Morning Brew - ☕ The Halloween edition

The giant skeleton vs. homeowners associations...

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October 29, 2023 | View Online | Sign Up | Shop 10% Off
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Every October, a Spirit Halloween store takes over your local strip mall, and we thought: “Why should newsletters be spared?”

Today’s Brew Review is a Halloween special, with sections on the most mysterious news headlines of the year and a dispatch from the Halloween capital of the world (Massholes know what we’re talking about).

Happy Halloween. 🎃



Classifieds banner image

In honor of Halloween, here are the spookiest headlines from the year as they would appear in a Classifieds section.


EXECUTIVE HAUNTER: A Pennywise-inspired clown is creeping people out by leaving red balloons around the small Scottish town of Skelmorlie. In a video posted to Facebook, the masked individual speaks in verse and dares the police to catch him.

EXPERIENCED SWIM INSTRUCTOR: Five fishermen 400 miles from shore had to keep their heads above water for hours after a shark they caught took a bite out of their inflatable dinghy. Once rescued, they slept the entire ride home.


ISO SHIELD: A Texas woman was driving to a friend’s house when, she said, a metal spear hurtled through her windshield and lodged itself in her steering wheel. Police haven’t yet found the person who threw it.

HEARING THINGS: Some people living in a New Mexico town have been pestered by a low-frequency rumbling sound, the Taos Hum, for decades—and scientists still don’t know what’s causing it.

For sale

SUITCASE (EMPTY): An unaccompanied piece of luggage was found at the Detroit Airport with a dolphin skull inside. The incident has reportedly inspired a new movie in the Ocean’s franchise.

RISQUÉ SKELETONS: The city of Grantsville, Utah, ordered a man to take down his Halloween display of a pole-dancing skeleton. The city said the display violated city code because a street sign was used as the pole.

LACTAID PILLS: A Russian woman living in NYC got sentenced to 21 years behind bars for trying to kill her similar-looking friend with poisoned cheesecake so she could steal her identity. She was allegedly trying to avoid answering for a 2014 murder charge back in Russia.—CC, ML




Photo of the week

A dog costume at a Halloween parade Via @imnotbreakfast

Meet Bagel, one of the participants in this year’s Tompkins Square Dog Parade in New York. He masterfully reenacted the famous “This Is Fine” meme, but somehow, this incredible work of art and cuteness did not win the event’s best in show award—that went to a Pomeranian named Pookah, who was dressed as Winnie the Pooh stuck in a honey pot. To crown the best-dressed canine, judges selected 40 contestants out of the hundreds of dogs in the parade, and the winner was chosen based on audience applause. The only good thing about Bagel not taking home the top prize was that when he was told the news, he probably said to himself, “This is fine.”




Dept. of Progress

Still from the movie Ghostbusters Ghostbusters/Columbia Pictures

This week’s science section is about the science of seeing ghosts. If you think you’re living in a haunted house, here are some of the research-based reasons why you think you’ve seen a ghost.

Carbon monoxide. If you think you’ve seen an apparition, check the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector. A lack of oxygen reaching the brain due to carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to symptoms including visual and auditory hallucinations, and the American Lung Association says it’s been the culprit behind several “ghost sightings.” The first recorded case dates to 1912, when one family reported hearing voices and footsteps only to discover the source was a faulty furnace that had been leaking the poisonous gas. If Ebenezer Scrooge had checked his furnace, Tiny Tim might have had a much different Christmas.

Mold. Most ghost sightings happen in old homes, and a lot of those old homes have mold. Inhaling the toxic kind can cause headaches, anxiety, hallucinations, and delusions that have you saying you see dead people to another dead person. An investigative team from Clarkson University found a strong link between the presence of mold and reports of hauntings at 13 locations. So, before you call the Ghostbusters, consider calling a cleaning crew.

