Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a ground-breaking television series that redefined the genre of supernatural drama. The show's success can be largely att...
Halloween before the days of social media just hit different. While Halloween in the “movies” showed US streets full of children trick or treating, British kids were making do with bin bag capes, blood made out of tomato sauce and essentially being water-boarded trying to bite an apple for fun. These days social media platforms such as Instagram promote the most aesthetically pleasing and photogenic scenes of Halloween parties and costumes but if you’re a 90s kid at heart, take a look at our list of some of the nostalgic things we did in the UK for Halloween in the 1990s.
The 1990s had many toy crazes including Pokémon, Furbies, Tamagotchi, Cabbage Patch Dolls etc but one of pure fantasy was Troll Dolls. While they were first created in the 1950s and became popular in the USA in the 1960s, several video games and films were created in the 1990s based on trolls. The toys had a serious period of popularity in the early to mid 90s and the manufacturers even made Halloween versions. Trolls were characterised by their long spiked colourful hair and the Halloween dolls were modelled as skeletons, Frankenstein, and witches.
Wes Craven's Scream franchise began in December 1996 and if you were going to create a Halloween costume that didn’t include a bin bag cape, you would probably be wearing the Scream mask. This iconic mask of Ghostface, essentially the face from the scream painting, was a staple during Halloween in the 1990s usually worn by teenagers and adults to scare younger children and probably pensioners!
Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s Funnybones
Funnybones is the classic children’s book series published in 1980 that later became a TV series popular with children in the 1990s. It was an English and Welsh production with comedian Griff Rhys Jones voicing the characters. Despite there only being 12 episodes in the TV series, Funnybones has been repeated across CBBC many times and the characters are memorable for all 90s kids.
Pick n Mix Fangs
Going to choose your pick and mix in Woolworths in the 1990s was one of the best parts of the weekend. When it came to Halloween, Woolworths pick and mix included several favourites including jelly fangs, sour worms and spooky long jelly snakes!
Witches Finger Tips
Another staple item to the budget Halloween costume in the 1990s was the plastic witches fingers! These fingers would go over the top of your own and feature wrinkles, warts and usually long red nails. Sometimes they would glow in the dark and most of the time they would be really satisfying to chew on!
If you are heading to a bonfire night celebration at the beginning of November or a Halloween party in October in the 1990s, you’ll be guaranteed to find toffee apples. Sometimes called caramel apples in the USA, the classic British toffee apple was a mushy Apple on a wooden stick covered in the most solid toffee substance you could ever imagine and it probably helped knock out some of your baby teeth! We are yet to meet someone who actually enjoyed eating these, but they were a must have at any 90s Halloween party.
Halloween Beanie Babies
Another huge toy craze in the 1990s were beanie babies and obviously Manufacturers TY Warner bought out the Halloween collection to capitalise on the season. Beanie Babies were created in 1993 and they were described as the world's first Internet sensation in 1995 when they emerged as one of the first major fads and collectibles across the world. There are bright orange pumpkin bears, black and white skeleton bears, ghost beanie babies and trick or treating beanie babies. Some of the Halloween bears with the tag intact are being sold online this year for £100 pounds each.
The Babysitter’s Club Halloween
Another well-known 90s series is The Babysitters Club which is a series of novels written by Ann M. Martin and was published by Scholastic from 1986 to 2000. The series included several Halloween related stories such as “Karen’s Ghost”, “Halloween Parade”, “Mary Anne’s Bad-Luck Mystery” and “Stacey and the Haunted Masquerade”.
In “Stacey and the Haunted Masquerade” which was published in October 1995, Stoneybrook Middle School hosted a Mischief Night Masquerade, the first one in 28 years. Stacey is on the decorating committee but when the decorations are destroyed and a poster is defaced with a threatening message, The Babysitters Club need to find out what’s going on as they believe the dance could be haunted! All very normal…
Bin Bag Capes
You can forget all of the Halloweens you have seen in the movies because in the UK in the 1990s almost everyone was just taking a bin bag from their kitchen and wrapping it around themselves to form a witch’s cape. Perhaps if you were rich and paid to attend your school you went to a costume store or someone made you a really good handmade Halloween costume, but for everyone else we were diving into the kitchen to use a bin bag or going into the airing cupboard and defacing a sheet to be a ghost.
90s Halloween Movies
There were some classic children’s Halloween movies released in the 1990s including Hocus Pocus with Bette Midler in the lead role as Winifred Sanderson. We also saw Christina Ricci star in Casper in 1995 and Mary Kate and Ashley starred in Double, Double, Toil and Trouble. There was also a film remake of The Addams Family with Angelica Huston as Morticia, Halloweentown, Roald Dahl’s The Witches and even the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
One of the most nostalgic 1990s aesthetics and fashion movements was a whimsigothic which was partly inspired by the fascination with Witches in popular culture in the decade. Think the release of films such as Practical Magic and TV shows such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Whimsigothic is a gothic look but one that is warm and with lots of lunar imagery. Fashion would include maxi skirts, velvet, wrap shirts, gold jewellery, crystals, shawls and corduroy. Think Willow and Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer!
If you’re a teenager in the 1990s you definitely knew someone who embraced whimsigothic all year around not just on Halloween. This was also a common aesthetic for people’s bedrooms and home decor at the time and it can be most notably seen in Sabrina the teenage witch’s bedroom.
