Costume Ideas Inspired by Horror Novels

October 4, 2017

I may have mentioned once or twice that Halloween is my least favourite festive occasion due to "costume stress." Is my costume lame? How much work do I have to put in? How much will it cost? How much will I need to explain my costume? Is it scary, because Halloween is supposed to be scary, right? Ugh, with all these questions tormenting me, I think I'm just going to hide inside and leave the lights off.


So what am I doing writing a post for Halloween? This is a public service. A list of costume suggestions to relieve the stress. And because Halloween is indeed supposed to be scary, let’s take inspiration from a tour of horror writing through the ages.


This is the internet, so these ideas will be scored and ranked, because having two different yet equally compelling ideas is not allowed! I'm going to use the same five questions that give me stress every Halloween and award 1-5 points to each costume based on how well they address the question. If you’re looking to roast me over my scoring, please find me on my website. I’m dying for the traffic!



Will someone say, “Wow I wished I'd thought of that?” Or will you be mocked about your outfit even a year later?



I am very lazy and appreciate things that appeal to my laziness.



Hey man, we're all on a budget here.



If you answer the door in this costume, what are the chances the trick or treaters will leave the candy and run away?



Do you need to explain what the costume is, or will some drunk on the other side of the street totally know what it is and point you out?


Readers of my blog (all two of them) know how much I love old books, so we'll start with a classic for inspiration.




Frankenstein's Monster

(Frankenstein, by Mary Shelly, 1818)


Our conception of this monster comes mainly from Boris Karloff's depiction, rather than Mary Shelley's description. You could be a book snob, but good luck getting that translucent look, so green face paint and black marker stitches it is! This website has several suggestions for tackling those essential neckbolts. A trip to the second-hand clothing shop for patchwork outfits you're willing to ruin completes the look.



Coolness: 2 - It's kind of been done, but if you're opting for a DIY job rather than store-bought, you'll get points for that, especially if you're a kid.

Convenience: 3 - There's a bit of labour involved, depending on how far you want to go with the DIY, but this seems like a forgiving costume. Frankenstein's monster was literally patched together, so there's a fair bit of tolerance for a scrappy look.

Cheapness: 3 - The fact that you might have to ruin the second-hand clothes you bought knocks this down a bit.

Scariness: 1 - If you opted for the original book's description, this would be higher, but Boris Karloff's portrayal seems downright cuddly in my mind.

Universality: 5 - Who doesn't know this guy?

Total: 14





(The Call of Cthulhu, by H.P. Lovecraft, 1928)


Did you know there's a sexy Cthulhu costume? Of course you did! OK, now let's stop thinking about it, because it's seriously weirding me out. The hardest part is probably the mask. I did read one website suggesting that you hang a bunch of socks from your mouth but... yeah, you're probably buying something. Cheap dragon wings and monster claws from a dollar store/toy shop/costume shop will be needed as well. Finally, you’ll need snug fitting green clothes of some sort, which is probably harder to find than you think. The green clothing is exactly the type of thing that trips me up every Halloween and causes undue stress!


Coolness: 4 - Cthulhu is probably coming close to hitting that pop cultural sweet spot between having hipster cachet and being too well known.

Convenience: 2 - Like I said, finding the right components sounds easier than it is.

Cheapness: 2 - A good friend of mine used to work for Weta Workshop, the outfit behind the creature effects in Lord of the Rings. Can you imagine what their Halloween parties were like? Legendary. “No thanks, I don't need that stress...” is what I would have said if she'd actually invited me. Chances are, you don't have access to latex fabrication, 3d printers and movie quality props. This will cost you.

Scariness: 2 - They also make cuddly Cthulhu dolls. So, uh, no.

Universality: 2 - This was probably helped by that awesome South Park episode a few years ago, but you're probably still going to be explaining this a bit at a party, never a good thing.

Total: 12




A Child

(The Midwich Cuckoos, by John Wyndham, 1957)

Image credit

Like most of the other ideas on this list, the look of the Child will be inspired by the movie adaptations (both entitled Village of the Damned) more than anything else. This costume consists of platinum blonde wig, white turtleneck, navy-blue or gray sweater and slacks/skirt. The kicker is finding the creepy contact lenses.


Coolness: 2 - It was relevant enough for a Simpsons reference, so I guess you'll be cool enough for Ted Cruz.

Convenience: 4 - This works well in a group, so you've got economies of scale working. It's also better as a kid's costume, but I don't think you'll want a kid to be putting in novelty contact lenses. Also, as a non-contact wearer, ewww!

Cheapness: 4 - Since the clothes don't have to destroyed, you might be in luck and find something in your closet. If you're dressing up your kid and they go to a school with a uniform, you've pretty much already done your shopping.

Scariness: 3 - If it's a group of kids wearing this and you manage to get them to put in contacts, this goes all the way up to 5!

Universality: 2 - This is a bit of an old reference. If an individual is wearing this costume, there's probably going to be some explaining to do.

Total: 15





(It, by Stephen King, 1986)                            image credit


You gotta think this will be one of the hot costumes of 2017 thanks to the blockbuster movie. Chances are, there will be several store-bought options available. But you could get by with just a regular, cheapie white clown outfit. Unfortunately, you're still not skating by the makeup and wig requirements.


Coolness: 3 - Pennywise is way too hot. I guarantee there'll be someone else at the party with a Pennywise outfit and, since you're looking to this post because you're cheap and lazy, it will be better than yours.

Convenience: 1 - Face paint is annoying to put on and annoying to take off. Oh well, at least the red balloon is easy - but make sure you get it filled with helium!

Cheapness: 2 - You probably don't have a clown outfit in your closet. If you do, report yourself to the police. There's no way you're up to anything good.

Scariness: 4 - I once got invited to a themed Halloween party (another one of the scourges in my life.) The theme was "Under the Big Top.” The invitation had a warning: no clown costumes, to be sensitive to those with a phobia of clowns. On the one hand, I do not understand the point of having a circus-themed party if you're not going to allow clown costumes. On the other hand, clown costumes do not need to be associated with a horror story to be scary.

Universality: 5 - Whether you go with the classic Tim Curry, or opt for Bill Skarsgard, people would have to be living under a rock not to recognize Pennywise.

Total: 15





The Other Mother

(Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, 2002)


I'm stretching the definition of horror literature here, but the second half of the 2009 movie and Dave McKean's original illustrations definitely have horrific elements. The Other Mother starts out benign, cute even, but we're going for the scary version of her. This one is tricky, because there's a specific look for the hair and dress driven by the movie adaptation, and above all, you have to get the button eyes. Here's a handy video tutorial.


Coolness: 4 - Neil Gaiman's always a good name to drop and the sleek look of the outfit helps this score. There's also some book snobbery value added if a kid is wearing this one.

Convenience: 1 - Yikes, even the idea of watching a tutorial seems like work to me. Did I mention that I'm very lazy?

Cheapness: 4 - If you're crafty enough to put this together, you're not going to be spending much, so that's a plus.

Scariness: 5 - Holy shit, those eyes are creeping me out just looking at pictures on the web!

Universality: 3 - The movie adaptation certainly helped, and this costume works for both kids and adult parties.

Total: 17



And the winner is... the Other Mother. I usually pick Cthulhu in any fight. I did not see that one coming.

Darius Jung's story "Demon in Diapers" is featured in When Glints Collide: A Collection of Science Fiction, Horror, and Oddities. Check out his blog and learn more about him on his website!


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