Published on October 26th, 2015 | by Kate Albert Ward


Tacoma-inspired Halloween costumes

Illustrations by R.R. Anderson

Over the years, I have utilized my brilliant red locks to dress up as a variety of famous redheads for Halloween, from Gilligan Island’s coquettish Ginger to the fierce Celtic warrior queen Boudica. Going as singer-songwriter Neko Case this past year, however, was my first Tacoma-inspired Halloween costume.

On the Tacoma pride-o-meter, dressing up as a Tacoma icon for Halloween falls somewhere between attending every single Tacoma Budget Input Meeting (dates for the next five can be found here and every good Tacoman should attend at least one) and confidently stating you are from Tacoma, not Seattle, while traveling– even if you are certain the New Yorkers, Ohioans, or Parisians you are talking to have no idea where Tacoma is.

Halloween may be only one day, but the pictures will endure, capturing this particular manifestation of your obsession with local culture.

When contemplating costumes infused with local spirit, possibilities abound. For your creative consideration: a whimsical Never Never Land figure, a contemporary public figure, a character from the imagination of a local author or cartoonist, or a spooky historical reference, such as Alexander Pantages and Klondike Kate, the tumultuous lovers that purportedly haunt the Pantages Theater.

To explore the breadth further, I called upon cartoonist R.R. Anderson, who drafted up costume concepts that focus on the theme of Tacoma’s animal celebrities.

Ivan the Gorilla lived as a spectacle at the B&I Shopping Center for nearly 30 years before moving to the Atlanta Zoo, where, according to the zoo’s website, he enjoyed “sun, space, and ladies.”  Despite his move, Ivan’s death this past summer at the age of 50 incited heartfelt mourning throughout Tacoma.

Ivan’s release from less-than-adequate conditions at the B&I in 1994 made him a symbol for the ethical treatment of animals. The Ivan that Tacomans memorialize today represents a revolution from a less-than-proud past, not by ignoring it, but by acknowledging that who-we-were is not who-we-are nor who-we-want-to-be.

What this costume says about you: You are an alpha who can be intimidating to the uninitiated. You are wise, but sometimes your hardheadedness obscures your perspective on reality. You are willing to work hard, but sometimes you seem unaware of just how much work it’s going to take. You are skilled at the positive PR spin– a charismatic figure who waxes a utopian tale of an emerging Tacoma.

The Narrows Octopus: As an imaginative child, crossing the Narrows Bridge in the family station wagon terrified me because I was certain that at any moment monstrous tentacles with hubcap-sized suckers would reach up, pulverize the bridge structure, and abduct us to a watery demise. The Giant Pacific Octopus, one of the largest octopus species in the world, finds its home among the subaquatic ruins of Galloping Gertie. A fact like this (unaccompanied by the boring truth that “giant” means about 150 pounds) begets legend.

For those realists, those fact-gatherers who now think they can live without fear, consider that the female Giant Octopus lays up to 100,000 eggs before dying. Usually, few of these babies survive to reach adulthood, but imagine the consequences if pollution or an invasive species destroyed their natural predator. I can see the B-movie title now: Zombie Octomom’s Army of 100,000.

What this costume says about you: You are the master of multitasking. You juggle day-to-day demands while still taking on ambitious projects. You’ve always been fascinated with the mysteries of the deep and dark, and aren’t concerned with letting your imagination get away from you. Not afraid to march to the beat of your own drum, you’re comfortable with the fact that your interest in biology and science has a distinct “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” meets “Zardoz” flavor.

Jack the Tacoma Bear: Tacoma has had more than one famous bear, but Jack’s recent publicity from Lisa Kinoshita’s Spaceworks installation brings him to the fore. Jack resided at the Tacoma Hotel in the 1890s where he was raised from a cub into an 800-pound source of entertainment. Bar-goers watched as “jolly” Jack drank beer from a mug like a man and ate delicacies such as Olympian oysters and Spanish olives. Perhaps indicative of the unsavory aspects of being a teased pet bear, Jack regularly escaped from the hotel until one day he was shot by a rookie police officer. The Tacoma Hotel burned down in 1935, otherwise I believe that the spirit of Jack would still be haunting it today. Be warned, this supposition would warrant a more grisly representation and a Wounded Ghost of Jack costume would surely scar and sadden your friends.

What this costume says about you:  Wandering the streets, drinking beer, and eating lots of food while cozy as a bear? Sounds good to you! You don’t like big crowds, preferring to spend time with a small group of close friends. Karaoke is your worst nightmare, but somehow your friends coerce into the limelight from which you shrink. Those who don’t know you well may misunderstand your behavior.

The Tacoma Tiger: Tigers in Tacoma have a wealth of associations, from the Tacoma Tigers minor league baseball team in the early 1900s to the Stadium Tigers, and from the “You Watch Tacoma Grow” tiger to the latest baby animal at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.

As you may already know, the Sumatran tiger cub, Dumai, born about two months ago at the Point Defiance Zoo has recently been joined by a Malayan tiger cub named Berani. Dumai and Berani were born without siblings though tigers usually have two or three in a litter. Raising them together is beneficial to their health and wellbeing. Their survival is critical because both Sumatran and Malayan tigers are endangered species.

What this costume says about you: You are playful and garner the attention and admiration of others without even trying. You have an affinity for classic Americana, and will not hesitate to use a singular point of entry to tell someone everything you know on a specific subject. Family and friendship are very important to you, so you are always on the lookout for costume themes that can be worn as a pair or in a group. You are a disappearing breed and we need more like you in the world.

How to Wear It:
Rather than seeking out a pop-up Halloween store, I recommend continuing to show your local pride by searching for your Tacoma-inspired costume at Northwest Costume, located on 6th Ave.

This post was originally published in 2012 and deserved a revisit!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

A writer for Post Defiance, Kate has done freelance writing for the Museum of Glass, The South Sound User's Guide, and 19th-Century European Paintings at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Kate’s previous experience includes working as the Kress Foundation Interpretive Fellow at the Portland Art Museum, and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor for Portland State University. Kate currently works at Hilltop Artists, a youth development program that uses glass arts to connect young people from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds to better futures.

One Response to Tacoma-inspired Halloween costumes

  1. Merry says:

    Your Zoo Boo link is wrong. Links to the Dorky’s one.

    Correct info for Point Defiance Zoo Boo (which is great fun):

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑
  • Pages

  • Thank you to our sponsors

  • Look/Listen

  • Tacomagram

  • You like us

  • Comments & thoughts

  • Defiance in your inbox

    Subscribe to get Post Defiance newsletter style; we’ll make sure you don’t miss the good stuff.