Mischief at midnight: Kent Halloween’s absurd night in costume

Mark Oprea


Around midnight Saturday, the streets of downtown Kent filled with costumed students, out-of-towners and spectating locals, gathered to celebrate Halloween with the Kent community. 

Thousands of revelers congregated downtown for an evening of bar hopping and people watching. The crowds kept the on-duty Kent police officers busy. By 3 a.m., Kent Police said they had made 43 arrests, with the fire and EMS responding to 26 calls.

As the night began, gargantuan lines formed at the doors of Kent’s most popular bars, snaking around the block. Others opted to forgo the long lines. People strolled around the block, keeping themselves entertained and interacting with each other — a Kent tradition, just as the riot police perched upon the street corners, their batons at the ready.

And the costume variety was as colorful as any other year, and just as daring.

Two men in neon-red deadmau5 costumes walked up Erie Street, their mouse heads glowing with lights, as two girls in baby-blue racecar driver outfits ogled at them. Mighty Ducks team members began a team chant outside of Guy’s Pizza, encouraging passersbys to join. Two raunchy, flannel-wearing lechers taunted a pair of Powerpuff girls, a pasty-faced clown and a Playboy bunny, as they tried to scuttle by. The dense crowd wouldn’t let them.

On the corner of Main and Water streets, a man named Zak dressed in a white tunic and a brown bearded wig stood smoking a Marlboro that a pirate named Patchy gave him. Those walking past him shouted his name: “Jesus!”

“You are all sinners!” he said, garnering laughter from his crowd. “Every single one of you!”

On Water Street, Joe from Tallmadge stood cooly outside Bar 157, sporting a vintage gray suit coat and a wool flat cap. Joe flared up the collar of his jacket and turned to his cronies, each sporting similarly styled fashion. The crew looked like something out of bootlegger-era Chicago.

“It’s all about looking fly, man,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. And the hats. Everyone back then just wore cool hats.”

Many of Saturday’s reveler’s sported more than just store-bought, run-of-the-mill getups. A man dressed as comedian and TV personality Jo Anne Worley told one-liners in his floral gown, a feathery boa wrapped around his neck. The “King of All Kings” waited majestically — and impatiently — outside of the Zephyr, donning a blue fur coat, resting his hands on a medieval scepter. And “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum” wore uncanny primary-colored outfits they “spent days on” designing.

“And not a lot of people know who we are,” Tweedle Dee said. 

“I can’t believe it,” Tweedle Dum said. “I just can’t believe it.”

Other costumes were easier to guess.

A girl with a Hungry Howie’s box hanging on a string around her neck manipulated her costume when asked what she was: She put the cardboard container up to her face and opened the lid, revealing her smiling face.

“I’m a pizza box,” she said.

A man calling himself CJ sat casually on his ten-speed, wearing a black bucket hat and a white T-shirt. Eyeing the bronzed Egyptian girls and the Cat in the Hats strutting by, CJ was content with just what he had on.

“I’m just a normal dude on a bike,” he said. “That’s my costume.”

There were the gold medalists with red and blue felt leotards; the countless Mad Hatters — not one alike; the band KISS, complete with classic details like macabre face paint and patent leather boots — “Gene Simmons” even stuck her tongue out, mimicking the frontman, as her bandmates took a break to eat Pita Pit.

Sometimes creativity meant for something a little cruder. In front of Ray’s Place, a man in an “Ebola positive” costume repelled those that jostled by, trying to avoid him and his sneezing. Nuns mingled with Jewish rabbis with dangling peyos — Jewish sidelocks — sipping on draft beers at the Zephyr. A doctor with a bloodied shirt stumbled down Acorn Alley, calling himself “The Abortionist.” He at least recognized the absurdity of his costume.

“If you go to Hell, look for me,” he said.

Along with the Kent State students and like-aged out-of-towners that celebrated late into the night were the locals of an older generation that opted to sit on the sidelines, preferring metal lawn chairs to laps around the block. Two women and a man in seventies-styled basketball player outfits said that they’ve made Halloween spectating an annual event for almost a decade.

“It’s just fun, sitting back and just watching,” the woman in a blonde afro said. “It’s almost like New Orleans.”

A man dressed as a “white Rick James” — complete with red-felt shirt and a golden dollar sign around his neck — said that he’s been celebrating Halloween in Kent ever since he went to school here for an economics degree in the eighties. He was also reluctant to admit he “didn’t know many Rick James” songs.

“But (Halloween) gets better every year here in Kent,” he said. “That’s why I dress up.”

Around 2 a.m., the crowds started shuffling home, many with their witch hats or angel wings in their hands. Pink bonnets and brunette wigs lined the sidewalks as bars like the Stone Tavern and Zephyr began serving up last call. Some Mad Hatters lost their hats, some Jesuses their brown beards. Others kept on their Spongebob outfits or big-boxed dice until the very end.

On Main Street, Kent and Portage County police officers stood tiredly in the parking lots of Taco Bell and Wendy’s with their visor shields up. By two thirty University Street had been shut down, with officers in riot gear marching single-file towards unsuspecting little mermaids and Wild West sheriffs. These officers would be patrolling the area until Kent Halloween was officially over.

“(We stay) until everyone goes home,” one officer said. “Just like every year.”

Contact Mark Oprea at [email protected]