Halloween at Ross & Marshall's 2023

Written by Jonathan Wojcik

Ross, Marshall's, TJMaxx and several other brands are all part of the same "family" of retail chains, owned by the same brand that resells the overstock of other brands for cheap, but also tends to get a lot of exclusive stuff of its own. Our nearest Ross and Marshall's were the first places I spotted anything Halloween related this year, and I've gone back every so often to see what else crops up...


These are large, heavy resin statues of pumpkins that are also bats, with peculiar physiological characteristics unlike either the Cucurbita or Chiroptera. Both have the same leathery wings and large fleshy bat ears sticking out of their gourd-flesh, but entirely different eyes! The black cultivar's happy little fanged mouth is set high up on the pumpkin body, and itseyes protrude above this more frog-like or goby-like than the eyes of a bat!

It's the orange subspecies that really steals the show, though. Its mouth is situated much lower, while its little yellow eyeballs are set inside a pair of huge, fleshy-looking, flaring black sockets, dish-like, in a way that reminds one of a stylized owl. Between these two varieties, only the orange Cucuropteran has a pumpkin stem on top. What sorcery concocted these hybrid fiends, and to what ends!?! We dare not fathom!!!!


This is a big ceramic figure of not one, not two, but THREE slimy green froggies dancing together, arm in arm, with witch hats and lacy black fabric accessories. I like how one only wears a ruff, one only wears a skirt and one only wears a top. It's more clothing than witches are obligated to wear to their diabolical revelry, of course, but together they're at least one fully clothed amphibian.


My god...even Crocodilia are dabbling in the dark arts!? Well, they have a right to. They've been on this Earth long enough I bet they were casting hexes before us mammals even figured out the whole milk secretion thing.


The year's first Hocus sighting wound up being a printed hand towel that says "I'M AFRAID THE GOOD WITCH IS ON VACATION." The words "I'M AFRAID" are displayed over the full moon, but the rest of the sentence is printed directly on the Hocus, an adorable specimen with a spider web in the curled tip of its hat and chunky legs with knee-high black boots and purple striped stockings. Very snazzy! I said this on my blog already, but I'm inclined to wonder if the Good Witch simply left her Hocus in charge while she went on this vacation, or she has decided to vacation by becoming a Hocus. Another possibility, of course, is that the Hocus has done her in and is just lying to everybody that she'll be back any day now. If that's the case, she probably deserved it to be honest. Hocuses don't rebel for just any reason.


These ceramic Frankensteinian cats have such a cool and unique style! We know they're Frankensteinian because they're green, they've got stitched and they've got bolts in their heads, but the design also has a circular patch of flesh stitched over the left eye, like an eyepatch of skin! It's a delightfully odd and innovative detail for a Frankenite, the kind of original flair I see more often in spooky Halloweeny mascot critters from Japanese artists. The black and white striped shirts are also great, and I love their mouths; just a simple black line straight down underneath the pink nose. The more I look at these, the more I adore them. I didn't buy one! I didn't even check how much they were! I NEED TO GO SAVE ONE BEFORE THEY'RE ALL BOUGHT BY MARSHALLS MOMS OH NO.


These fat, happy toads are entirely bone-colored and bone-textured, yet their heads look fleshy apart from the little cracks, and only the rest of the body looks like a skeleton. There are, however, also warts growing directly off the bones, so I'm going to say this is all some sort of camouflage. They're fully living amphibians, but they appearance of exposed ribs and fleshless limbs is just the texture of their skin, like all those frogs that masterfully resemble lichen. Most organisms identify dead creatures by smell, rather than appearance, so it's hard to say what this camouflage is actually for, unless these are another supernatural entity. Perhaps witches created these for sheer style, as custom familiars? I guess that may also answer the origin of the pumpkin bats.


This big ceramic candycorn with a cute, winking face constitutes the first Sugarfiend of the year! Congratulations, candycorn! The fact that she is so much larger than a normal candycorn implies she has killed and metabolized at least one trick-or-treater already.


Beautiful table decorations resembling detailed bovine head-bones with pink roses on top! What a cool combination of things! The type of person who wants both pretty flowers and the fleshless face of a dead beast in one item is someone with fine taste for sure.


Speaking of which, these are human skulls and skeletal hands doing the "See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil" thing, stacked on top of one another, with both black flowers and cute yellow butterflies on them. That's a lot of things. A lot of oddly mixed symbolism. I love the prevalence of this "no evil" theme in undead skeletons every year. Why should the living dead necessarily always be evil or pro-evil anyway?


This plush "spider" is UNBEARABLY adorable. It's one of those arachnoids that's just a black orb with little legs and a face, in this case with huge massive white eyes that bring to mind Ghibli's Soot Sprites. It also has a little happy smile and an orange pointy hat! As you may or may not know, "unrealistic" Halloween spiders constitute the entities we dubbed Heebie Jeebies!


Another, different witchy frog! Still a slimy green specimen with yellow eyes, actually almost the same species as the debauched dancers we saw earlier, but this one sits atop a pumpkin, wearing a black witch or wizard hat, holding a golden sphere in what might be a reference to the original Frog Prince fable; a golden ball was what the frog in some versions retrieves for the princess, bribing her into breaking his curse. Frog Prince but Halloween flavored!


This ghost wears a witch hat and not only holds a broom, but an orange broom with its own Jack O' Lantern face! I like how the two are looking at each other and smiling. They're friends! Or...maybe more? There are certain aspects of actual witch broom folklore that make me want to say "definitely maybe more." It seems even death was no obstacle to their "very special" bond.


So many amphibians! This is a big statue of a witch hat on top of some spellbooks, but there's also a happy, warty green toad with a little top hat! Hooray!!! So pleased with itself! So delighted to be such a dapper toad! Who wouldn't!?! If you wouldn't be delighted to be a dapper toad maybe you shouldn't oughta come around these parts anymore, stranger.


This is an all-black pumpkin covered in a bunch of golden moths, but the moths have humanlike skulls where they should have both a thorax and a head! Just a skull with a moth abdomen and moth wings! Death's Head Moths are more common every Halloween lately, and some of them are clearly more than just natural, mortal insects. We'll be talking a bit more about this later in the season!


This big-headed mummy with its huge, black eyeholes may be adorable, but the raised forearms are actually a threat display. If you see a mummy like this in a "cute" viral Tiktok, you should know that it's expressing a stress response and could excrete a Pharaoh's curse at any moment. If you find an unattended juvenile mummlet in the wild, remember that its mummy is probably just foraging for beetles, sand, or crime-solving teenagers in a nearby mausoleum. She knows what she's doing! Leave nature alone!