There are a few telltale signs that Halloween is nearing: Starbucks will start promoting its Pumpkin Spiced Latte. USA will start playing reruns of the worst sequels from the best horror franchises, and empty retail locations will drop their dusty “AVAILABLE FOR RENT” signs and become Spirit Halloweens for a few months.
But what’s it like working for the seasonal retailer? According to a TikToker named Kath (@katherinemljones), it’s pure “chaos.” She delineates why in a viral clip posted to the popular social media application that’s garnered over 525,000 views as of Monday afternoon.
One of the biggest bombshells she dropped about Spirit in her clip is that the brand’s products are constantly recycled from season to season (kind of like the world’s communal supply of Candy Corn, according to comedian Lewis Black), meaning that shoppers are buying really, really old product. This may not be a big deal for some items, but could have some dire health implications for others.
@katherinemljones i love talking about spirit, its my deepest lore #spirithalloween ♬ original sound – kath 🦋✨✌🏻
Kath begins her video contorting her face in front of the camera while clawing her fingers. She tells viewers that she used to work at Spirit Halloween for two separate autumns, as Spirit is a seasonal store that opens up around the spookiest time of the year.
She first discusses the “chaos” of setting up the store. Kath says that the entire store is literally “built” from “boxes.” Workers are then expected to piece everything together without much direction as to how to do it. They open up various packages containing faux “bloody knives” or cans of “purple hair spray” and a sundry of different costumes and then arrange everything into a retail outlet primed for folks to peruse. Here’s the thing though—Kath says that no one knows what’s in the boxes before they arrive, they’re just sent random items to place for sale in the store
The TikToker says that she did walk away with two important lessons from her time working at Spirit Halloween: that a single container of liquid smoke is enough for a “normal” person to put into their smoke machine for some scary good times, and that “cream-based” makeup for costumes will allow folks to easily wipe it off so they can look like a normal person the next day. Grease-based makeup, she warns on the other hand, will likely leave a stain.
According to Kath, the temporary nature of the store tends to attract the most random of individuals, or “whackadoos” as she calls them. She says that after she worked there for a second season she went through two separate managers in that three-month period who were fired (one for an unknown reason and the other for stealing). They were ultimately replaced by a 19-year-old high school dropout, left to manage the entire operation.
The temporary nature of the store meant that there weren’t any advanced accounting or inventory systems, Kath says, so everything needed to be monitored manually. The store’s cash was placed inside of a safe, which was then tucked away “next to the toilet in the bathroom.” Every single night when they rounded up the money from the day’s sales, Kath says they had to crack open the “toilet safe” and then put the cash inside.
As far as the “vibe” goes as an employee at Spirit Halloween, Kath called working for the place an “out of body experience” citing an example of what it feels like to close the store.
Picture this: it’s 9:45pm and no one else is in the store, and you’ll be putting away Freddy Krueger gloves while The X-Files theme plays over a loudspeaker. “You’re just like where am I, what am I doing? Why am I here?” Kath shares her inner monologue.
Despite the chaos, Kath claims she got paid “pretty good.” So maybe the stress of unpacking random boxes and feeling like you’re in a surrealist retail costume-scape is worth it if you’re collecting a fat paycheck while you’re at it.
Kath then breaks down the types of customers she dealt with on a daily basis while working at Spirit Halloween. First up were the Halloween Professionals, who she says “scared” her due to their vast knowledge of costumes, animatronics, and all things related to the holiday. She says that because she didn’t “eat, sleep, breathe Halloween in the way that they wanted [her] to,” she would sometimes feel like she couldn’t appropriately assist shoppers. Kath highlights an instance where she was asked to be taken to the “Michael Myers” section, and she’d freeze because she had no idea who that was.
The next crop of customers she said she encountered were folks who put their ultimate trust of their lives into her hands, overloading her with questions about temporary cosmetics, like hair dye spray. She gives a quixotic look into the camera and states, “It’s $3 why don’t we just give it a shot? Right like come back if you don’t like it.”
Kath also points out that she worked at Spirit when she was 16 years old, which made some other customer interactions uncomfortable. She remembers one woman asking her if she could pull off a sexy costume for her job at a bar. Even more inappropriate were the shoppers who’d come in and explicitly tell her that they were using the costumes and props for bedroom play.
The TikToker shares her biggest revelation towards the end of her video.
“I think the one thing I can actually expose about Spirit Halloween, which might actually be a little whistle-blower moment for me, is that they re-use the same stuff every year,” she says. “So, every year, they have new stuff like the new shows, the new characters, but they also have all the leftover stuff that doesn’t like, you know it’s the f*cking witch hat. And they sent it to the warehouse and they send it back…”
There are some products that she says aren’t tossed out at any point: cosmetics.
“When you look at the makeup, you might look and be like why is this package different? Babe the package is different cause that’s from 2014 and no one’s bought it,” Kath claims. “And I’m not saying that all the makeup’s like that, but I’m saying if you go to your Spirit Halloween and you look around you might be like, ‘That’s a different man on the cover of the green face paint.’ And that’s because the first man is now 57. Because that face paint is 8 years old.”
There were a lot of parts of Kath’s 5-minute TikTok clip that users resonated with, like one commenter who said that they too feel as if they’re in an alternate reality while traversing the aisles of the store. “Honestly feels like a different realm when I walk into that store,” they said.
As far as the capacity for shady stuff going on, another TikTok user said that they too experienced this while they worked for the retailer. “My boss used to clock in her daughter who didn’t even work there so she could make extra money such a sketchy operation, but also sooo entertaining,” they claimed.
Others said Spirit Halloween’s chaotic nature also applied to other stores. As one commenter wrote, “Marshall’s was the same way. Just boxes FULL of random stuff.”
The Daily Dot has reached out to Spirit Halloween via email and Kath via TikTok comment for further information.