a full gorilla suit.”
  • Roberta O’Hara: “When my nephew was three, I made him a corduroy dinosaur costume. Imagine a bright red and green dinosaur with spikes down its back. When it was done, my sister brought her son over to try it on and wear it to his daycare. But when I pulled it out and he saw a ‘life-size’ dinosaur, he started screaming that the dinosaur was going to eat him. There was no consoling him.”
  • Trevor Farr: “When I was younger, my mother and her girlfriends decided to make me a smokin’ hot woman. They permed my hair, which took a lot of mouse because I had a mushroom bowl cut back then, and they gave me a skirt and pantyhose and two perky apples. They even had me wear high heels. This was all for a Halloween party. At the end of the night, everyone had to parade around in their costumes for the judges, but I looked so much like a woman, I didn’t win.”
  • Elisabeth Gerber: “I went as an earring when I was eight. I was always a little weird. We untangled a wire hanger to shape it like a hook, put it on my head, and away we went. All of my friends – who were either punk rockers or princesses – just looked at me.”
  • Brighid Moret: “When I was a little girl, I was a jockey – complete with riding crop – riding my grandmother, piggyback.”
  • Jan Morse: “One year, my husband made a large Jabba the Hutt costume. My red tights were his tongue. I made a lovely Princess Leia dress for me, not knowing that I would end up with a tire chain around my waist – and that two women dressed as prostitutes would attempt to climb into Jabba.”

There’s still time to find your inner slutty nurse, your inner gorilla, or your inner Rick Perry. Happy Halloween.

(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on October 30, 2011. Chris’s novel, “The Night Strangers,” was just published.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.