Sleep paralysis. That demon sitting on your chest right before you fall asleep? Not a demon. It’s one of the many spooky symptoms of sleep paralysis, which is experienced by 1 in 5 people. Some people think they encounter supernatural entities, while others report the feeling of floating outside their bodies. The best explanation for these symptoms is that as the body moves into REM sleep, you begin to have vivid dreams. To protect yourself from acting out these dreams and inflicting self-harm, your brain temporarily paralyzes your entire body. But sometimes, you regain consciousness while your body is still frozen, leaving you stuck as an imaginary werewolf moves closer and closer.—DL

The Crew



The giant skeleton vs. homeowners associations

12-foot-tall Home Depot Skeleton gif with hearts and dancing skeletons. Illustration: Mick McDougall, Photo: Home Depot, Getty Images

The only Halloween legend bigger than the recycled Facebook posts warning about cannabis-infused Halloween candy is Skelly, Home Depot’s 12-foot-tall skeleton. The $300 piece of ghoulish decor has dominated suburban yards, social media, and local news across the country since the hardware store chain released it in 2020. But every hero must have an enemy, and Skelly’s greatest nemesis is the local homeowners association (HOA).

The “12 Foot Skeleton Owners Group” on Facebook has 268,000 members and a healthy feed of posts with topics like how to use guy wires to erect your Skelly and photos of HOA complaints that Skelly’s humans have received.

One example: Tampa, Florida, resident Corey Bassett first put up his Skelly, which he affectionately named Hal, outside his home in late August. “My neighbors love him,” Bassett told Morning Brew. “There’s even a little toddler who loves to see him every day on their walk with their mother.” But that didn’t sway his HOA. He received a warning that gave him seven days to remove what the association labeled “Improper Item in View – Seasonal Decorations.”

To avoid a potential fine, Bassett took Hal down until early October. But other Skelly fanatics have grown bolder and started keeping him up year-round.

  • To skirt strict neighborhood rules, people have dressed their skeletons in holiday-themed clothing, turning the Halloween decoration into a bony Pilgrim or a skeleton Cupid.
  • One TikToker even shared a step-by-step DIY Grinch costume you can slip over all those bones to create a wholesome wintertime yard ornament.

The success of these strategies can depend on the strictness of a neighborhood’s community association. In Bassett’s case, he admits his HOA isn’t too harsh about rules violations and will mostly “just send a vague passive-aggressive letter,” like the one he received.

HOAs are a common enemy

When HOAs do try to run their neighborhoods like the Navy, it can sometimes backfire: A Texas family’s Halloween decor went viral a couple of weeks ago because they filled their lawn with skeletons receiving HOA fines for offenses like “overgrown cobwebs.” For the ​​pièce de résistance, they placed a “defund the HOA” flag in the hand of their giant skeleton.

Etsy is full of sellers trying to hawk anti-HOA merch, and the meme account Middle Class Fancy has ridden slamming the organizations to 3 million Instagram followers.

  • Since the 1970s, the percentage of people who live in communities governed by HOAs has skyrocketed to almost 25%, according to Bloomberg.
  • Less than half of homeowners in an HOA neighborhood are glad to have an HOA and 31% of them feel their board has too much power, according to a recent Rocket Mortgage survey.

While some of the most commonly issued violations are for overgrown lawns or parking improper vehicles, 12-foot-tall skeletons are the new seasonal threat to so-called “curb appeal.”

The people want Skellys

No matter the write-ups HOA members receive for the big-boned decoration, consumers can’t get enough of Skelly. When Adam Polczynski announced last year on the Facebook page for his store, Hartland Liquidation Sales, that one 12-foot-tall skeleton would be in stock the next day, he woke up to messages from customers offering more than the Skelly’s list price if he’d set it aside for them.

“I’m like, ‘What the hell’s going on? What’s up with this? Am I missing something?’” Polczynski told Morning Brew. This year, he ramped up Hartland Liquidation’s inventory: On the first day the Skellys went on sale, he said about 15 customers were waiting in the parking lot for him to open the Milwaukee-area store.

Hartland Liquidation has been selling about eight Skellys per week, Polczynski said, and customers often call ahead with their credit card information. He said they’re always excited to find a source of Skelly inventory…especially since this could be the decoration’s final year in production.

