Halloween Costume Memory Lane

January 18, 2014
Trevor Kjorlien's Halloween Costume History

Cardboard Halloween costumes are my thing. With this post, I'd like to go back in time and show every single cardboard costume I've created, dating all the way back to the Acne Era to the modern Hairy Arms Epoch. Let's begin...

Rubik's Cube - Fall 2002

Here's where it starts. At this time I was in grade 9 and I was really big into solving Rubik's cubes. The night before Halloween, the idea must have struck me as I was looking at the old, almost-square computer monitor box that was in the garage. 

This was the simplest costume to create. Put nine squares on each side, cut out the middle square for armholes on two opposing sides, then paint the colours that were currently oriented on my unsolved cube. My mother always had paint and brushes available, so that was no problem either. 

The costume was probably completed in one evening. To top it off, I had a pair of Mickey Mouse hand gloves to complete the custome. This was easy to walk in (unlike future costumes), but foreshadowed the difficultly in arm movement that would be a recurring theme from now on.

Listerine Bottle - Fall 2003

Several years before this costume was made, there was a pretty memorable mouthwash commercial, as far as dental hygiene goes:

The unique thing about this costume that none of the others have (pictured below in the 'iPod - Fall 2004'), is no straight edges; the cardboard was cut and chamfered exactly as a Listerine bottle is. This costume was really created to impress Jocelyn Dubois, my grade 9 crush who, now that we were in grade 10, moved to a different high school.

This costume ushered in the 'Difficult To Walk In’ era, which has since become a feature of each future costume. This feature became apparent early on in this year's candy-grabbing. It took forever to walk between houses in the countryside. Instead, my father (an accountant), told me to stand on the running boards of our family van while he drove around. 

Dangerous? Yes. Efficient? Of course.

iPod - Fall 2004

I bought my first iPod in spring 2003 when I was 14 years old. It costed $801.43, but included far more accessories than later iPods eventually did (such as a dock, belt clip, and remote).

Two days before Halloween, I began the costume. I had a third-generation iPod, but decided to do the latest version. However, I made a mistake with the screen software: I drew and painted the software which appears on the third-generation iPod instead of the fourth-generation iPod. 

I was young. Forgive me.

Tic Tac - Fall 2005

For the last four years prior, I was the guy who had Tic Tacs in his pocket. I think that’s a good part of why I made friends: they were able to get fresh breath and chicks, and I was able to be friends with them. Everybody wins?

For some reason, this period of costume making becomes a blur. I chalk it up to the fact that a girl that I really liked (but of course, never dated) had drifted apart as friends. My mind was pre-occupied, so I reached into my pants and found inspiration. 

Read into that however you want.

[Nothing] - Fall 2006

My first Halloween away from home. I’m pretty sure I stayed home and drank a bottle of Big Bear.

Like a gentleman.

[Nothing 2.0] - Fall 2007

My second Halloween from home. I wrapped myself in ‘Caution’ tape and called it a show.

It was not a show.

Maybe a shitshow...

Canada Post Mailbox - Fall 2008

This was a time when I felt I was at my most creative. Several months earlier, I had flown to Nunavat (Northern Canada) to attempt to shoot a documentary on a botched solar eclipse. Several weeks later I enrolled in a 16mm film class and began production at the end of October. At the same time of the 16mm film class, I was enlisted as Director of Photography for a short film shot in Edmonton, Alberta, which never got screened (partially because I think I did a shitty job of photography… seriously).

Production of this costume, according to photo metadata, says I began painting on October 21st; most likely in (rare) preparation for the upcoming film productions.

On the night of October 31st, I went to a house party and wore my costume. I left the party late and could not catch a ride a home with any of my friends, nor did I think I’d be able to fit inside a taxi. I walked home, which was at least a three kilometre walk down Edmonton’s infamous Whyte Ave.

For fun, I would stop at each red light crosswalk and huddle inside of the costume to look like a post office box. When the light turned green, I would scuttle across the crosswalk like a post office box gone rogue.

I remember a vehicle driving by and somebody yelling “Somebody catch that fucking mailbox!”

A few weeks later, I went on a first date with a girl. We smoked shisha together, in the same way all failed romances begin. We talked about what we did for Halloween. I said I was a Canada Post mailbox, and she asked if I was walking on Whyte Ave at roughly 3:00 AM. I replied "Yes."

