The Dollar Tree D a z e

Under the curse of the gray sky of winter, I find myself poised to incessantly strike at any creative notion my tiny mind concocts. Tonight I bring you the result of just that…

The almighty American dollar may not stretch as far as it used to, but that doesn’t mean I can’t waste some on silly garbage and write about it. I went to a local dollar store with nothing but a crisp $10 bill in my pocket, the dream of my purchases bringing an evening of entertainment, and the hope of finding the discount pleasantries among life’s low priced simplicities. 

My Rules: I can only go over $10 via tax. Immaturity and variety must be the themes within my purchases. I must navigate the store completely blindfolded (I made that last one up to see if you’re paying attention). 

Note: I recommend trying this experiment with a friend or loved one. Mostly because it’s always interesting to find out the excuses they produce to exclude themselves. 

Now The First Annual Ten Dollar Store Shopping Spree! 

I ended up in a fairly new Dollar Tree store that was quiet and organized. Which I realize is a rarity within the realm of dollar stores. There’s almost a feeling of superiority upon entering a store knowing every single item costs a dollar. You realize flashing a one hundred dollar bill could lead to the possibility of the employees silently bowing in respect as they close the store for you to shop in solitude. Or maybe that’s just me. 

Anyway…

For about twenty five minutes I found myself haunting the snack and toy aisles like a whiter, harrier Casper. I was confident with my haul. In fact, I even had to turn down some interesting options. But I had rules to abide by and a sad empty article to write. “For another time…” I thought as I made my way to the checkout aisle to be silently judged by the clerk. 

Now Let’s Dig On In…

Da Goods: 

  • Bag of Haribo Gummy Dinosaurs
  • Slab of Cheese Dip and Breadsticks 
  • Box of Vanilla Moon Pies
  • Zapp’s VoOdOo Potato Chips 
  • Mountain Dew Blue Voltage 
  • Ninja Turtles Activity and Coloring Book
  • The Most Swallowable Optimus Prime 
  • A Unidentifiable Grow “Creature” 
  • 24 Jurassic Park Crayons (Jealous yet?)   
  • Hot Wheels DONUT CAR 

MY TOTAL WAS $10.77

Dollar stores aren’t known for healthy food options. And although I’ve never really been a human raccoon, the point of this exercise was to indulge my inner child. And after my $5 junk food buffet..the next point of this exercise will simply be to exercise. 

The gummy dinos were an easy pick. There’s gummy everything these days so I figured the best option was to eat a bunch of animals that would naturally eat me. Sort of a lazy revenge plot 65 million years too late. The box of Moon Pies is a junk snack I never think about until they’re directly in front of me. I chose the vanilla flavor because I found out they made a vanilla flavor when I was standing in front of a box of vanilla Moon Pies. What a time to be alive.  

Zapp’s Voodoo chips are kettle cooked potato chips that taste like salt and vinegar got into a car accident with barbecue. They honestly could’ve been flavored like toothpaste because I was already sold on the bag littered with little voodoo dolls and old Halloween cassette tape font. The breadsticks with cheese dip reminded me of my brown-baggin’ grade school days and I probably haven’t snacked on these since. I also like how they’re packaged like some sort of cracker snack ammo belt. Lastly I had a Mountain Dew Voltage to wash down all my garbage. Mountain Dew’s flavor choices basically look like a gradient tool these days. But I always admire a beverage that makes people think I’m downing chilled window cleaner. 

Now when it came to junk of a different variety, the dollar store was even more impressive. From tiger puzzles, bags of green army men, knockoff family board games, and neon colored plastic alligators…the dollar store is a proverbial “Who’s Who” of “Shit I Don’t Need”. And I truly appreciate it for that.    

