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Gimme the creeps

Halloween is so easy for kids: Slap on a plastic Spongebob smock, hop in the family car and shake down the neighbors for some fun-size Three Musketeers. Once you're a grown-up, it takes a bit more planning. Haven't started yet? Never fear. We're here to help you hunt down a costume and make sense of all the eerie entertainment options.

Shivery shopping
If you're looking for a truly brilliant disguise, there's no better place than the city-block-long Fantasy Costumes. Whether your budget is $20 or $200, you'll have no trouble decking yourself out with something from this huge selection of wigs, make-up kits and accessories. Don't miss the bafflingly wide array of latex masks. Most of the disguises are obvious Halloween choices--George W. Bush and Jack Nicholson, for example--but you'll also find left-field picks like Hugh Grant. People go trick-or-treating as Hugh Grant? Now that's scary.

Speaking of scary, imagine the reaction when you answer the door hiding behind a life-size cardboard cut-out of "Friday the 13th" slasher Jason Vorhees. Where can I get such retro ephemera, you ask? Why, it's stock-in-trade at Time Tunnel, which is also probably the only place in town where you can pick up a "Creature from the Black Lagoon" T-shirt, a vintage 1984 "Gremlins" board game and a Boris Karloff door poster in the same trip.

Otherworldly outings
The Chicago area boasts a frighteningly large number of spooky sites, but Dream Reapers ranks among the best. The hair-raising haunt pulls out all the stops to scare the living daylights out of you, including creepy animatronics and dozens of live actors.

If you want to get up-close-and-personal with the other end of the mortal coil, get thee to Excalibur on a Friday night for Supernatural Chicago. The nightclub is allegedly teeming with ethereal observers, and spiritualist Neil Tobin's weekly bull sessions with ghosts such as spectral club-hopper Resurrection Mary are a perennial hot ticket. Admission includes two drinks, which can go a long way toward calming any jangled nerves.

Thanatoid theater
There's no holiday more theatrical than Halloween, so why not take a few tips from some professional drama queen=s? The ninth edition of the Cornservatory's "Tales from Mom's Crypt" series features the theater's resident drag divas, Tiff and Mom, in a dozen comical tales of gore and horror inspired by classic E.C. comics. It's BYOB, so you can pick your poison as targets like Mel Gibson, Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" get skewered.

Should you prefer your theater more traditional, turn to the Beverly Theater Guild's production of "Frankenstein." Once you strip away the neck bolts and stage makeup, scary stories don't come much more elemental than Mary Shelley's tale of men, gods and monsters.

Morbid music
Need an excuse to party? Hard-rocking hedonists can make their way to Logan Square Auditorium for the second annual Devil's Night Ball. Festivities include the gothic sounds of Hanzel und Gretyl, Fashion Bomb and Bella Morte, as well as a costume contest.

Less ghoulish revelers might prefer the Double Door's 10th annual Halloween Bash, a showcase of local bands masquerading as their rock 'n' roll idols. In past years, headliners Local H have taken the stage as everybody from Nirvana to Hall and Oates.

Ira Brooker is a metromix special contributor.

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