“Holy fuck! We were the ones that yelled at you!”

Marlboro Cigarettes - Fall 2009

I remember when I got the idea to do the costume: I was driving on 98 Ave over Connors Road. I wanted to be something dangerous. Having recently become a cigarette smoker, this seemed perfectly fit. 

I began construction late on October 30th. With no sleep, I finished the costume in 17 hours.

At the end of it all, I found I had no party or bar to go to with the costume. I contacted some friends who were going to Buddy’s, the gay bar in downtown Edmonton.

We huddled inside of a van taxi with the costume, with me sitting on the floor lacking a seatbelt. Before entering the bar, my roommate Mark said “I’ll give you two dollars for every guy in there that says they want to ‘smoke you’”.

We entered the bar (my first official gay bar experience). As we waited in the stairwell to pay our cover charge, Mark stood behind me. Within two minutes of entering, a man walked up the stairs, looked at my costume, and whispered to me “I want to smoke you.”

Mark overheard. Two dollars in my name.

We entered in the bar. Repeatedly, men keep coming up to me and saying “I want to smoke you.”Finally, people began asking me, “Are you going to be in the costume contest?”

Me: “There’s a costume contest?”

A few minutes later, the MC of the evening told people that whoever wanted to be in the contest should come up on stage. I didn’t think I was worthy enough, but everybody else thought otherwise.

The announcer would call out a costume, then we had to show ourselves off. I flaunted the costume's feature of the lid by covering my head, sneaking my arms inside, and twirling around in the costume. 

The crowd roared, and because the contest was judged by audience volume, I won handily. $500. 

Vue Weekly Newspaper Box - Fall 2010

I had returned to Canada after a nine-month working holiday in Australia in July. Before leaving for the country, I had worked at a local newspaper called Vue Weekly as their Media Manager. 

Several days before Halloween, as I struggled to decide what to be for Halloween (as per tradition), I walked past a Vue Weekly newsstand. I took some rough measurements and figured I could fit inside. As an added bonus, I could also pay homage to a former employer who unwisely decided to hire me. 

I had always wanted to fully document the creation of one of my costumes, but found it difficult to keep taking photos as I worked. I lacked the discipline to say to myself, "Oh! Applying the red paint; better take a photo!"

Rather than do it myself, I found a way to set up my SLR camera to an old laptop and have the computer force the camera to take a photo and store it on my hard drive. Over two days of work and several thousand snapshots later, I had my Vue Weekly costume. Several days later, I compiled all of the photos into this time lapse video. 

Some fun things to note from this video:

  • at the 0:50 mark, watch as the yellow paint on the cardboard slowly dries and warps the cardboard
  • to prove my last-minute preparation, the people at the end of the video are waiting for me to finish my costume so we can go out to a bar
  • there is one frame of me in this video with my shirt off

Tetris Piece - Spring 2011

The house I was living in, featured in the video of the last costume, was the funnest house I've ever lived in. My other roommates - Daniel, Josh, Phillip, and Gillian - were the greatest roommates you could ever hope for when going to post-secondary education. 

And we had some good parties too.


In the spring of 2010, probably around the time finals had finished, we had a 'T Party'. The idea here is that you have to wear a costume that starts with the letter 'T'. Examples:

  • Tobias Funke
  • Telletubbies
  • Toke-a-hontas
  • Television test card

I came up with the idea of being a Tetris piece the night before the party. I had thought about trying to be the 'L' or 'zig-zag' piece, but found 'T' to be the easiest. Plus, bonus letter points for the party's theme. 

I scrounged up cardboard about 4:00 PM at my favourite cardboard recycling bin (yes, I have one). I bought some paint at the dollar store at 5:00 PM. 

By 7:00 PM I had cut my pieces and started painted and drinking. I briefly thought about doing an actual 3D version of the chamfered edges, but thought paint would work just as well at a quicker pace. 

The effect worked beautifully. Whenever I look at this photo, I am amazed how well this turned out in such little time. So much so, that I have used this photo as my profile photo on every social networking site I use, plus as my professional photo. 

Zig Zag Rollings Papers - Fall 2011

I had returned from two and a half months of hitchhiking on the west coast of America in August. Against my better judgement, I had taken up smoking cigarettes after quitting for many months (but instead becoming a heavy shisha smoker instead). 

