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Unusual Haunts:
How to Trick Your Treat on Halloween
or, If I Didn't Think It'd Put an Eye Out, I'd Kiss You, My Dear...

by Colin Lingle

What is it about Halloween? It just brings out the best... and the beast... in all of us. Many people claim it as their favorite holiday, and why not? Instead of the crass commercialism shoveled at us come Christmastime, we get to dress up as brain-eating ghouls and sexy pixies. Who wouldn't love that?

This year, the BTD -- ever vigilant, ever in your service -- traveled to the fairy godmother of all monster mashes, Halloween in San Francisco's Castro district. What follows is not only a dead-man-on-the-scene report, but also a primer on how to catch yourself some arm candy next year.

I Left My Heart in San Francisco... and a Leg, and My Brain

San Francisco -- known as "Frisky" to certain residents -- is, for a wide variety of reasons, a big ol' party town. Maybe it's all the sunshine. Maybe they just like to dress up there. But All Hallow's Eve is something special, even for the City by the Bay. Even New York City, which can be a year-round horrorshow of it's own, can't beat it.

Halloween Hint #1: It's Halloween All Day Long
One great way to meet people on the big day is to truly commit to the effort. It's All Hallow's Eve all day long, so put that costume on before you leave the house. You'll get fewer strange looks than usual and you'll give everyone an instant conversation starter. "Nice horns," they might say. In this case, that's a good thing.

The tradition, of course, goes way back. SF has always been a little wilder than your average mission town. And in a city rife with artists, musicians, and drag queens, you're bound to find a whole host of events and activities to suit every sensibility, living or undead.

First of all, forget those wimpy haunted houses. This year you might have gone to the Mad Scientists' Halloween, where earplugs and disposable clothing come in handy during the chainsaw pumpkin carving. Or, you might have checked out the Haunted Barn (open from "Sunset til Death"), a particularly gruesome haunted house built -- so the legend goes -- from the blood-drenched timbers of the Drake, a pirate ship whose crew was massacred by insane criminals from the prison frigate they were boarding. Not for the faint of stomach. You can even check out Halloween on Alcatraz Island, if you don't mind crossing dark, cold, shark-infested waters to party.

Halloween Hint #2: Avoid the Boxy Costume
Did your mom and dad ever send you out in a cardboard box spray-painted silver and call you a robot? Remember how difficult it was to navigate the hallway to the bathroom? Now imagine that you and your box are much bigger... but the hallway is still small. You don't want to spend the night in a large cardboard frame, even if it's an excruciatingly clever representation of whatever it is. There are cool costumes, and then there are cool costumes. There will always be somebody to come in the big 3-D affairs. Let them. You just cozy up to that sailor in your cat suit and watch.

True, you might have done HellBall 5 or hopped on the Jose Cuervo Freakboat 2000. But you would probably have ended up at a cross-cultural shindig like Mexiween (chamber music in the Presidio) and the Necrotic Erotic Ball (featuring zombie pinups competing in the "Miss Undead 2000 Bloody Pageant"). At the Embarcadero Center's Halloween Blood Drive, costumed donors were competing for prizes. Now that's a party you wouldn't want to get out of hand.

One great added benefit to being here at this time of year is the Mexican Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. Galleries, clubs, and museums across the city offer all kinds of activities around this comic and macabre festival, from parades to altars to dance parties. The ever-present folk-art skulls set the tone for the entire city, and, since Dia de los Muertos is actually on November 2nd, the party atmosphere fills the whole week.

But make no mistake, the real unholy free-for-all is on Halloween. And if you're in San Francisco next October 31st, what you really need to do is get your costumed behind down to the Castro.

Party Til Your Head Drops Off

While many locals declare themselves over it, the Castro celebration remains the jewel in the bloody crown of San Francisco's fright night scene. Although it is not officially sanctioned by the city, all the people dressed in police uniforms seem to know better than to try and stop the sea of masked, made-up, and maniacal creatures that floods the neighborhood.

At its peak, the party starts at the intersection of Castro and Market, and takes up seven or eight city blocks at least. The closer you get to the center, the more the press of humanity -- and inhumanity -- over takes you. Everywhere, people are circulating, showing off their wounds, comparing pitchforks, jumping on giant artichokes they may or may not know.

More: Best Costumes, Ghoulish Groups, Thirsty Vampires!


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