ST. LOUIS -- Zombies are everywhere. And they are protesting.
In one St. Louis County, Mo., yard an undead creature in long floral dress holds a sign: "Zombies are the 99 percent." Another waves an American flag in one hand while displaying a sign stating the zombie platform: pro-bigger brains.
The walking dead mannequins are part of Tim Mulhall's elaborate Halloween d??cor. He spent eight hours setting up a graveyard with nearly 50 fake tombstones in front of his house. He and his wife, Katie, found the mannequins through boutiques and department stores unloading them on Craigslist.
"I wanted to do something political, but not on either side," Tim Mulhall, 30, explained. "So, I decided to vote for zombies."
Talk about scary politics.
The Mulhalls are part of a record 170 million people planning to celebrate Halloween this month. Spending on holiday-related items is expected to rise to $8 billion, up 17.5 percent from last year, according to a survey by BIGinsight on behalf of the National Retail Federation. The average person will spend nearly $80 on decorations, costumes and candy, up from $72.31 last year. Retailers say customers are also buying more accessories with their costumes.
The Mulhalls' decorations combine two of the season's hottest trends: zombies and politics.
Pop culture heavily influences top-selling costume choices. According to retailer Spirit Halloween, there are likely to be plenty of characters from the season's popular shows, games and movies: Batman, Power Rangers, "Monster High," The Avengers, Angry Birds, "Ted" and "The Hunger Games" top their list of expected best-sellers.
And the election season always prompts plenty of political candidate look-alikes, critics and supporters. Spirit tracks the sale of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney masks in a Presidential Index.
Late last month, Obama masks were outselling Romney masks by more than 30 percent, according to reports of sales records at BuyCostumes.com and Spirit Halloween Stores.
That may be a message in disguise: BuyCostumes' mask sales have correctly predicted the winner in the past three elections, while Spirit's mask sales have been right in the past four.
Spirit Halloween originally included costumes in the "Bound for Pleasure" category (inspired by best-selling "50 Shades of Grey" trilogy) but asked us to remove that item from its list of predicted top sellers.
"It looks like it's not going to pan out," a spokesman for the company said.
Lisa Barr, senior director of Marketing and Creative for Spirit Halloween, said the store's zombie terror mill, zombie babies and the teddy bear girl from "The Walking Dead" have all generated high interest among customers.
In terms of spirited home d??cor, Ralph Snyder, trend expert and design director with Kohl's, recommends adding metallic and shine to furnishings. Distressed metallic vases, apothecary jars and vintage-inspired serving ware add a subtle seasonal touch, he said. Skeleton photo-frames, skull d??cor and faux spiders are also popular choices, Synder said.
The Mulhalls have two coffins they display during their Halloween bash. The theme for this year's party will be Superstitions and Phobias. Katie plans to dress up like a bumblebee, while Tim and their 3-year-old daughter, Lily, will both adorn themselves like clowns.
That's scarier than the army of undead protesters lining their driveway.
Distributed by MCT Information Services