It’s that time of year again… In many parts of the country the weather is getting a little bit colder, sunset starts earlier, the leaves on the trees are starting to change colors, and seasonal retail Halloween stores have appeared in nearly every mid to large city from coast to coast. Being life-long fans of Halloween, we at Tiki Storm LLC love this time of year! As children, my brother (Tiki Storm co-founder) Scott and I used to be avid home haunters, before the term even existed. This was the beginning of the path that lead us to later open multiple blacklight attractions. Like many home haunters, we made yearly excursions to the local Halloween retail stores that appeared every October. That tradition continues to this day, but given our current business, it is nearly impossible not to see those stores through the lens of black light themed attraction owners. As such, the “Halloween Store Black Light Round-Up 2017” was born.
I realize most large professional black light themed attractions don’t necessarily utilize seasonal Halloween stores. This makes a lot of sense in terms of the selection and quality of the merchandise available (those stores being squarely aimed at the consumer market), however home haunters, event planners, and semi-professionals do seek out these stores as a convenient way to “stock up” on supplies. Almost every seasonal Halloween store carries some blacklight merchandise, and today I’m giving you the low-down on that merchandise for 2017.
Spirit is a large Halloween retailer, with over 1200 seasonal stores in the United States and Canada (according to Wikipedia). Spirit is owned by Spencer Gifts LLC (you know, that Spencer’s store in the mall that sells lava lamps, novelty tee shirts, black light posters, etc.). Their website sells Halloween merchandise year-round, but their retail stores are seasonal.
The selection of black light merchandise this year (see below) seems very on par with the selection available in previous years.
Spirit offers UV reactive paint (in small amounts), chalk, and “spray”. The spray claims to not be paint nor hair spray, but just a generic spray to make things glow. The store also offers a small selection of black light reactive make-up and hair spray in various colors. In terms of actual black (UV) lights, Spirit seems to have about half a dozen options this year. In the location we visited (in Michigan) the store was selling two sizes of fluorescent blacklight tubes: 18 inch model and a four foot model. The fixtures that hold the tubes are black plastic, and each have a power switch.
On the LED side of things, Spirit sells a “Blacklight Strobe Spotlight”, and a “Purple Fire and Ice Spotlight”. Both are essentially small LED spotlights mounted on plastic stakes (for easy mounting on a lawn). See the Purple Fire and Ice Spotlight in the video below:
Two things that I saw at Spirit this year really piqued my interest. The first was simply labeled “Black Light” (being held by a hand in the Spirit photo at the beginning of this blog post). This bulb can plug into a standard incandescent light socket (the kind that will hold a standard screw-in light bulb), but it was comprised of miniature, curved fluorescent black light tubes. To me, this seemed like a clever idea, as you could get the benefits of a true fluorescent tube black light in a compact format. These offer brighter UV light than a spiral fluorescent tube black light.
The other Halloween store black light to catch my eye at Spirit this year is called “Giant Purple Bulb” (see below).
Given that it is a large incandescent bulb with a purple tint, it most likely gives off little to no actual UV light that is useful for making blacklight reactive objects fluoresce (glow), but it has a classy look to it when hung like in the photo on the box. I applaud Spirit for labeling this product as “Purple” instead of “Black Light”, however as you can see in the photo it was located directly below a “Black Lights” sign (which still might be misleading to some people).
Halloween City (formerly known as Halloween USA) is a large seasonal Halloween retailer owned by Party City (the largest retailer of party goods in the US and Canada). Given the fact that they are a part of Party City, it should come as no surprise that Halloween City has a selection of blacklight reactive party supplies. This store also had a small selection of uv reactive makeup and hair spray. The Halloween City location we visited (in Michigan) had a selection of black lights (see below).
Halloween City offers a 48 inch black light fluorescent tube to “totally fill the room with black lights”, as the text on the retail box says. The fixture into which the fluorescent tube is mounted is minimal, which would offer wide area uv coverage, but would also make aiming at a specific object difficult. The other black light we saw at Halloween City was an old-school incandescent bulb coated to filter out non uv rays. As mentioned in our blog post Blacklight Basics For Themed Attractions (Part 2), these types of bulbs are horribly inefficient at producing uv light, which makes them poor at making blacklight reactive objects fluoresce (glow). They also produce a lot of heat. Honestly it is surprising to find this kind of bulb still being sold commercially in 2017, given all the better (and less dangerous) options available. i don’t mean to single out Halloween City on this issue. Incandescent black light bulbs have been sold for decades, and there are many retail stores that still carry them. As a black light attraction professional, I find them ineffective, outdated, and dangerous.
An interesting thing to note about Halloween City’s black light section is that it contained non-black lights. As you can see in our photo, there are regular strobe lights in the Black Light section, and their packaging contains large elements of purple, the color most associated with black light products. I’m not sure why these items are in this section. Perhaps Halloween City believes the home haunter market doesn’t understand the difference between black lights, and other forms of novelty lighting? This is purely speculation.
Personally I think there is a black light whole in the seasonal Halloween retail market right now. I think there is an opportunity for one of these retailers to really expand their black light related offerings, and fill a niche that their competitors have left open. The black light section of a Halloween store could contain black lights (as they do now), but perhaps there could be a shift towards the newer LED black lights, like we’ve seen in the professional themed attraction and DJ industries? Also, where are the black light reactive costumes? Most of these stores have one or two glow-in-the-dark costume pieces (a mask, a hat, etc.), and these will fluoresce (glow) under black lights, but why is there not a section of complete black light reactive costumes? In a retail setting, a great-looking display is everything, and setting up a great black light display would be dead easy for these stores. Imagine the units they could move if people walked through their doors, and saw brightly glowing costumes (on mannequins). And if they bought a black light reactive costume, they’re going to want to buy a black light too (to make their costume “glow”). Seems like this would be an easy home run for the first retailer to roll out the idea.
While you may not be supplying your mega black light mini-golf course or 10,000+ square foot pro black light haunted house at seasonal Halloween stores, there are black light products to be found there. With some creative thinking, effort, and a bit of trial-and-error, you can achieve some pretty impressive results utilizing the black light items they sell. We at Tiki Storm wish all of you an amazing Halloween season!
Blog post author: T.M. Kinsley
[Tiki Storm LLC was not compensated by Spirit Halloween or Halloween City for the content of this blog post.]