I had dinner…now the entertainment to go with it! The first thing I immediately grabbed was a Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles coloring and activity book. You could stick the Ninja Turtles logo on a bag of dry mulch and I’d happily buy it. I threw in a Jurassic World crayon pack to assist me in my activity book adventures. I knew they wouldn’t be as quality as the Crayola brand but these had images of dinosaurs wrapped around the crayons. And I’ve always been someone who can overlook one’s faults if wrapped in images of dinosaurs. 

The next thing that caught my eyes were small bags of retro choking hazards disguising themselves as Transformers “mini-figures”. You can’t see the actual figures because they blind you with nostalgia by using the original Transformers box art. And it worked on me anyway. I picked Optimus Prime and although I’ll end up losing him by the end of this article he’s pretty rad for being the size of a Starburst. I find it humorous that dollar store Transformers don’t actually transform. You want Optimus to be a truck now? What is this? Walmart? He’s a dollar, man. He stays a robot. 

Yet the Hot Wheels were conveniently displayed to rectify the disappointment left by our Non-Transforming Transformer robots. Front and center was a Pink Donut Racing Car called the “Fast Foodie”. Ha. That’s good. And when you’re in that aisle with an armful of junk food and see a Hot Wheel shaped like a donut amongst all “regular” cars…you don’t call that happenstance…that’s called “fate” my friend. And you add it to the pile. 

Lastly at the end of the aisle was a display of Grow Creatures. They had a classic selection featuring sharks, alligators, mermaids, dinosaurs, and MONSTER FACE. Grows 600 PERCENT the package claimed. Are you listening to me? I could throw this guy into a bowl and wake up to the sound of him absorbing my block! This was easily the most confident purchase of the entire lot. Grab a handful of Zapp’s Voodoo chips as I watch my shrunken head grow. Life ain’t so bad. 

BUT IT CAN BE DISAPPOINTING…

Directions on the package stated it takes up to ten days for Monster Face to achieve full growing potential, which makes it one of the most patient toys I ever purchased. So I got cozy and documented Monster Face’s (now named “Sigourney”) progress. It was like watching a super delayed allergic reaction to bee stings. I noticed it stopped growing around Day 4. I can’t say it’s large enough to absorb my block. I don’t think it can even absorb my bath mat. Perhaps common tap water isn’t the best for growing monster heads? But I ended up with a cold clamy creature the size of a baseball. Now I don’t know what to do with it. What did anyone do with these things once they were “done” anyway?

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Even though the deconstruction of my purchases definitely broadcasts Lonely Manchild: Party of One vibes, this could be a fun experiment between friends or partners as you can learn a lot about someone through their purchases. What may seem nonsensical could lead to an interesting conversation, nostalgic recalling, or solemn discovery of one’s personal being. 

Or maybe they just like off brand cheeseballs. It can go either way really. 

As a kiddo, a trip to the dollar store often led to an excuse for me to leave with a sugary soda pop, a pack of outdated NBA trading cards, or an action figure that looked like Ultimate Warrior’s less impressive cousin Barry. And this is still an excuse…just with a ten dollar price tag to escape the monotony of adulthood. Sometimes the getaway is a low rent scavenger hunt that ends up looking like you looted a first grader’s birthday party. 

The key to this exercise is childlike wonderment. Though the junk food might make you realize you’re no longer a child as you’re propped up like a Jabba the Hutt puppet popping antacids. But that’s neither here nor there. If you choose to do this experiment I wish you Good Luck and Happy Dollar Days! And be sure to remember: this is only what you make of it!

Now, excuse me, I have to finish a Ninja Turtle word search and have 14 cracker logs with artificial cheese goop to devour. 

This 30 Year Old Star Wars Game…

A local toy store I frequent had begun selling online for the first time due to COVID-19 impacting their business. Though nothing stood out to me at first, I decided that I really wanted to feel good about myself that day and let everyone know what an honorable saint I am. Craving that familiar dopamine rush and the possibility of writing about more garbage, I decided to take the plunge on a $9 Star Wars Electronic LCD game. 

And here we are. 

