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The Halloween Wayback Machine

By: onipar


The Halloween Wayback Machine

By Anthony J. Rapino

Nostalgia drives us to rediscover some magic concoction of circumstances that ignites a familiar sensation we haven’t felt since we were kids. I call this elusive feeling “the nostalgia tingles,” and sometimes I think it’s worse than chasing the dragon. Though the craving is ever-present, I feel it most acutely once autumn rears its auburn-crowned head and alerts me to the those lost days of traditions that snare the best of us.

It’s most commonly through the recreation of those traditions (watching Halloween specials, carving Jack-o-lanterns, baking pumpkin pie, handing out candy) that I get my nostalgia fix. The sensation is often a pale facsimile of the old feelings, but it’s enough, and I grip it with all the monstrous force of my Halloween soul for fear of losing the memories and emotions forever.

A few years back, on the cusp of autumn, I found myself searching in vain for some new nostalgia paraphernalia through which I might satiate my eternal craving. Of course, VHS had long acted as such a tool, but until I discovered the notion of a “VHS Mixtape,” I had no idea to what depths the magnetic tape could plumb.

So, what is a VHS mixtape?

At it’s very best, a VHS mixtape recreates the experience of watching a holiday broadcast (in this case Halloween) on television during your decade of choice. It interweaves holiday commercials, television specials, bumpers, and movies into a perfect symphony of retro nirvana. Some of the best will ignore the rules of real television (which would have had mostly non-holiday related commercials airing between episodes) and packs the tape to the gills with 100% Halloween content. It’s a true glory to behold.

Another type of VHS mixtape is a true recorded television broadcast. I have a few of this type as well, usually an October television broadcast of a horror movie with the commercials and bumpers intact. While I love these tapes for their authenticity, I do find many of the commercials on the bland side since they often lack any Halloween themes.

Next, we have the horror-hosted movie of the week. You can find old recordings of local cable access channel broadcasts, new recreated recordings, and even retail VHS copies of the bigger names like Elvira. These types are always a kick, and depending on which variety you choose, it may have Halloween commercials intact or added on.

Finally, there are the ever-popular and universally loved RetroDaze holiday specials which take all of the above into live broadcasts that encourage community participation.

But this year, tragedy struck.

My poor VHS player sputtered its last cough and died on me, right as I was preparing my spooky season viewing. This sent me scurrying first, for a replacement and second, for alternative options online. To my surprise, I hit paydirt with the second option.

I'm sure most of you are aware of The Wayback Machine (The Internet Archive), but I thought I'd share a few Halloween gems I found there.

Firstly, is A Disney Halloween, which is rather hard to find a copy of. I was shocked and pleased to discover this recording unmolested by Disney’s litigious tentacles.

Next, we have a five-plus hour recording from The Disney Channel on Halloween night, 1988. A true diamond in the rough.

For the Elvira fans out there, we have another Halloween-night broadcast of over five hours from her MTV special in 1984.

And finally, this interesting Halloween-themed comedy special from WGN Channel 9, Boo! (1982).

Of course, there are so many more discoveries to be made on the vast internet archive, and I encourage you all to search for yourself, and perhaps share what you find in the comments of this article.

As we hopscotch from year to year, our search for the nostalgia tingles never ends. We will always look back and hope to feel again what we once felt, and experience again what we once experienced. The holiday season, and Halloween especially for me, grants a multitude of possibilities. I for one plan to squeeze all the juice from the pumpkin this year.

Every last drop.

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Lazlo Knight Posted on Oct 29, 2020 at 02:03 PM

Amazing find with the Archive and great article! I could get stuck there for days or months likely. Found this Halloween gem doing a quick hunt:

RetroOtaku620 Posted on Oct 11, 2020 at 11:30 AM

Pretty awesome! I can't wait to check out the specials.

onipar Posted on Oct 07, 2020 at 02:27 PM

Tony, There are a few people who sell Halloween Mix tapes now and then. Those "Eddie Spuhghetti" ( Tapes are occasional sold through the OSI74 store ( The GothTV ones I traded for on Instagram. I got one from Magnetic Magic Rentals:

Totally Bogus Video (Forever Bogus) had a couple that I never did get my hands on. I can't even find their site anymore.

AT the end of the day, it's just the kind of thing you have to be watching for from the various VHS folks out there. Your best bet will be Eddie Spuhgetti, as I believe he is the only one that will still produce copies to sell every year before Halloween.

Vaporman87 Posted on Oct 07, 2020 at 05:18 AM

Oh, and also... great stuff man! Where does one procure a Halloween mixtape?

Vaporman87 Posted on Oct 07, 2020 at 05:16 AM

Holy crap. I thought that MTV special got removed! Apparently not. Sweet!!!

onipar Posted on Oct 07, 2020 at 01:48 AM

Mr. Magic, yay! :-)
Ben, thanks so much! I think I have one more in the ol' tank before the season is out. If I can ever finish grading these essays.

Mr Magic Posted on Oct 07, 2020 at 12:48 AM


With pleasure! :)

Benjanime Posted on Oct 07, 2020 at 12:21 AM

just knocking it out of the park with this halloween nostalgia! great article oni!

onipar Posted on Oct 06, 2020 at 07:27 PM

Thank, Mr. Magic. Hit some of those links I provided for some great Halloween fun!

Mr Magic Posted on Oct 06, 2020 at 02:57 PM

Another riveting article, onipar.

I hope to one day find a Halloween mixtape somewhere. Until then, I guess I'll have to settle on YouTube for old-school Halloween goodness.

onipar Posted on Oct 06, 2020 at 02:57 PM


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