Horrors! Lower East Side’s Halloween Adventure set to close after 40 years

Ed Frischkorn brought a bounty of bags for one last shopping spree
Photo by Dean Moses

The infamous Halloween Adventure located at 104 4th Avenue faces its biggest fear after opening its spooky doors 40 years ago — store closure. 

For many, Halloween Adventure is more than a mere costume store. It has served as the launchpad for countless fond memories. It was the place where a teen purchased a costume, which led to them meeting their significant other at a friend’s party. It was where groups found their wacky headgear before partaking in the iconic Polar Bear Plunge in Coney Island. It was also a wealth of costume ideas for marchers in New York City’s pride parade. Whatever brought people to the Halloween Adventure, it was not just for the scary holiday, instead becoming a one-stop shop of party favors for locals and tourists alike for nearly four decades.

Unfortunately, the iconic East Village store will not be seeing its half-century anniversary. Store executives have confirmed that the 104 4th Ave location will be closing its doors permanently, most likely at the end of February. This news is heartbreaking to shoppers, workers, and those who simply know it as a community staple.      

The loss of Halloween Adventure is more than just the end of a novelty shop, for Ed Frischkorn it is where he could purchase obscure materials for his class projects at the New York Institute of Art and Design.

“It was my place to go all year-round whenever I needed it. Most of my projects were Halloween themed, so it fit perfectly,” Frischkorn said, after trekking from New Jersey just to purchase items at Halloween Adventure one last time. 

With several tote bags in hand, Frischkorn is hopeful that Halloween Adventure will continue in some small way, maybe as a pop-up shop or at a smaller location. “It’s sad, there is no place like it. It’s one of the last,” he said looking into the outlet’s windows fondly.  

A life-sized superman model found in-store. Photo by Dean Moses

The store became famous thanks to its two-floors of wall-to-wall displays, reaching from floor to ceiling, creating a creepy wonderland for shoppers. Gigantic, human-sized models like Star Wars villains Darth Vader and his minion stormtroopers stand guard while emblematic superheroes such as Superman watch out for truth and justice. Adorning the storefront’s windows and shadowy innards, these figures made the shop a household name. Even a gargoyle watches shoppers descend to the basement floor where even more elaborate costumes can be found. 

Now, much of that eerie atmosphere has slowly begun to vanish, replaced by advertisements for a big blowout sale, 75% off everything in the store. Over the many years, visitors could easily purchase fan-favorite memorabilia, such as Harry Potter wands and toys, while independent filmmakers could score facial glue, plaster, and synthetic makeup. Some would even use it as a scenic shortcut between 4th Avenue and Broadway. But even that has now ended with the 4th Avenue entrance closed. 

A stormtrooper stands guard. Photo by Dean Moses

The oddities found within Halloween Adventure were always the perfect talking point for Jim Byerley, who often brought tourists and friends from out of town to the shop. 

“It’s a wonderful place to just walk through. I’m very disturbed that they are not going to be around anymore. I love dressing up. This is like the place to come. It’s very sad to see this,” Byerley said. 

Byerley has lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years, and was surprised when he learned about the closure from a friend. “Their windows are always fabulous! They have the most fantastic selection. This is home, it’s in the neighborhood,” Byerley said solemnly.

Ana Daratany and Vito Guttilla pose inside Halloween Adventures. Photo by Dean Moses

Vito Guttilla enjoys donning a Ghostbuster costume and searching the shop for ghosts, making staff and customers laugh. After developing close friendships at Halloween Adventure, Guttilla is heartbroken that a vestige of his past has been another casualty of the pandemic. 

“It’s a shame after everything that has happened they have to go out like this. This is a big chunk of the Village, they support pride parades, Halloween parades, Santa Con, New Years, and just general holidays,” said Guttilla.

Ana Daratany actually worked at the shop many decades ago, and was astounded to learn of its closure. With the indefinite cancellation of parades and other high-volume events, much of the profits the Halloween Adventure shop would obtain also ceased. 

Daratany recalls the packed lines during seasonal pastimes, such as the mermaid parade, where hordes of shoppers would purchase wigs, fins, and even a trident. 

“This was like mermaid central in June! It’s where you get your fangs sharpened,” Daratany said. 

Both Daratany and Guttilla are devastated by the loss of this site, sharing that it’s more than the spirit of Halloween, it’s the spirit of the East Village.