I may be $9 poorer and have 2 less AA batteries in my life…but in return I’ve gained one more brain rotting article for your reading pleasure! Oh and also the Star Wars game too. That’s right. I got that. 

Often referred to as the “We Can’t Afford a Gameboy” gift, these LCD handheld games littered store shelves and junk drawers throughout the 1990s. I was guilty of having some of these games (I recall Jurassic Park and Power Rangers) as they’re known for bringing minutes of entertainment and being no child’s favorite anything. Just insert a couple batteries so these plastic waffles could annoyingly chirp as you tilt it in every possible direction just to see the screen. You then maniacally pound the buttons so it reacts in a manner resembling a real video game. After a few minutes of confusion and irritation you toss it in your sock drawer realizing you were gifted a fire alarm merely disguising itself as Sonic the Hedgehog 2. 

Star Wars: THE ELECTRONIC LCD GAME was released in 1991 by Micro Games of America. It’s based on the 1977 indie cult classic called Star Wars. More specifically, the Tie Fighter/X-Wing dogfight from the end of A New Hope. I found out there’s a reissued version with a much cooler face sticker and packaging featuring a gold reflective logo…but here I am with this one. Could’ve put Vader and Luke on it because that’s the part of the movie the game’s based on but…nah…here’s two robots. 

I’ve got a bad feeling about this. 

But, as it turns out, this game actually isn’t too bad. Imagine Space Invaders with a dash of Galaga run through a cheap LCD filter and you’ve got this game. The rules are simple: Tie Fighters rush in from the top to the bottom of the screen. You shoot them with your X-Wing. If you miss, the Tie Fighter stalls behind you and may attack while you continue your game. You get hit 3 times…the game is over. There are 8 levels. And the Tie Fighters fly faster with every level. Bada Bing Bada Boom. That’s Star Wars the Electronic LCD game. 

The manual doesn’t outright say you’re playing as Luke Skywalker. And there’s no way to “win” the game…you play until you die to get a high score. And we all know Luke doesn’t die in A New Hope (Disney kills him.). So, in my head, I’d like to christen this as Jek Porkins: The Video Game. And, yes, I believe playing in this state of mind does indeed make it better.

The biggest let down for this game was it didn’t play a single Star Wars jingle. You get your generic beeps and boops these games are known for, but at least let me hear a rendered 4 bit chiptune of the Star Wars song. You know the one. We all do. Instead, we get some generic sounding drivel that doesn’t even remotely remind you of any sort of galaxy far far away. 

The Radical: 

  • Gameplay is simple and fun 
  • Keeps your high score
  • Works as a drink coaster

The Lame:

  • No Star Wars Jingle! 
  • Doesn’t Turn Off
  • Could’ve used a Vader “Boss” Tie Fighter Level  

Overall, I give 3 outta 5 Bib Fortunas

The Official Galactic Rating System on whether De Wanna or Don’t Wanna Wanga

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I have yet to see these types of games “fondly remembered” by my generation. They were primitive (even back then) and the most popular games were “alright” at best. These aren’t anything I seek or collect and view them as “bottom of the barrel” nostalgia grabs. Yet what’s funny is that when I got this in the mail, I still got that jolt of childlike wonderment. I started wondering how it would play and what it would be like. Perhaps I got “one of the good ones?”. I haven’t received one of these games in probably close to 20 plus years, so I found it interesting that when I got this game…my brain registered it as if nothing had changed. I had the exact same thoughts and simmering excitement as I popped the batteries into this thing. 

Then the weird electronic carnival music immediately played and I thought, “Oh, that’s right. These were always trash.”

Also if you’re up for some more reading….

Ad Nauseam: Fangoria Spooky Spotlight

Welcome, my precious ghoulings, to a spooky edition of Ad Nauseam! As the Halloween season approaches, I ventured out from the usual comic confines and found frightening familiarity in Fangoria Horror Magazine! And thanks to my compulsive buying habits and decrepit interests, I couldn’t just keep to one issue either! Lucky you! 

