Plague Doctors, Tiger Kings, and Clowns, Oh My: These Are Spirit Halloween’s Hottest Costumes of 2020

Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Ever since Spirit Halloween began setting up shop in shuttered retail stores during the 1980s, the seasonal chain has been the beloved playground of cosplayers and Halloween lovers across the nation. And while people are steering clear of crowded costume parties this year, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dressing up. We spoke to Spirit Halloween about which new getups are flying off the shelves, which ones never go out of style, and how you can celebrate spooky season safely.

Historians don’t have firm evidence that physicians actually wore beaked masks to prevent the spread of the plague throughout the 14th century (some believe they weren’t even invented until the 16th century), but that hasn’t stopped shoppers from nabbing “plague doctor” costumes as a nod to the current pandemic. Bright yellow hazmat suits are also especially popular this year. Group costumes, on the other hand, are “moving slower,” Spirit Halloween tells Mental Floss, since partygoers are planning to celebrate in smaller, spaced-out (or virtual) circles.

The doctor is in.Spirit Halloween

Other sought-after ensembles reveal what parts of pop culture are reigning over our collective consciousness. You can probably plan on seeing at least a few Joe Exotic lookalikes out and about; Spirit Halloween says its Tiger King-inspired “mullet man” outfit—complete with a blond wig, a lurid tiger-striped shirt, a mustache, and even a clip-on eyebrow ring—is all the rage. Life-sized cans of spiked seawater might be wandering the streets, too: the “White Clam” costume is another new bestseller (though its “natural slime” flavor sounds less refreshing than White Claw’s “natural lime”).

It could be any mullet man, but it sure looks like Joe Exotic.Spirit Halloween

If kids spent extra time inside playing video games this year, it could help explain why so many are eager to emulate their favorite characters. “[Fortnite] is at the head of the pack in this year’s popularity contest with Drift leading the charge,” Spirit Halloween says, but fellow Fortnite character Fishstick is “running a close second.”

And dressing up like a nightmare-inducing horror villain simply never seems to fall out of fashion. According to Spirit Halloween, “scary clowns are always popular,” as are A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger, Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees, and Child’s Play’s Chucky.

That said, not everybody wants to scare their friends out of their skin—some are just looking to make them laugh. “That's why we can't blow up our inflatable costumes fast enough,” Spirit Halloween explains. “If you see a giant toilet bowl or SpongeBob on your next Zoom call, you can blame us. We don't mind.”

Anybody who wears this is the opposite of a party pooper.Spirit Halloween

Virtual parties are just one way that revelers are planning to flaunt their Spirit Halloween spoils. Though people have always used social media to showcase their costumes from afar, it’s become an especially important method of celebrating with friends and family (and the broader online community) this holiday season.

“This year, TikTok is exploding with Spirit Halloween fans showing off their ‘unironic Spirit shopping hauls,’ creating hot new looks and dances in colorful pageboy wigs, and turning astronaut helmets into their favorite cosplay items,” Spirit Halloween says.

If you are headed to an in-person gathering, on the other hand, the company has added plenty of new Halloween-themed face masks to keep things germ-free. For trick-or-treaters, they recommend going door to door with a “Loot Scoop” treat bag, which features a long handle that’ll help you maintain social distance and avoid hand-to-hand contact.

Before you step out, here’s what else you should know about celebrating safely.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

See What Each State Is Googling This Halloween Season

Different states have different interests when it comes to Halloween.
Different states have different interests when it comes to Halloween.
Photo by Daisy Anderson from Pexels

Halloween may look a little—or a lot—different this year owing to ongoing global health concerns brought on by COVID-19, but that hasn’t stopped people from pursuing interests from costumes to movies related to the spooky season.

Using Google Trends data, the people at SatelliteInternet.com, which helps connect people in rural areas to reliable internet access, have compiled a map of the Halloween topics each state has been searching for this year. As you can see, pumpkins, candy, and horror films are still very much on the minds of people looking for some Halloween inspiration.

A map of common Halloween Google search terms according to state.SatelliteInternet.com

While searches for autumn dominated in 14 states, Vermont natives have been curious about Stephen King’s It, while Kansas and South Dakota were searching for Chucky from the Child’s Play franchise.

Oregon wants to keep it light, searching for the 1998 Disney Channel movie Halloweentown, while Delaware is interested in body painting. Maine seems to be preoccupied with keeping kids busy, which is why coloring books are at the top of their search list.

If you’re curious which costumes are trending nationally, Google recently released a list. Witches take the top spot, followed by dinosaurs, Harley Quinn, and rabbits.