Is Skelly ghosting? Rumors are swirling online that Home Depot is discontinuing the 12-foot-tall bag of bones after this year, potentially firing up a resale market. Home Depot is keeping things mysterious. One spokesperson told the Washington Post, “We have not made that decision yet. Stay tuned next year.”—ML, MM




To-do list graphic

Vampire watch: For flesh-eaters that don’t play baseball and are actually creepy, check out the miniseries Midnight Mass on Netflix or the underappreciated show From on MGM+, which is a streaming service that exists.

Listen: The saxophone may be one of music’s most lyrical instruments, but in the hands of Colin Stetson, it can create the songs of ghosts and aliens. The Bon Iver and Arcade Fire collaborator primarily used reed instruments to create the unsettling soundscapes of Hereditary, Color Out of Space, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Menu, and more.

Read: H.P. Lovecraft’s legacy is a matter of debate due to the racist and xenophobic views he held during much of his life. But there’s no denying his influence on the horror genre, best exemplified by the novella At the Mountains of Madness, which you can read for free here.

Wear: Here are 10 easy, last-minute costume ideas, 57 costumes inspired by TV and movies, and costumes you might be able to scrounge together from your closet, like Bob Ross, which requires only a blue shirt, blue jeans, and a gigantic perm.

Devour: Satiate and startle your party guests at the same time with Halloween foods that look like the real thing, such as hot dogs that resemble human fingers.

It’s baaaack: Fresh Invest, aka our award-winning investing podcast sponsored by Fidelity Investments, is returning to headphones everywhere. First up is an episode about navigating market volatility and inflation. Tune in.*

*A message from our sponsor.




Place to be: Salem, Massachusetts

A large pumpkin-headed costumed reveller walks with others through a crowded street on Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts on October 31, 2021 Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

It’s a big world out there. In this section, we’ll teleport you to an interesting location—and hopefully give you travel ideas in the process.

As a crisp autumn breeze meanders along brick lanes, around gloomy colonial mansions, leafless oaks, and stone churches towering in the dusk, you might just make out the muffled echoes of Salem’s haunted history in the wind’s whisper.

In the winter of 1692, the New England town became the site of the Salem Witch Trials: More than 200 (mostly female) locals were accused of witchcraft, and 20 of them were executed. The legacy of this tragic case of superstition triumphing over reason has made connecting with the supernatural via Salem a beloved fall tradition.

Halloween hub

For generations, Salemites kept mum about their hometown’s hysterical past, but in the late 1950s, they saw the economic potential of embracing their bewitched heritage. As many as a million visitors from around the globe now descend on the city every spooky season to fall under the spell of its occult attractions.

  • History buffs might visit the Salem Witch Museum, the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, the original residence of a judge who presided over the infamous trials, or Proctor’s Ledge, the recently confirmed site where 19 convicted “witches” were hanged. 
  • The town also boasts countless ghost tours, haunted houses, horror shows, psychics, and at least ten magic shops.
  • Bookworms can tour the 17th-century House of the Seven Gables, heavily featured in Salem resident Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Gothic classic of the same name.

Or, you could go off-season. Many of the witch-themed destinations are open year-round, as are the Satanic Temple’s HQ and the non-spooky Peabody Essex Museum, the oldest continuously operating and collecting museum in the US, which displays Asian, Oceanic, American, and African art and artifacts.




Crowd work

Last week, we asked you to share your Halloween home or yard decorations. Here’s our favorite from Bekah in Seattle, WA.

Halloween yard displayBekah Porter

This week’s question…

You’ve been chosen to live in one of the first communities on the moon. The Space Force commander has said that, aside from essentials like food, water, or medical supplies, you can bring three things from Earth. What are you bringing?

Matty’s answer to get the juices flowing: “A Bluetooth speaker to jam out with my new neighbors, Mod Podge to make moon collages, and a fake Christmas tree to decorate for the holidays.”

Submit your answer here.




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✤ A Note From Fidelity

Investing involves risk, including risk of loss.

Fidelity and Morning Brew are independent entities and are not legally affiliated.

“Financial Communications Society” 05/04/2023 Fresh Invest Season 3, Gold Medal for Corporate Retail within Branded Content: Audio.

Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917


Written by Matty Merritt, Dave Lozo, Cassandra Cassidy, Molly Liebergall, Adam Epstein, and Sam Klebanov

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