The Retro Machine (Vol. 13)

Blinky Lights, Croonchy Stars, and More!
October 06, 2008

So I can't believe it's already fall again! Time sure does fly. It's fitting that the 13th installment of this series falls just in time for me to be in the mood for Halloween. This time around, I've included some things that of course have to do with Halloween, but I've also put a few entries in about some things that just simply creep me out. In the spirit of the season, I've also once again thrown in a healthy dose of some of my favorite (or at least, most memorable) candies.

Blinky Lite

You might have been dressed like a pirate or Count Dracula, but if you were a kid in the 80's on All Hallows Eve you were likely to be carrying around a Blinky Lite with your trick or treat bag. Batteries loaded into this thing and illuminated a Jack O' Lantern at the top so us kids would have a light to navigate the community with (and also to avoid being hit by cars).

Blinky saw us through alot, year after year. Be it a big candy score, a big scary dog at the door, a toilet paper prank, or an egging attack, Blinky was there.

Haunted House Sounds

There were two kinds of houses we went to for treats on Halloween. One was your standard home where someone came to the door, dropped a few pieces of loot in your bag, and sent you on your way. The other, well, they were the fun ones. You knew those houses when you saw them, or rather, heard them. Spooky, creepy, and unnerving sounds would waft from their open windows. Wolves howling, doors creaking, and ghoulish laughs were standard fare. The front stoop would be decorated up and down with cob webs and other blinking, menacing devices. But it was those sounds that pierced into the night and sent a mix of fear and excitement coursing through your veins.

They were playing tapes or records like "The Haunted House" (seen above). And that, to me, was one of the best memories of Halloween as a child. Standing in the night, in costume, bag of candy in hand, absorbing those scary sounds, and figuring out which one of us was going to go to the door first.

Wax Candy Ghosts

Every year at the dawn of October we could be sure that the local convenience store would get in a fresh stock of Wax Candy Ghosts. They weren't my favorite candy, but they offered up a unique experience and I really liked the artwork on the package and the candy itself.

You know how it went, you'd bite into the wax and the juice inside would come spilling out. There was always something nasty, yet delicious, about that. It was always difficult to drink one of these without having it drip down your chin and onto your shirt. We always welcomed an appearance from the Wax Candy Ghosts in our trick or treat bag.

Popcorn Balls

There are some treats that are quintessential for a time of year. For me, Popcorn Balls always have been a cherished fall treat (good grief, I'm sounding like Martha Stewart here). These things have been nearly impossible for me to find for the last two years! So you can imagine my shock when I happened upon bags of them at Target a few weeks back. I was astounded! I found them, finally! You don't understand, in the last few years (during the fall season) I've stopped at every Eckerds, CVS, Rite-Aid, and grocery store and have been unable to find them.

They can be a little messy to eat, you kind of bite into them like you would an apple. Popcorn pieces do tend to land in your lap, so use a paper towel while eating them. Not only are they good, but they are low in fat too! To me, Popcorn Balls are a reminder of a time long ago when Halloween treats were simple. A time when you were happy to bob for apples out of a barrel. There's a certain smell about them that instantly takes me back...and that, is a good thing.

Bottle Caps

One of my all time favorite products from the Halls of Wonka, Bottle Caps did a great job of taking the taste of soda and infusing it within candy. These charming little morsels were shaped like bottle caps and came in different colors representing various flavors of soda. They were all good, but by far my favorite were the brown ones that tasted like root beer. There was something just so right about playing a game of Root Beer Tapper on your Commodore 64 while munching down on these things.

Better yet, they can still be found today. A taste of yesteryear is good for the soul, so go get some right now!

Lady Elaine

She may have only existed in the Land of Make Believe, but Lady Elaine haunted me then and still haunts me to this day. As a kid, I knew there was something not right about her. She always seemed so mean and she looked like a witch. She had some kind of skin condition too, those red cheeks and that red nose sent shivers up my spine. Even when she was doing something nice, it was like she was up to no good.

Sometimes, say on a crisp fall night, as the flickering candle casts shadows against the wall, I swear I see her little puppet body scurrying across my floor. And oh man, do you remember her voice too? Imagine her sneaking up on you as you are trying to fall asleep and then you suddenly hear that voice utter "yer dead".

Fleer Pumpkin Face Gum

This was another one of those convenience store delights that only appeared around the fall season. It was a really interesting textured bubble gum. Inside the package, you would find this one large, thick, orange pumpkin-shaped piece of gum. When you bit into it though, it didn't immediately have the texture of the gum you were used to. Rather, it kind of slowly crumbled in your mouth with each bite. The best way I can describe it is it was like biting into one of those big, soft, chewy Sweet Tarts.

At first it was like you had a million little loose pieces in your mouth all floating around without order. But as you chewed, it would come together in this globular form. The flavor didn't last too long so you were spitting it out before too long. What a strange ride it was, but then again, so is Halloween.

Big League Chew

Gum, in and of itself, is fun. Make it look like chewing tobacco and tie it into being a macho baseball player and suddenly you have yourself a role-playing experience that will have mom and dad worried that you'll one day be "on the chew".

This package of sugary goodness was a staple of my childhood. It was always satisfying to rip the top off of the pack, that blast of bubble gum goodness would hit you like a truck, and you'd be "doin' dip" in no time. The Big League Chew experience was really up to you. The gum was literally in long shreds. This meant that you could scoop a tiny amount out or you could stuff a giant wad in and let your cheek stick out so far that a casual observer could think you were hiding a golf ball in your mouth.

The stuff tasted great and the flavor at least lasted longer than Dubble Bubble. Big League Chew can still be found today and it still comes in many different flavors. If you ask me, nothing beats the good old fashioned original pink shredded bubble gum.

Croonchy Stars

Croonchy Stars was a wonderfully tasty cereal made by Post in the early 90's. The cereal pieces were cinnamon-flavored star shapes that, while yummy, could not quite compete with Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The mascot here was The Swedish Chef and the memorable commercials of the day had the Swedish Chef baking a giant star and then "popping" it, which rained lots of little cereal stars down on him.

The Swedish Chef has always been pretty creepy to me. He was noticeably a muppet, but he had very human hands. There has always been something strange about that to me. The Chef was so clumsy that he was always a breath away from killing himself, so it really is amazing that his Croonchy Stars turned out as good as they did. Still, no matter how spooked I was by the guy, I could not deny that sitting down to a bowl of Croonchy Stars and some milk (or better yet, Chocolate Milk!) before a school day was always a very warm experience.

7th Guest

Sometime in the early 90's, a PC game came out that would define the new generation of "horror-themed" games. 7th Guest was a CD game (and CD was a pretty big deal to be putting into your computer at the time).

The game had you walking through a very high resolution house (well, for the early 90's that was high res). As you walked through, you would slowly unravel a story. The story would be revealed to you as you explored the house, solved puzzles, and encountered apparitions.

Coming across the apparitions was the coolest, I had never seen anything like that in a game before. Real actors in live action video played the ghostly roles and it made for an immersive mood that was unparalleled for its time.

May all your Halloween parties be as spooky/retro as this!

Well that wraps up another one, so I really hope you enjoyed it. In the archive section I will put below, make sure you check out last years Halloween article! It was Volume 8, so go ahead and check it out if its new to you!
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