Pumpkin Trick Or Treat Basket
Something memorable that your local pound shop would have sold is the pumpkin shaped basket for going out trick or treating. Trick or treating in the UK has never been a huge rite of passage but it is something that friends, family and neighbours would get together to organise. In the 1990s, children would go around the neighbourhood carrying the pumpkin baskets made of plastic ready to get hopefully full-size chocolate bars and nothing home-made!
One of the most popular sweets to buy for trick or treaters in the 1990s was a selection of Swizzels sweets. We say most popular to buy because most of these types of sweets would be disappointing and you would probably give them to your Mum when you got back home. Swizzels created Refresher bars and Drumstick lollies which were fine but they also created Parma Violets, Fizzers and those lollies which tasted like chalk. Swizzels Love Hearts were a bit of fun as you could laugh with your friends at the funny messages written on them.
McDonalds Halloween Happy Meal Toys
In the 1990s, McDonald’s partnered with TY and offered Beanie Babies in their Happy Meals to celebrate the Happy Meal 17th birthday. However it was a staple in the 90s to get some brilliant Happy Meal toys and when October rolled around there was usually Halloween themed toys on offer. Unlike today, the toys were actually interesting and didn’t have to be educational or a book made out of no plastic like they do now. Some of the iconic Halloween themed toys were chicken nuggets dressed up as pumpkins, Frankenstein, ghosts, Dracula and witches. The McDonald’s mascot at the time Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar also had Halloween costumes made out of silicon that you could place over the top of them.
Witches Hats with Hair On
We’ve mentioned classic Poundland hits such as the pumpkin shaped trick-or-treat basket and then the bin bags cape but one of the items that were usually added to 1990s children’s Halloween costumes were poorly made witches hats with green hair stuck on the inside. Everyone had a cheap witch hat from the pound shop with this terrible plastic hair that always got matted but at least it pimped up the bin bag!
Halloween Disney Channel
If you are well off in the 1990s you may have had access to the Disney Channel in the UK. If not, you were enjoying CBBC, CITV or if for some reason you got up really early, The Hoobs on Channel 5 at 6AM. Disney Channel idents used to get a Halloween rebrand in October complete with spooky Mickey ears and monster font.
Pumpkin Carving Kits
While most people used to carve their pumpkins at home with just a kitchen knife, the 1990s saw the introduction of Halloween carving kits complete with little scoops and tools that look like corkscrews for you to fashion eyes into your pumpkin design. These were always bought for children so they didn’t have to handle the knife but in reality, the knife is the only thing that can get the job done! Also is there anything worse than having to put your hand inside a pumpkin and scoop out the seeds?
When you weren’t eating a really disappointing toffee apple, adults forced you to play a strange underwater game at Halloween parties in the 1990s. Apple bobbing involves putting your hands behind your back and your face into, usually a washing up bowl, of cold water filled with apples. Players would have to grab as many apples as they could by using just their mouth. This was on a theme of games that didn’t involve children using their hands including eating a doughnut off a string tied in front of them or having to cut up a bar of chocolate with a knife and fork wearing gloves? Who invented these terrible games? And why are they always in a disgusting church hall? Thank Berners-Lee for the internet.
Glow In The Dark Stars
This one possibly links to the whimsigothic aesthetic but many 90s kids had stick on plastic glow in the dark stars on the ceilings which would give a magical and witchy look throughout the year and especially at Halloween.
You can see where we’re going with this… Children used to be obsessed with buying fake blood but most parents would end up sacrificing an old T-shirt at Halloween and cover it in ketchup to emulate blood on or children who are dressed up as Dracula!
Toilet Roll Mummy Game
If he thought bobbing for apples wasn’t weird enough, remember the game where you had to wrap a friend in as much toilet roll as possible without breaking it in a time limit? Yes, every child’s birthday party and Halloween party included really weird pedestrian games such as this. In the 1990s you would be guaranteed to have dressed up one of your friends as a mummy in a value pack of toilet roll which some Mothers would save and still use as toilet roll over the weeks to come!
Adverts for toys used to be loud and brash and immediately in children’s faces during after school hours. Whether it was Action Man, remote control cars, or that baby which magically drank its bottle, children were advertised to throughout the year including on Halloween. Halloween advertising used to be a big thing in the USA more than the UK but we also had our fair share of Halloween promotions including the promotion of McDonald’s Halloween Happy Meals on children’s TV.
Mini Gummy Burgers
If you were lucky on your trip out trick-or-treating on Halloween, a parent may have purchased the holy grail of all sweets in the 1990s, the gummy hamburger. These hamburgers came in small plastic burger boxes and were great because each individual element of the burger was separate and could be stacked together. Think sweets that you can play with!
Now we know these ones aren’t Halloween but we cannot forget to include some staple autumnal traditions from the 1990s! True 90s kids will remember going into primary school assembly for Harvest Festival and having to take tins of food in for donation. This would then be stacked at the front of the hall and it would be customary to sing several hymns from a song book (“I was cold, I was naked, were you there?” Or “Give me oil in my lamp”…) if your school was religious, or you would join in with the secular classic, “Cauliflowers fluffy and cabbages green”.
We hope you have enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane back to the 1990s remembering all of the ridiculous things that we used to get up to as children on Halloween. We hope you have learned a valuable lesson for your own children that includes not dressing up in bin bags from the kitchen and never making them play games underwater with apples! However Pumpkin carving and trick or treating with friends will always be a staple rite of passage for children at Halloween and we will keep our fingers crossed this year for full size chocolate bars.
Thanks for reading "1990s Halloween: Nostalgic Things We All Did At Halloween In The UK During The 1990s" on January Media.