First, some quick history: Fangoria started off in 1979 as Fantastica, a spinoff of Starlog magazine, with a focus on fantasy films. Hemorrhaging money after just seven issues, the editing staff quickly reimagined the magazine to be dedicated to the modern horror genre. This led to the newly titled Fangoria to turn a profit and the rest was horror history. 

After 36 years of publication Fangoria got the axe in October 2015 at issue 334. But like most horror icons, it was resurrected…as a quarterly publication in October of 2018. Due to a 2007 warehouse fire the only remaining back issues of Fangoria are housed in private collections or available on the secondary market. So understand this installment of Ad Nauseam is a rare, educational, and insightful look into horror culture.

I’m proud to say I am a Fangoria subscriber. And I had to be an adult to fulfill that due to their unbiasedly gruesome magazine covers that would not only make any parent deny you ownership…but question if they are indeed raising a spawn of Satan himself.  

So pour a glass of apple cider, stroke your black cat gingerly, and light up a pumpkin cake candle. It’s time to dig up the grave of consumerism and raid it’s rotting corpse for nostalgia… 


Horror Tees, Tanks, and Sweats! (#88, 1989) 

With the gory glory of the internet, we’re able to proudly wear pretty much any niche we adore. I could purchase an ALF shirt in 2020 faster than I’d care to admit. But, 30 years ago, styles were limited…and much harder to find. If you wanted to let the world know you bled horror, you searched in horror magazines to do that. And here’s a great example!

Return of the Living Dead Part II was just a year old at this point, so it’s “fresh hotness” drives this ad into the grave. Texas Chainsaw Massacre II and Evil Dead II are also present to get printed really solidifying the tongue-in-cheek horror sequel theme the ad seems to have going. T he offbeat retro crowd also has Reefer Madness, The Devil Bat, and a (miscolored) Dracula poster as options as well. These all would look better printed on black clothing yet white seems to be the only choice given. I’m always weary of white colored clothing (sweatshirts especially) not just because of the fact that I dressed like a lowkey goth growing up…but also because I had a bad experience with a white sweatshirt of mine and a bowl of spaghetti when I was a kid. That sauce just does not come out and I’m not sure if I ever want to be in that situation again.


Freddy Forever! (#109, 1992)

By 1992 Freddy-mania was on it’s way out. A year prior to this issue Freddy’s Dead was released to bury the Springwood Slasher once and for all. Yet his “rest” only lasted three years since Freddy Krueger was a pop culture icon that seemingly eclipsed the horror genre. Despite being a disfigured child murderer with a sexual edge, Freddy moved merch as fast as Batman or The Ninja Turtles. Which is apparent with this dreamy ad of “final” official Freddy merch to honor his Nightmare legacy! 

Horribly authentic! Collector’s item! Perfect for any Fango fan! As someone who was a slave to the cult of Krueger, I had to include this ad. Latex mask and deluxe hat? Awesome! Authentic adjustable razor glove? Oh baby. Freddy Wall Mount? Sure…that’s something I guess. But what turns my dreams of collecting all things Freddy into a possible nightmare is the fact that none of the mentioned “collectibles” are pictured. Instead an actual picture of Robert Englund as Freddy is labeled. I know I’m not going to look that authentic, bro. You don’t need to tease me like this. 

I see the wall mount. I see how Freddy looks like some chewed up grape and strawberry Laffy Taffy. I’m not sure if I trust you in making me look like the toasty child killer of my dreams this Halloween. Yet despite all that, I love the gamble this ad suggests I take. Is the mask and glove not pictured because it looks so bad? Or does it not need to be pictured because it looks so good? I suppose you just have to drop the $60 and wait 6 weeks to find out. And I believe that’s the genius of this ad. If I saw the mask I might just write it off as a dud…but I don’t see it…so maybe it’s the best mask ever made! How can I pass this up? Now who do I make the check out to? 


