“That time I was possessed by a demon and wrote a Halloween blog article”
Annual Criswell Family Halloween card, circa 2012.
Working late is nothing new at the GRO branding agency, but on these dark October days, when everyone else has left the office, things can get a little… spooky. “Is that a door opening? Do I hear a child’s song? Did my reflection on the computer screen just smile at me?” Last night, I sat at my desk trying to shake these thoughts. I wiggled my computer mouse to activate the login, typed my password (“redrum”) and clicked return to enter. As the white light of the screen hit my face I was suddenly overtaken with what I can only describe as… an impenetrable presence. I dare to say… a possession. My arms lifted as I succumbed to darkness, losing consciousness, hearing only the frenzied tapping of my fingers on the keyboard…
I awake this morning, still sitting in my office chair, brand positioning decks and colorful bottled tea designs chaotically litter the room. “Man, no more kombucha after 5pm,” I think, chalking-up this nightmare to a bad batch of ‘booch. I am just about to schluff-off this “dream” when my attention settles on the open text document on my computer, cursor still blinking in anticipation. I read what only I could have written and yet have no memory of writing.
This time when I see my reflection in the screen, there is no mistake, she IS grinning back at me.
Ghoulish traditions from Kelly Criswell, GRO Chief Creative Officer
It’s that time of year! The time to celebrate all things dark and spooky, my favorites! Personally, I’m a “Halloween-all-year-round” type of person, though I do have some special traditions that I save only for October. And now, I will share with you my (up until now) top-secret Halloween MUST-do’s.
Movies: Get haunted by nostalgia or sleepless with fright!
This is a no-brainer. Of course, we all love to get creeped out in the comfort of our own home around Halloween, right? In fact, over 45% of American adults watch horror movies in October. Since I am a horror movie enthusiast year round, I will share with you my October spooky viewing strategy. This formula has never let me down!
CLASSIC: Nosferatu (1922)
80’s HORROR: Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
MODERN: Fright Night (2011 remake)
ANIMATED: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
FAMILY: Hocus Pocus (1993)
I literally watch my “favorites” every year for Halloween!
And what horror viewing experience would be complete without a snack that goes flying in the air when everyone suddenly startles. That’s right, none. Spooky Halloween treats are key! That takes us to the next point.
Candy Corn: The only vegetable I need
While the healthy food trend is the obvious forerunner for consumers (read more about health trends at the Natural Products Expo West), there is absolutely a time and place for good ‘ole nostalgic Candy (yes, with a capital “C”). For me, I choose the vegetable of all candies: Candy Corn!
You either love it or hate it. I happen to love it with such a fierceness I actually have a 4” candy corn tattooed on arm (it’s my mom’s favorite of all my tattoos… or not). Alas, just having plain candy corn (while delicious) is NOT enough; I do that all year long. Halloween requires an up-level in my candy corn game. As a creative, I feel it is my duty to the world to concoct a new candy corn creation each spooky season, though I have certainly been met with varying levels of success.
Meet my favorite creation to date!
Please also meet my biggest failure which was this ambitious candy corn cookie recipe.
It’s especially fun if I can convince my kids to help me. I generally consider candy corn creations a success if nobody gets hurt.
Music: Waking the dead with Bluetooth
Halloween baking requires an epic soundtrack. To get into the perfect Halloween mood, you MUST try Bram Stokers Dracula soundtrack (Check out the entire album HERE)
Events: Find your Los Angeles haunt
Part of why I love living in LA is that this city takes Halloween VERY seriously. There are a ton of spooky events for both kids and adults every year. One of our favorites is Boney Island, which recently moved from a private residence to Griffith Park. As a designer, I can’t get enough of the life-sized skeleton dioramas with their rich color and lovely old-style illustration and typography. It is truly a visual delight and a family-friendly horror.
Carving: How to channel your “slasher” impulses AND go organic
One might imagine that I, a Chief Creative Officer and a lifetime Halloween enthusiast, would be brilliant at pumpkin carving, right? Nothing could be further from the truth. On this issue, I have accepted my own mediocrity and resigned myself to sub-par (and even downright terrible) jack-o-lanterns. I own it, and I enjoy the hell out of it!
However, I do in fact have a crowning achievement in the pumpkin carving arena. When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I made the announcement to my husband in the most logical way I could think: Carved Pumpkin! After several hours of cursing and blistering fingers, my Sistine Chapel of Halloween-inspired-conception-announcements was complete!
…and if you ever doubted my Halloween enthusiasm, I feel confident those reservations have now been cast off (or should I say, severed like a 1980’s co-ed’s arm : )
Holiday Cards: For those who smooch under cross-and-bones rather than mistletoes
When our first child was born, my husband and I decided to change up the traditional-tradition and send our annual family cards for Halloween rather than in December. Combining a love of Halloween movies, design, and my compulsion to never take myself too seriously: the Annual Criswell Halloween Card tradition was born! Each year I consider my family and how we particularly suit the characters of my favorite horror classics. From there I design a postcard with our likenesses that we mail to all our loved ones.
Tricks: “Roses are red, violets are blue. There is someone right behind you.”
Isn’t this what Halloween is all about? I’m always up for a little Halloween hijinks and they have become a solid tradition both at home and in the GRO agency office. In fact, one spooky Halloween season I was actually late to work when my toothbrush had so suspiciously disappeared. After 20 minutes, it was finally revealed that my 6-year-old daughter had scotch-taped my toothbrush to the wall in the bathroom. And folks, as my daughter knows, tooth decay is terrifying. You bet I was scared.
As I lay me down to sleep…
While demonic possession is not my ideal writing strategy, I have to say the darker forces have stayed true to their host. I hope that these insights from the shadow-side of GRO offer some inspiration for your Halloween fright nights!