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The Polygon staff remembers its best Halloween costumes

From scary to spoopy to silly and everything we choose to remember

Halloween is full of scary haunts, delicious candy, but most importantly, costumes. And at Polygon, we’ve all got a favorites.

Whether it’s a childhood favorite, something put together for a college party, or the winner of an office Halloween get-together, there’s a Halloween look that’s stuck with us for years after. With the holiday upon us, the Polygon staff share their favorite looks of Halloweens past — spooky, sweet, silly, and everything in between.


Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece (2018)

julia lee dressed as luffy Photo: Julia Lee

Halloween is just an excuse for me to do mediocre-quality cosplay. I’ve thrown a Halloween party every year since college, and I try my best to have a good costume, though the year seen above, I had been in Korea for most of October, and scrambled at Michael’s (like, the craft store, not the home of the Polygon editor) to grab some fabric to throw this together.

None of my friends except for me are into One Piece, but this costume slapped really hard. —Julia Lee


Veronica and JD from Heathers (2016)

two people dressed as jd and veronica from heathers Photo: Petrana Radulovic
two people dressed as veronica and JD from heathers Photo: Petrana Radulovic

Heathers was the second movie that my partner and I watched together, so it felt fitting that for our first Halloween together we do a couples costume (the actual first movie was A Clockwork Orange and ... well, that doesn’t lend itself easily to a couple’s costume). I tracked down statement pieces for the outfits, did our “just tried to murder a bunch of high school students” makeup, and then trekked over to a Kangaroo Express Gas Station and Convenience store to get a slushie (there was no close 7/11). I really wanted to #commit to the #bit. By doing so, I freaked out a few of the gas station attendants, who didn’t realize we were wearing makeup. Whoops!

I also got a frantic text message from my mother asking if I was smoking REAL cigarettes in that photo and had to reassure her that I just bought fake ones, arguably a better use of money. — Petrana Radulovic


Dice and Belle (~1993-1996)

a group of kids dressed like Belle, darth vadar, and barney Photo: Nicole Carpenter

I’ve never really had a “good” Halloween costume as a teenager or an adult, but my parents truly rocked it when I was a child. My best costume, easily, was a duo costume with my sister. We were dice. My parents made the costume out of cardboard, naturally. It was huge and bulky and I’m not sure how I sat at my desk at school.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of that one, but I do have a photo of the costume that I wore most years as a kid: Belle’s yellow gown. I asked my mom why I wore the same Halloween costume for like four years in a row, and she said it was because I somehow ended up with strep throat multiple Halloweens in a row — so I rarely got to go trick-or-treating anyway. Why get a new costume? — Nicole Carpenter


Generic Ghostbuster (1989)

a wee little chris plante as a ghostbuster Photo: Chris Plante

This had to be the one time my parents purchased a legit Halloween costume. Every other October, I dressed up as “a collection of items from around the house mashed onto the frame of a confused child.” A bunch of paper towels and duct tape made me a mummy. Some oversized boxer shooters and a smudge of mascara around an eye equaled a bruised boxer. As a teenager, I covered myself in empty cereal boxes and ketchup. I was a Cereal Killer.

But for this one year, my parents splurged and I lived my dream of being an honest-to-goodness Ghostbuster™. I was ecstatic. Not that you can tell from this picture. Can we take a moment to appreciate those shoes? —Chris Plante


Baby Bop from Barney (1995)

a little girl dressed as baby bop Photo: Emily Heller

With a Barney movie on the horizon, my time has come. Like most ’90s kids, I just really loved Barney. That Barney toy I’m holding in this picture actually came from my aunt, who handed it to me in a store just to look at but I refused to let it go so she had to buy it for me. I was two years old and a girl, so naturally I wanted to be Baby Bop, the two-year-old girl Triceratops from Barney & Friends, for Halloween. I’m just saying, Mr. Daniel Kaluuya, if you’re casting for Baby Bop … I’m available. —Emily Heller


Cam’ron (2016)

a man in a pink fluffy coat Photo: Josh Rios

I honestly love Halloween to the point that I make two costumes every year regardless if I’m doing anything. This was the better costume of the two, and also the warmest with the temperature that night. Killa Cam season forever. —Josh Rios