Batman Returns Costumes! (#114, 1992)

If you were a boy growing up in the 1990s and not Batman for Halloween…you at least thought about being Batman, right? I mean, I think about being Batman in general. Just as a life choice. 

Here we have my favorite ad out of the lot, Batman Returns costumes hot off the press circa 1992! Batman Returns is, in my opinion, the most underrated Batman film with the most underrated villain performances ever. I, like most, was in the trance of Batmania as it began its second (and, honestly, most aggressive) wave. From Happy Meals to action figures and ill fitting t-shirts, like a drunk baby boomer in a soiled Tommy Bahama shirt sitting at a Vegas roulette table…I was all in, baby.  

The Penguin is probably represented as the most solid costume choice. And, due to my small stature, I’d definitely be slappin’ my money down for one of those. $160 with inflation comes out to a little under $300…so, in all honesty, I’d probably have to kidnap all of Gotham’s first born children in order to come up with that scratch at the time. The Deluxe Batman costume looks too good to be true. And retailing for $310 ($672 with inflation) I’d bet that only Bruce Wayne himself ordered these as backup costumes for those harsh summer nights. I’d probably have to settle for the DC Comics Batman costume…which, judging by the model in the ad, makes Adam West look like Frank Miller’s Batman. Not sure if I’d be keen stopping any crime in that…maybe just help some elderly people cross the street. 

I remember my first outting as Batman the following Halloween. My grandma picked up a Batman “costume” from the 1989 film on clearance at a local pop up Halloween store. It came with a thin plastic “utility belt”, disfigured and wrinkled “cowl and cape”, thin flappy foam “boot covers and gauntlets”, and literally a sticker of the emblem. I wore my black sweats underneath it. Belt sagged because it was too big. Couldn’t see out of the mask. Emblem fell off within 15 minutes. 

Yet the polls show I was still a better Batman than George Clooney. What a dated dig. 


Screamin’ Monster Model Kits! (#154, 1996)

When I think of model kits I immediately think of horror. Yes, I understand that’s the “wrong” theme that comes to mind considering most..but I can’t help it. Most of the old Aurora horror kits from the 1960’s and 1970’s have become an overpriced rarity. And as alluring as it would be spending my afternoon painting Wolfman’s crotch with the right amount of detail, Screamin’ breathed new life in the horror model kit realm. Vinyl models of Freddy, Cenobytes, Leatherface, and the Crypt Keeper send happy chills throughout my arthritic spine.   

Of course, 1996 was 24 years ago (oof!) so these kits currently fetch a high price for simply partaking in painting your very own Butterball. Yet what I appreciate about model kits such as these is the fact that you get out what you put in. I’ve seen that same Freddy Krueger model look like a museum piece…yet I’ve also seen the exact same model look like a Dollar Tree reject. Sometimes “rushed” or dare I say “unskilled” model kits may be something more to admire than the ones pictured in this very ad. But, either way, I love the idea of “building” your own horror icon and calling it “quits” when you personally see fit. 

If you can have one of these right now which one would it be? That Crypt Keeper is calling my name. 


Power DeRangers Tee (#147, 1995) 

It’s Murderin’ Time! How bizarre is this? 1995 was the height of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers popularity. And where there’s popularity there’s parody, right? Here we have the Mighty Murderin’ Power Derangers t-shirt! Each Power Ranger reppin’ a classic slasher as they decapitate Barney the Dinosaur…for some reason? I mean, the Ninja Turtles would make sense since the Rangers pretty much took their spot. But what do I know?  

This ad has such a DIY quality to it that I completely fell in love with it. From the designs crudely drawn with markers to the hand written instructions and sales. It shows that if you have an idea and a little bit of know-how, you can probably make some money through Fangoria. Media Goofs Inc operates out of Flourtown, PA. And like most of these hole-in-the-wall companies featured in old magazines…there’s no trace of them on the internet. 