To save money on cigarettes, I would roll my own, which is uncommon in western Canada. Thusly, I had many packets of Zig Zags lying around the house. Plus, my roommates had recreational uses for Zig Zag rolling papers...

Unlike most years, I had this idea rolling in my head for several weeks before Halloween. But naturally, it wasn't until two days before the big day that I began construction. 

One of the more difficult parts was getting the logo right. Rather than draw it freehand and risk doing a shoddy job, I found an image of the logo, traced it out in Adobe Illustrator, then printed it across multiple pages (which sucked... if I remember, if the costume was only a few inches smaller, I could have had the logo on one sheet of A4 paper, making the job much easier). 

This costume also held a surprise. As I walked down the street and onlookers saw it, they would usually say "Aww, fuck! That's great!" They would walk up and we would strike shallow conversation. Then I would open up the costume to reveal a piece of wax paper acting as rolling leave. 

"HOLY FUCKIN' SHIT!!1!" was the usual response. The reception for this costume was off the charts. Because I was living in the Strathcona area of Edmonton which houses many university students, most people got the joke (and were probably imbibing on it that evening). 

Several months later, I reused the costume on April 20th, the International Day of Pot Smoking. In Edmonton, many potheads celebrate by heading to the Alberta Legislature and lighting up. Thousands attend. The moment I walked onto the legislature grounds, I saw the eyes light up as bright as their joints. 

For the next two hours, potheads of all genders, shapes, sizes, and media levels stood by and took photos and asked questions:

  • "How did you do this?!"
  • "Can I roll a joint on your shoulder, bro?"
  • "Do you have a paper I can roll with?" (yes, I brought some with me, anticipating this question)

The most memorable moment was when a group of kids came up and said "Get a photo with the cops!" I looked around and there were three police officers making sure everybody was safe (you can't arrest 'em all). 

By this time, a large group saw me and the cops and started chanting for a photo. I remember looking at one of them and saying "What do you says, guys?"

They agreed! Suddenly, a semicircle formed across from us as everybody clamoured for a photo. Without exaggeration, I'd say 50 different people were taking a photo. 

For added fun, I opened up the costume, took the wax paper acting as a rolling leaf. One of the cops took the wax paper and pretended to be rolling a joint. The crowd cheered and relations with pot smokers and city police have never been more peaceful. 

Mallrats VHS Tape - Fall 2012

In August 2012, I decided to make a radical change in my life and move to Montréal. Within weeks, I knew I had made the right decision and have been very happy ever since. 

But that doesn't break tradition. 

There was one major problem to overcome this year: finding a decent cardboard stronghold. Because Montréal has curb-side garbage and recycling pickup in my area, there are no recycling depots like Edmonton has. 

A week before Halloween, with no idea of what I wanted to be, I walked around the neighbourhood scouting for cardboard. Luckily, some jackal was renovating his house and I uncovered some large pieces. Step Zero was complete. 

After almost a decade of creating costumes, I finally cracked the formula: people enjoy large representations of things that they can hold in their hand or things that they see in everyday life. With that as my launching pad, I decided to walk into the kitchen, probably to make a sandwich. 

Upon exiting the kitchen and passing through the living room, I saw a shelf with some VHS tapes. Oh Lord! Of course! I took the tape and immediately began writing dimensions and making mockups. 

The next decision to make was what VHS tape to be. Like the Zig Zag costume before, I knew people in my demographic would enjoy it. For this, I decided that Mallrats was well known enough for people in my age group to at least have heard about, but for those that watched and enjoyed it, they would be my fanboys/fangirls. 

The costume came out well. To unveil it, my friend and I went to possibly the most perfect venue for a costume like this: the midnight Montréal Live Rocky Horror Picture Show. 

While standing in line, an organizer of the event came up to me and asked if I'd like to be in the costume contest. Just like Halloween 2009, I was unaware of a contest. I said "yes". 

In front of over 500 people in the crowd, I was judged with about a dozen others. Like 2009, the costume was called and the audience would cheer for who they liked best. Using the same "strategy" as before, I tucked my head and arms inside the costume and twirled around. 

The audience cheered, and when final voting calls came, the audience began chanting "VHS! VHS! VHS!" (possibly the only time in history that an audience larger than a small band of Betamax supporters has screamed those words). 

I won a free t-shirt, poster, and gift certificate for a haircut. But most importantly of all, I felt I had made my grand entrance to this city.