Joaquin Phoenix from I’m Still Here (2011)

a man in a fake beard Photo: Matt Patches

I don’t love dressing up on Halloween, so my costume goal is always to find something I can pull straight out of my closet and look decent in when it eventually falls apart. This look actually took some work — to get a big enough beard to match Phoenix’s burned-out-actor look from his covert, Jackass-like mockumentary I’m Still Here, I had to fashion a second curly hair wig into facial hair. I also spent a night karaoking with sunglasses on. Dedication! (Note: I felt inspired by I’m Still Here well before director Casey Affleck was sued for sexual harassment during the making of the movie — if I had known at the time, I would have found a better way to roam around Halloween parties incognito. But the success of looking like a giant ball of hair stands.) —Matt Patches


The Original Game Boy (1991)

When I was eight, the original Game Boy was all the rage. I thought it would make for a stellar costume, and probably not too much of a reach to just find a large cardboard box and draw some buttons on it. My mom had more creative ambition at the time and decided to do a throwback Game Boy. She went through all of our old board games that were missing various pieces and glued/pinned all of the boards to a single long-sleeve shirt that I then had to wear. There were probably about 12 game boards on there. It was ... cumbersome. And like all great Halloween costumes, no one got it and it required me to repeatedly explain what I was. Thanks mom. —Russ Frushtick

Sonic the Hedgehog (1993)

In 1993, I had just moved to a new school in a new town. So to cement my status as a huge dork to a new group of fourth graders, I dressed up in a Sonic the Hedgehog costume from a mail-order catalog. It was a simple jumpsuit thing with fabric spikes on the back, and a cloth headpiece with even more quills, and cut-outs for my eyes and the lower half of my face. It kind of looked enough like the Sonic from the early ’90s cartoon, which I watched religiously every weekday morning before school. I was so hype for this costume that I wore it constantly at home before, during, and after Halloween, and to my school’s Halloween carnival, even though it seemed like none of my new classmates wanted to talk about how amazing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was. —Chelsea Stark

The Headless Horseman (1981)

My mother hated sewing. Asking for my Cub Scout patches to be sewn onto my uniform was a huge lift, and forget about actually putting numbers on the Pittsburgh Steelers jersey I got for Christmas. Such things were often farmed out to a woman across town. But for Halloween 1981, Mom became a sewing machine, and gave me the best costume any little kid could ever hope for.

The Headless Horseman! Sleepy Hollow was one of my favorite childhood stories, but of course my costuming ambitions were vexed by the problem of making my head disappear. Mom, a heady horsewoman since her teenage years, was hit by a bolt of inspiration. She disappeared into the bedroom with a sewing kit and a black adult-size foxhunting jacket, promising she had just the thing in mind.

When Mom came out, she had fit together the jacket with false arms and padding, such that it would ride up above my shoulders, and I could see out the neck, with my eyes concealed by the folds of a white scarf. I wore a black kerchief to cover the top of my head, and held my hands down at my lap, underneath the jacket front. Mom cradled a plastic jack-o-lantern candy bucket under the false arm, and with a pair of black riding britches and matching boots, I was a perfect match for the undead Hessian in search of his noggin.

But wait, there’s more! The horse! We kept two in an old stable behind our home. One would serve as my mount, and no lie, I was the Headless Horseman riding an honest-to-God horse to the Cub Scout Halloween Costume Contest at the Methodist Church just up our street.

I made a show-stopping appearance — literally. When Mrs. Thomas, our Cub Scout leader, introduced me, she marched everyone outside to the parking lot, where I posed menacingly aboard a brown horse we called Pokey. I asked Mom if she could make Pokey rear up for me. Mom demurred, and said I should snarl some demand that Ichabod Crane show himself. But I didn’t win. It was clear that I had parental assistance (like, Mom made all of my costume). Who cares. No 7-year-old has any right to an entrance that grand, but Mom gave me it anyway.

For trick-or-treating later that week, I didn’t ride Pokey. My big brother walked with me, as my vision was limited. Mean old Damon Chappell, a troublemaking teenager from another neighborhood, ambushed us with eggs by the Methodist Church. We ran, terrified, to the Myers’ home, and banged on the door until Clint’s older sister let us inside. When I slipped off the costume, an egg fell out, unexploded. It was stopped by the padding under the false arms. That’s how good Mom’s Headless Horseman costume was: it was even impervious to a Halloween egging. —Owen S. Good