TULSA, Okla. — Halloween isn’t just trick-or-treating and costumes; it’s a multi-billion-dollar business.
According to a report from the National Retail Federation, shoppers this year will spend $3.2 billion on costumes, $2.6 billion on candy, and $2.7 billion on decorations this year. That comes out to a total of $8.8 billion spent for this one holiday.
The report showed the average shopper spends $86.27.
But many people, like Lori Conway in south Tulsa, spend way more.
Conway said, "Two years ago, I did a couple pirates climbing up a tree and it was just OK."
But that wasn’t quite enough for the Tulsa mom. So, she had a thought: what do people get creeped out about? Clowns.
So, like a mad scientist in a laboratory, Conway got to work on her front yard carnival – or rather – Carn-evil.
She said, “My mind starts going, and I start coming up with ideas in the middle of the night,” adding, “I love Halloween. I love the fact that you can get creative with it; I love the fact that you can get weird; you can get freaky; you can get colorful."
That’s exactly what she did, splurging on clowns, sideshows, games, projections and more. She even hosted a block party for the neighborhood.
But despite all the creepy clowns, the scariest thing might be how much all of this costs.
Conway said, “I shop at Goodwill, thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace . . . I 5-dollar it, 2-dollar it, 5-dollar it. I'm trying to do it on a budget. We'll see how that goes. I don't want to think about it."
She couldn't think of a dollar amount and didn’t want to. But judging by the smiles on kids’ faces and the number of cars that stop by, you could say it’s priceless.
Conway joked, “I'm going to keep adding and adding until I'm broke."
Big Halloween Productions
Something else people like to spend money on for Halloween is haunted houses.
One of the most notable in northeast Oklahoma is the Castle of Muskogee’s Halloween Festival – where screams translate to dollar signs.
Owner Matt Hiller said, “From the year we got going, I knew that it was going to be something that was going to grow and could be enjoyable for everybody."
The castle opened about 25 years ago just as a fireworks outlet. Hiller said, “We soon learned that when you have a castle and you're just selling fireworks for a couple of weeks out of the year, it's kind of a waste."
So, they added a Halloween Festival then a Renaissance Festival and a Christmas event. But the pièce de résistance has always been the Halloween Festival.
Charla Whidtington runs one of the haunted houses at the castle - Casa Morte. She and her husband live in Durant but drive up to Muskogee every August to live on the castle grounds.
She explained, "We see what's functioning this year and what needs to be repaired, what's in good shape, what we can do differently."
But Whidtington’s work doesn’t stop at the Castle of Muskogee. She has her own business building props for haunted houses all across the country. She said, “It's a multi-million dollar maybe even billion dollar business."
When they started five years ago, Charla and her husband knew they hit the jackpot. “I said, 'You know, we've got a pretty good product. I think we can sell it. I think we can make money with it.' and last year was our biggest year."
It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry that continues to boom.
Hiller said, "No matter what anybody tells you they like to get dressed up and like to put on a costume and look good or look different and act a little different and play."
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