Saturday, July 30th marked the opening of the flagship Spirit Halloween store near the company's headquarters in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. While openings in years past have been a quieter affair with only a few dozen spooky season enthusiasts in attendance for the ribbon cutting, the store's popularity has skyrocketed amid a sort of Halloween renaissance we're seeing as decorating, dressing up, and celebrating the scariest time of year becomes a much bigger deal for generations young and old – and I got to see the spectacle in person.
Spirit Halloween was kind enough to let me attend as a member of the press, so I showed up early (or so I thought) for the festivities. After leaving Brooklyn at 7 am, my husband and I arrived in Egg Harbor around 9:30 to see a crowd of 1500 or more people already celebrating and lined up for the store opening later that morning – several had even been camped out for days in anticipation of opening day, including people in from Utah, North Dakota, Texas and more!
Children were playing ring toss with witch hats, folks were sipping Mountain Dew-sponsored mocktails, and a giant tent held a raucous crowd gathered 'round to see the world premiere of the Spirit Halloween: The Movie trailer, which played on a loop every 15 minutes throughout the morning. As you can see below, it promises to be a haunting good time when some local kids decide to scare each other by camping out in a local Spirit store. Pay special attention to Christopher Lloyd's character as he perishes and his spirit is unleashed...
After grabbing some crowd shots and walking around a bit, the kind folks of the Spirt skeleton crew led me into the green room and through the maze of the storage rooms into the store where only the employees, some movie cast members, and a few other press folks and influencers milled about. I got to see the walk-through features as the animatronic designer Carlos Mendoza and his techs put the finishing touches on the creepy displays set to welcome guests. I put together a walk-through TikTok to showcase the fun, including shots of the store's grand entrance and a bit on the layout of home decor, costumes, animatronics, etc., which you can watch here for a better visual idea of how it all fits together.
After browsing the new and classic wares offered up for Halloween 2022, I waited to see the rush of folks coming in with their passes handed out to the first thousand people in line. I'd already accumulated two armfuls of goods including a pumpkin head doll, some Beetlejuice swag, and fake moss I plan to use in a graveyard display when it's time to decorate, so all that was left was to sit back, watch the madness, then make my way to the checkout so I could duck out before the throngs of Halloween lovers came rushing in – and rush they did!
The folks who'd camped overnight were the first through the door, and each made a beeline for the new boxed animatronics to snatch them up and head straight for the checkout line. Within 30 seconds of the doors opening, more than half the stock was wiped clean, and fans of all ages beamed as they strutted to their cars with their fresh hauls.
The second wave trickled in more slowly than to excellent managing by the Spirit team, and the store filled at an even rate as I made my last lap around the store's perimeter and toward the cash registers. Shoppers let the yearly magic wash over them with pure delight as they took in the licensed goods, thousands of costumes, horrifying jump-scare characters, and everything else Spirit has to offer.
While checking out, I learned a bit more about the company's charity initiative, The Spirit of Children. You can donate online or in-store, and your dollars go directly to helping hospitalized children around the country feel less scared during their treatment and stays. Spirit says of the program:
"Spirit of Children is a program that brings fun and funding to hospitals at Halloween and all year long through the support of Child Life at hospitals in local communities. Our mission is to make hospital stays less scary for kids and their families... We started in 2006 with eleven hospitals in our own backyard with the belief that a great holiday should do great good. And it worked! Since that first Halloween party in 2006, we have raised more than $45 million in cash and merchandise donations and have partnered with over 140 children’s hospitals across the United States and Canada. Every dollar collected goes directly to the hospitals and local donations stay local."
After tossing a few bucks in for the cause and gathering our goods, my husband and I headed out to the parking lot where thousands still awaited their turn to nab the spooky goods inside. A step-and-repeat was set up for photo ops, and the day's announcer, Bob Kelly of Fox 29, kept the party going with enthusiastic announcements, fun music from the DJ, and short interviews with the superfans throughout the morning.
Smiling ear-to-ear, we made it back to our car and couldn't stop going on about what an excellent time was had by all – especially once we opened the swag bags Spirit had put together for their most loyal and earliest customers, which we were lucky enough to take home thanks to a few extras being stashed in the "backstage" area. My personal favorite was the Spirit Halloween Dad Hat, featuring the iconic logo on a black backdrop in the forever-trendy baseball cap shape.
Overall, the opening and activities could not have been more fun. After browsing all of the unique items found throughout the store, I took notes on a few top favorites so I could list them here. This is only a short sampling of what I fell in love with that day, so make sure you check these out then browse the Spirit site and head to your nearest location to get a jump-start on Halloween ASAP!
Welcome guests into your foggy lair with a smoking pile of skulls that warn of the mayhem to come. They stand nearly 20 inches high and glow flame red, illuminating your home with a hellishly good atmosphere all October.
Of all the terrifying dolls at Spirit this year – and there are plenty – this one takes the cake for scaring the pants off anyone who dares lock eyes with this stunningly rendered 24-inch Chucky. Prop him up somewhere prominent in your home to truly chill your visitors, but don't be surprised if he doesn't stay put overnight.
Thanks to Baz Lurhmann's wild adaptation of the singer's life story, I'm predicting Elvis costumes will make a comeback this year. Nab yours to be ahead of the curve with this fresh jumpsuit from Spirit – they have it in a ladies' style, too!
The Hellfire Club tee shirt is everywhere this summer thanks to the popularity of the most recent season of Stranger Things, but you can try the trend with something more subtle and relevant to Eddie Munson's interests by slapping one (or all!) of these cool patches on your favorite denim or leather jacket for the fall.
We already introduced you to this creepy guy in a recent roundup of Spirit's newest animatronics, but seeing him in person made it clear: He's a total terror. For just under $300, there's no better way to take your decorations from amateur to totally professional in one piece.
Upon entering, this adorable Barbara and her partner in the afterlife, Adam, were hanging right up front to greet me. As creepy as they may look, they're actually quite squishy and adorable in person. I highly recommend hardcore Beetlejuice fans grab both for snuggling during a Halloween viewing of the classic Tim Burton film.
Avid Halloween decor collectors can tell you all about how Cracker Barrel's wraith has been a hot ticket item for a couple of years now, but this phantom is leagues above it for those who enjoy more traditional Halloween aesthetics. Check out Spirit's staging photo with him amid some tombstones for an incredible front yard display that will have your trick-or-treaters howling with fearful delight.
I'm including two Hocus Pocus items here because that's just how excited I am for Hocus Pocus 2 to come out this fall! You and your besties can all dress as one of the cursed Sanderson sisters thanks to Spirit's very beautifully crafted costumes that coordinate with each of the three witches.