The other shirt designs they offer to the right are hastily drawn “serial killer” inspired designs. No grace or subtly is expected from Media Goofs Inc I suppose. The drawings look more like middle school doodles rather than final design work but, again, I expect nothing less from Media Goofs Inc. It all has an alternative Beavis-and-Butthead vibe, which is to be expected from 1995. I’m not sure if I’d ever wear anything like this at any point in my life…but, then again, I’d be wearing similar South Park shirts a couple years later. And none of those featured Trini the Yellow Ranger wielding a chainsaw. So never say never I suppose. 

Bonus: In this very same issue I found an ad for Spooky World “America’s Horror Theme Park” that really peaked my interest. A Tom Savini Haunted House? A Horror Museum? Tiny “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” Tim to perform? I’ll board a plane tomorrow! Unfortunately I couldn’t find much information on the Minneapolis location other than this 16 year old Halloween forum post: 

Haunty hates those overpriced cheese curds but who doesn’t?

I had some better luck with the Massachusetts location including this amazing 1997 commercial! And if that’s not enough, I even stumbled upon a 1994 “tour” of Spooky World at its peak narrated by none other than Kane “Jason” Hodder! It’s long since been abandoned but after a few moves the Spooky World name is still spookin’ by creating new haunted attractions every Halloween season


Various Masks! (1989-1996?)

These were three of the most enticing mask ads I found combing through the various issues of Fangoria I presented today.  The idea that it didn’t have to be the Halloween season to peruse monster masks made me believe I found “my people”. These ads have a great balance of “gore” and “creatures” from companies I’ve never outright heard of such as Nightmares, Creature, and Artifakes. I always leaned towards the “creature” masks when browsing possible costume ideas…and the ones featured in magazines like Fangoria were meant to be the main event of your costume or collection. 

Looking at masks such as these in your local pop-up Halloween store or (if you were lucky enough) a year round costume shop was always a highlight of the Halloween season for me. Strolling into the section to be hit with that strong smell of latex…gazing into the eyes of these abominable creatures presented lifelessly on old styrofoam heads…the faint sound of a royalty free Halloween soundtrack echoing in the background. Dang, I got vampire bats in my stomach just thinking about it! 

The idea of actually getting one of these masks was unheard of at my age. There was no way my mom was going to shell out $30-50 for just a mask when a quarter of that price could get me a Superman garbage bag to wear for the next 3 Halloweens. Yet the best thing was always coming across ads like this and wondering just who would get them. I’d always imagine perhaps the local haunted house crew “stocking up” on new monsters to scare this year…or maybe fellow amateur mask maskers and horror fiends adding another creature to their collection? Many of us had to settle for a plastic “hockey slasher” mask from the local drugstore (which, I’ll admit, have a charm of their own) but a part of me still daydreams about getting one of these back in the day and wandering the neighborhood for reactions and scares. 

Which one would you get? I’m between “Grim” on Creatures or “Amphibious” on the Artifakes ad. 


For some of us, the sanctity of Halloween expands beyond a simple holiday. It means more than just carving pumpkins while jamming to Monster Mash. It’s an idea and feeling that gives you a sense of belonging. It’s familiarity and warmth that fills your guts with a certain indescribable zest. Flipping through magazines like Fangoria brings me back to a time and place…even if I’ve never been. It inches me closer to untangling the fibers of my personal wiring. Why black and white monster movies, the sound of pouring candy corn , and the smell of latex masks is as comforting as grandma’s home cookin‘. 

Thumbing through these damp newsprint pages littered with images of grotesque gore and monster merch may be just that to many. But to us, I think it means a little more…wouldn’t you agree? I mean…that’s why you read all this. Because you can feel it too. And that’s Halloween, baby.

I hope my waxing nostalgic about 30 year old ads in defunct horror magazines made your Halloween season a little bit more special. Because it certainly made mine. Have a safe and spooky season. And don’t forget to sacrifice a fun size candy bar of your choice to the spirit of the Great Pumpkin!