Written by Jonathan Wojcik


Across the states, there are only a couple of retail chains you can count on to wheel out Halloween by the end of July, and one of them is the arts and crafts supply store, Michael's. Their offerings are seldom very unusual, and that would be why I never made it much of a tradition to really review them in detail, but they're always pretty tasteful, and cover all the right bases for your early fix. So, let's look at everything in the store I had a significant opinion on!

Giant Wooden Skulls

Nothing really fancy, but very nice. Who wouldn't want a huge, rustic skull hanging on their front door? This is something I never realized I wanted until now, if only it wasn't so expensive. If you're daring enough to deface something that costs, I believe, over forty bucks, you can also turn its forehead into a nice signpost of some sort, like for a poisonous garage sale.

Candle Beakers

I really like these candles designed to resemble beakers of colorful chemicals, although they would be a bit better if the candles were tall enough to dribble over the edges when lit. As-is, they're just a little too sterile for what they're supposed to represent, but still attractive! I guess when the wax is melted enough you can still tip them over and let some dribble. You could also leave one lying on its side while lit, making a sweet waxy puddle.

Skull Masquerade

This is one of those half-masks on a stick, only it's a skull held by a skeleton arm! All the fun of having slaughtered a man with very tiny hands just to make a fashion statement, but with none of the hard work of baiting a trap with tiny gloves.

Insect Candle Holders

These are just glass containers with insects printed on them, but it's great to see realistic insects sold as classy, decorative items for adults. Neither a scarab beetle nor a lubber grasshopper scream "Halloween" on their own, but I'm not complaining. There's a certain quaint charm to that outlandish world view in which all insects, by way of being insects, qualify as "spooky" animals, with the arbitrary exception of butterflies and ladybirds.

Fake Books

The spookiest thing about these books is that you can't read them. They're solid resin, so they look really nice as decorations, but I definitely would have preferred actual books with these beautiful covers. Even blank ones you can fill in yourself, which wouldn't likely cost much more than these, which are fifteen bucks and up!

Spooky Jars

Jars with spooky labels are a pretty big category of Halloween decor these days, and Michael's offers at least six or seven unrelated sets of them this year, though the most interesting is the jar labeled "MR. BONES." I know it's also labeled "magical ingredients," but what's the relation? Are they magical ingredients belonging to Mr. Bones, made from Mr. Bones, or utilized to create Mr. Bones?

Pumpkin People

Pumpkin figurines are a staple you can almost always find at Michael's, and these have that vintage vegetable-person look that's gotten a little boost in popularity from Over the Garden Wall. I like that both genders have essentially the same exact face and creepy bat mask, though it's too bad only the "male" gets a skeleton motif.

Scary Bell Jars

What do you call these? Am I calling them the right thing? A collection of minute books, a tiny skull and a bottle of poison are a pretty odd collection of objects to be keeping under glass like they're going to spoil, but at least each one is protected by its own little raven.

Big Fake Vultures

These are pretty neat, made of a papery sort of material and just a little realistic looking from a distance, other than the glittery feathers.

Wine Skeletons

These skeletons are sculpted to hold a wine bottle in their arms, which is adorable, but it's much more adorable if they hold something else, like a zuchinni or something else with that sort of shape, I dunno, use your imagination. The best part is that with nothing in its arms, the skeleton at least looks like it's getting really into telling a story, possibly about how big a zuchinni it used to be holding.

Witch Hand

My own hand came out looking INTENSE in this photo, almost like it was photoshopped in, but let's not let my incredible fingers distract you from the marvelous versatility of this item; a single, gnarled old hand on the end of a purple sleeve, attached to nothing. It's a decoration you can put just about anywhere. At least, anywhere that could use a gnarled floppy arm protruding from it, which is everywhere.

Moth-eaten Corpse

Hauuunted lenticular paintings are all the rage in our modern Halloweens, shifting from black and white photos of old people to black and white photos of decomposing old people, but this one is unique for its addition of death's head moths. These moths, of course, would not be eating a corpse in reality, but they do use olfactory camouflage to sneak into beehives and steal honey. I guess they don't need to be responsible for this guy's decay; they could just really like him, or maybe his head is filled with bees.

Light-up Skeleton Dog

While none of these were on display out of the box, you can still tell how cool they look, beautifully sculpted and strikingly stylized. I feel extremely tempted to get one - and to use it for indoor lighting rather than a yard decoration. I have no idea what size it is, but the boxes are pretty large. I wonder how hard it would be to set it up on a ceiling? You know, standing upside-down as skeletal dogs are wont to do.

A New Rubber Cockroach

Many years ago, I got it into my head to meticulously document my collections of cheap rubber insects, including a multitude of cockroaches with only slightly varying molds. Why did I do that? It must have taken me days to photograph and arrange so many picture of fake bugs. I think I was alone and sad. I would have loved to have found these particular cockroaches, though, a completely different size and mold from any others I've run across. It's flat - flatter than most real roaches - but the lovely translucency adds a touch of realism, the wings and pronotum thin enough to see through while the body underneath is denser and darker. They come three to a pack, though five bucks is a little hefty.

Hanging Ghosts

A gauzy, hanging ghost is one of those raw Halloween basics, but I really love this one's face. It's got that ragged mouth I always enjoy, and slightly wonkier eyes than usual. It's a gauze-ghost with a little more personality than others, and it goes a long way.


Wait, really?! I've seen skeleton dogs, skeleton cats, skeleton birds, and even a couple of skeleton fish as Halloween items, but an amphibian, never...and that's all it is, too. Just a life-sized, plastic frog skeleton. No bells and whistles. You want a fake frog skeleton? You got one. There's a lot of cool stuff you can do with this; stick a frog skeleton on virtually anything in the world and you'll make it at least 60% cooler by association. Out of everything at Michael's this year, this is really the one to get. You may have to look hard for them in the baskets of cheaper stuff nestled between more prominent decorations, but don't let them pass you by.

If nothing else, this is the coolest possible accessory to any "undead princess" costume.