“Makes a spine-tingling centerpiece for Halloween.”
“Animated LCD eyes create a creepy effect.”
“Designed for indoor or outdoor use.”
So reads the entirety of the product description for Home Depot’s “12 ft. Giant-Sized Skeleton with LifeEyes,” a seasonal decoration that — thanks to its popularity on social media — looms even larger in our minds than it does in real life. With a price tag of $299 and dimensions that make it a hassle to transport (tie it to the roof of your Mini Cooper if you dare), you’d think demand would be limited. Wrong! Home Depot is sold out, their website packed with glowing reviews from spookily satisfied customers.
Those lucky enough to display one of the skeletons report a celebrity effect: The massive figure becomes the talk of the neighborhood, people stop by and ask to take pictures and the owner basks in universal acclaim. “Best thing I’ve ever purchased,” reads a five-star rave from last week. “This skeleton is the only thing that has cured my depression. I’ve never been so happy and gotten so many compliments.”
This feverish joy has fed an eye-popping reseller market: The large bony boys are going for upwards of $1,000 on eBay, with Craigslist kingpins asking as much as $1,300 for a skeleton that’s still new in the box. Mashable dropped a guide to Halloween decorations that aren’t the 12-foot skeleton, just for the folks missing out. Certainly the product team at Home Depot are kicking themselves for not anticipating the craze — or did they know that scarcity would preserve its cool factor? Whose idea was a glaring 12-foot skeleton, anyway? And why do we love it enough to drive six-plus hours to acquire our own?
Clearly, you needn’t overthink any holiday concept for an American audience: the reductive pitch that is “a skeleton, but really big” meets our thirst for ridiculous spectacle. Aside from its visual impact, it gets funnier the more you think about it. Narratively speaking, this 12-foot skeleton must come from a 12-foot human, which would already be… cause for alarm. But this towering giant apparently died, only to have their remains come back to life and stand sentinel on a suburban lawn. Of course.
If the skeletons dominate our mental landscape as well, that could be a sign of the morbid humor that arises from a plague year hurtling toward its very grim winter. For months, we have been stalked by death, and what more literal image could we have of this experience than the absurdly tall skeletons now wandering through our consciousness, impossible yet real, reminders of mortality and comforting, even so, in their goofiness. The Home Depot skeleton is the memento mori for a culture that refuses to do anything on a smaller scale — including pandemics. It ushers us toward the next hell, and we dare not disobey. Are you afraid? Then, my friend, you are ready.
Their power grows. October is around the corner. While the 12-foot skeletons may feel like any other meme at the moment, there is the always-increasing chance that you’ll encounter one in the so-called flesh. And they say you are never the same after that.