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Ben Cooper – the High Priest of Halloween

by on Mar.07, 2011, under Exclusive Haunted October Blogs, Spooky Photos

Ben Cooper – the High Priest of Halloween

I’m not really a nostalgiac guy. I don’t wax poetic about “how things used to be”, or long for “simpler times”. But, much like anybody, I guess I do have a sort of sentimental side when it comes to the stuff that summons fond memories. A song from summers at the lake, a particular model of automobile that the family enjoyed Sunday drives in, that hot dog stand with the curly fries served in a funnel cup to hold the malt vinegar we covered them with. Okay, fine. I AM nostalgiac…

Of all the fun times and memorable events that led me to this point in my life, none are more affectionately etched in my mind than those surrounding Halloween. Growing up in western New York state, Halloween brought about cool crisp air, multi-colored foliage strewn about the ground, and stacks of boxed costumes on the department store shelves. Droves of characters lined the displays, their plastic faces leering through the thin celophane window that allowed us a glimpse of what to expect on the streets come the night of October 31st! Some were well known to us – cartoon favorites, movie monsters, television stars – while others (my favorites!) were generic creatures created especially for that magical day! Devils and witches and apes and all sorts of ghouls and ghosts and whatnot vied for the opportunity to be taken home by some excited child, who would try it on repeatedly day after day in anticipation of the  candy-filled evening to come (it never came fast enough, and was always over way too soon). Our adolescent version of walking the red carpet on Oscar night, I suppose…

Thank heaven for Ben Cooper! A costume and set designer for the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem, as well as the Ziegfeld Follies, he established Ben Cooper, Inc., in 1937. By the late 40s, Ben Cooper, Inc. was one of the most popular and prominent costume manufacturers, and by the time the company folded in the 1990s the name Ben Cooper was synomymous with Halloween. I still recall with great wonder the fantastic Groovy Ghoulies costume I wore as a youngster – Frankie came with a nifty little rubber bat on an elastic string, complete with squeaker (probably the coolest rubber bat i have EVER seen – I’d kill to have that thing today), and was the hit of my circle of friends!

There was something so magical in slipping on that flimsy fabric costume, pulling back the elastic band of the mask and slipping it over your head, instantly transforming you into the character of your fancy. Somehow, seeing the world through those tiny eye holes made the night even more spectacular. Onward you’d tromp through the neighborhood, ready to haul in the biggest bounty of candy treats imaginable! And the next day, it went back into its box, to find retirement in the garage or basement, among the previous years’ costumes that no longer thrilled you in the same way.

Ben Cooper, Inc. costumes have become a favorite of Halloween collectors and nostalgiasts alike, inspiring everything from custom costuming events to art gallery showings. The following link provides a nice variety of images of Ben Cooper cosutmes through the years:

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=ben+cooper+halloween+costumes&form=QBIR&qs=n&sk=&sc=6-18

You may find the very suit that you donned in your early days – I’m sure you probably have one or two kicking around the attic somewhere – dig it out and find it a place of honor on a shelf in your home, to remind you of those October nights of yesteryear counting out your candy on the dining room table…

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