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Gore galore in young kids’ Halloween costumes

Halloween has morphed into a gore fest that has kids as young as 6 unleashing their inner monsters in ultra-violent costumes — blood-smeared chain saws and spiked killing gloves sold separately. “No one seems to care,” said a parenting writer who is fighting back.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Halloween has morphed into a gore fest that has kids as young as 6 unleashing their inner monsters in ultra-violent costumes — blood-smeared chain saws and spiked killing gloves sold separately.

Options include Leatherface from "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," Jason ("Friday the 13th"), Freddy ("A Nightmare on Elm Street") and Michael ("Halloween"). Costume sizes can run so small that many wearers might be too young to have seen the slasher movies under film industry guidelines.

Fanged creatures feasting on brain stems. Possessed babies chomping on arms. Not all parents think it's OK for the holiday second only to Christmas in the minds of many kids to be more a celebration of the most deranged characters pop culture has to offer.

"Bloody, sadistic, nightmare-inducing Halloween costumes are indeed being made and marketed for kids, and no one seems to care," said Joel Schwartzberg, a parenting writer and Montclair, N.J., dad of a 10-year-old boy and twin 7-year-old girls.

Schwartzberg is fighting back at, which he hopes will raise awareness about how Halloween has strayed from "sickly sweet to just plain sick." No puritan, he said he loves a good horror flick and has even written some himself, but what's the point of all the realistic gore — for the very young, anyway?

"I think wearing these costumes and being exposed to human depravity, even in a 'fun' context, doesn't scar kids so much as desensitize them to brutal violence," Schwartzberg said. "Kids are less able to distinguish between real world and fictional brutality than grown-ups."

Some schools are also concerned, toning down Halloween celebrations or banning them altogether because of complaints about the gore factor, along with religious objections and concerns about too much candy and potentially dangerous props like pointy toy swords and vision-impairing masks.

But it's Halloweeeeeeeeeen, costume companies and other parents argue, urging the bothered among them to exercise the privilege of saying "No" to violent, realistic gore.

"It's one night a year — let them have fun as long as it's something that's not dangerous or putting their life in jeopardy," said Big Lake, Minn., mom Cindy Chapman, who has a 9-year-old daughter. "I also have a rule: No store bought outfits, so that truly forces my daughter to be creative AND it cuts down on a lot of the commercial gore."

Marilynn A. Wick, founder and CEO for one of the largest costume distributors, Costume World, said the company relies on customers to "use their best discretion in selecting costumes and makeup for young people." She added that children are inspired by films and video games and that "Costume World has a responsibility and a mission to supply our clients with the most up-to-date costumes and accessories, many of which are inspired by these visual stimuli."

Many "too scary" costumes are elaborate affairs, including a child Doctor Zombie available in size small with a "highly crafted" mask of a rotting face, a blood-splattered lab coat and "fully detailed" exposed and rotted rib cage, intestines and protruding knee bone.

Image: Freddy Kruger costume
This photo released by Zoogster Costumes shows the \"Freddy Kruger \" costume, which captures the horror movie character perfectly with it's tattered, shredded sweater and clawed glove.Zoogster Costumes

Other costumes chase a "brand," like the tattered, shredded "Freddy Krueger Child Sweater" available in extra small (sizes 4-6) at Costume World's online store right next to "Flannel Curious George."

Denver mom Tracy Kinner said her two kids, 5 and 7, were "literally scared of Halloween and trick-or-treaters until last year," adding: "We'd have to find something else to do because they didn't want strange, scary, gory trick-or-treaters coming to our door. I, personally, am OK and somewhat relieved that they saw this as scary and aren't desensitized already."

Lori Liddle, a former executive for American Girl and Lands' End, got a fright of her own at how the costume industry has changed since her three grown children were young when she started wandering trade shows to stock her Wishcraft Halloween line at

"We were really kind of shocked at how scary and gruesome everything was," she said. "There were aisles too scary for me to walk down."

So she set out to "bring the magic back to Halloween" through more than 150 "kid-friendly" costumes that include dreamy little sultans and genies, smiling spider queens and playful bat capes, along with brave but blood-free medieval knights and gladiators.

Liddle suggests making Halloween a family affair through nonviolent group themes and simplifying the fun through personalized costumes and accessories.

"The fact is there are so many unhappy, scary things in the world," she said. "While Halloween has its roots in scary, it really is about dress-up and imagination. At the end of the day, kids really don't want to be scared."