The Witching Hour

}Fear is a major motivator in this business, so it’s little wonder shops around the country are organizing ghastly goings-on for Halloween.

In Austin, Texas, GSD&M has an elaborate gingerbread house for kids with three terrifying rooms, including one with a witch cooking up cauldron delights for peckish ghouls. “We’ll have a head on a platter—that’s always a big hit,” says Eric Webber. Those who make it out alive get to go trick-or-treating.

The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., becomes a land of mysterious music, spider web-draped doorways, pretend pumpkins and even bales of hay. Once the kids go home, of course, the real party starts: a politically incorrect brou haha at a local brewery, with extra vacation time going to people with superior costumes. “What people will be wearing is a big secret and is always a riot,” says Michelle Barker. Two years ago, one staffer came as a human-sized, working Pez dispenser that was a spitting image of Martin chairman and CEO John Adams.

Kids visiting Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners in New York will get to whack a piñata and pick pumpkins from a mock patch under the watchful eye of a witch doing “scary things” amid cobwebs and skeletons.

In Chicago, J. Walter Thompson’s Halloween party is a 20-year tradition, with Mike Kalasunas dressing as devil/emcee. After hosting kids from the Off the Street Club, the shop throws a rowdy party capped by a costume contest, with Kalasunas as official applause meter. “It’s truly a holiday that comes from the heart, unlike parties that are imposed from the top,” he says. A few years back, creative chief dennis Ryan grew a beard in the weeks prior, only to shave off all but the mustache, revealing a pretty good Phil Jackson—slick suit, hoops clipboard and all.

“We get crazy here for Halloween,” says Judith Cradler of BBDO South in Atlanta. Last year, to the soulful tunes of BBDO Speedwagon, the costume contest was won by the Lean Cuisine Witch, a takeoff on a mystery staffer who had been stealing frozen-food meals from the agency kitchen. Costumes have been crazy at Doner in Baltimore, too, including a group of staffers stretching the bounds of good taste by parodying the Heaven’s Gate suicides—lying on cots as people arrived for work. “We’ll be working very, very hard—just in costume,” Polly Burkert says with a cackle.

At Mintz & Hoke in Avon, Conn., a couple of radio DJs will judge a pumpkin-carving contest. “Everyone is creative, and the more we express it, the better,” says Tom Bradley. The competition will be stiff: One employee is an award-winning pumpkin carver; another is an accomplished sculptor.

Perhaps best of all, Trahan, Bruden & Charles in Baltimore is giving the day some extra bite by holding a blood drive. The judges for the ensuing costume contest have been informed to disregard any paleness, vomit or blood stains when reviewing the attire. chuck gonzales