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Why Halloween is Proof Creativity Can’t Be Bought

Why Halloween is Proof Creativity Can’t Be Bought
Why Halloween is Proof Creativity Can’t Be Bought

Goblins, ghouls, and giant bags of candy – Halloween is upon us once again!

While this year’s celebrations are going to look a lot different than usual, millions of children and adults alike will still be dressing up as their favorite superheroes, cartoon characters, and movie villains this weekend.

And of course, we all know the most important part of creating the perfect Halloween costume…it’s money, right?


Though money can buy you many things, I for one find that the most creative costumes to come my door each year for tricks or treats are the ones that cost little to no money at all. In fact, one could argue that creativity actually diminishes as you throw money at something.

And do I have a terrifying tale to prove my point…

Hitchhiking the 5

The year was 2009, and as Head of Innovation and Creativity at Disney Parks, I was given a treacherous task – find a way to drum up publicity for the 40th Anniversary of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion experience.

Now, 40th anniversaries aren’t generally the most noteworthy events. Sure, it’s impressive to keep guests spooked and entertained for four straight decades. But would the press care? Probably not. And making matters more challenging was the fact that my team had been handed a minuscule budget for this project, meaning expensive PR tactics and tricks were out of the question.

With no other options, we put our heads together and asked ourselves: why do people care about the Haunted Mansion?

Immediately, the team started discussing the ride’s famous hitchhiking ghosts: Ezra Beane, Professor Phineas Plump and Gus. These three are always one of the most talked about parts of the experience. So, we wondered – how could we leverage the PR power of hitchhiking ghosts?

How about having them hitchhike down Los Angeles’ busiest freeway?

While some said it couldn’t be done, our team begged to differ, and within a few weeks we had developed a plan (in conjunction with the Los Angeles Police Department, of course!) to have Disney’s most famous ghosts get stopped by the cops trying to hitchhike their way to Downtown L.A. The following morning, local papers had a field day with the headline:

“Ghosts Busted”

Needless to say, people were talking about the 40th Anniversary of Haunted Mansion.

Ghosts Busted
Ghosts Busted

Selling Your Soul on eBay

Now, as if hitchhiking ghosts weren’t enough, our team had another trick up our sleeves.

As you wait to enter the Haunted Mansion, guests snake through a graveyard filled with tombstones marked with humorous epitaphs. These tombstones are either fictitious or done in tribute to various Disney Imagineers, but our team wondered…would a Disney fanatic be interested in their own tombstone in the Haunted Mansion plot?

To find out, we turned to the place everyone goes to sell strange artifacts: eBay!

That’s right, our team listed a gravestone (complete with a midnight wake at Disneyland) on eBay to promote the Haunted Mansion’s anniversary. News outlets everywhere picked up the story about this strange sale, generating a massive amount of buzz surrounding the auction and the anniversary. In the end, the plot sold for over $50,000, which we donated to the Boys and Girls Club of America.

Total cost of the gravestone – a few hundred dollars. But the buzz we created for the Haunted Mansion’s anniversary was priceless!

Lack of Resources Is Not a Real Barrier to Creativity

One of the most common “problems” I hear from teams and companies that complain about a lack of creativity is lack of resources. But in my experience, lack of resources is never actually what’s preventing creativity.

Sure, money can help amplify and expand great ideas. But at their core, most creative ideas don’t need much money at all. They just need creative energy! That’s why without fail the best Halloween costumes can be measured in “hours spent” and not “dollars spent”. And why my team and I were able to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in earned media coverage on a shoestring budget.

Like Halloween, creativity can sometimes be scary. But don’t let a lack of resources be what scares you. Because this fear is generally more trick than treat.

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