I put a spell on you.
I put a spell on you. Old Witch

“I think what makes Halloween so gay is it’s that time when you can get away with stepping outside the norms,” says Old Witch, Seattle’s iconic horror drag queen and host of The Stranger's Slay Film Festival, happening this weekend at the Egyptian Theater.

Whether you long to be sluttier, scarier, cuter, grosser, or all of the above, Halloween’s your once-a-year permission to try replacing your everyday drag with a new fit.

“Everything’s a costume,” Old Witch says, echoing RuPaul’s famous line about being born naked. “We’re all just putting on costumes.” Some of us more than others, of course: “For gay people there’s an implicit understanding” that the uniforms we wear out of the house serve to conceal our true natures. That’s what makes Halloween so beguiling, Old Witch says. “What if one day you were just … whatever you wanted to be?”

But there are rules, of course, to enjoying a successful Halloween. Old Witch’s number one Halloween commandment: “Always wear something comfortable.” A costume can be clever and fun, but if you’re planning to walk around at a party until 2 am, it also needs to be comfortable. (Old Witch recommends “those big box costumes” that go on and off in one piece, and that you can withdraw into if you don’t feel like talking to anyone.)

Also: “Make sure you’re able to be safe when walking around,” she says. “You don’t want to get hit by a car.”

And of course, consider the reactions of those around you. “Make sure it’s something … that’s going to get the reaction you want.” If you want flirtations, show some skin; if you want to horrify, stock up on fake blood. Or combine the two to arouse multiple emotions.

Taking her own advice, Old Witch considers a Chucky costume from a few years back to be her most successful. “I just looked cute as a button,” she says. “Half my eye was gouged out with special effects makeup. … Who doesn’t love dolls? You can never go wrong with a classic.”

This year, she’s looking to ‘80s wrestlers for inspiration, studying vintage wigs, spandex, and heels. She’s also looking forward to some fun Slay screenings (tickets available in Seattle and Portland) and a big blowout at Southgate Roller Rink’s Skeleton Skate, which includes a lounge playing Nightmare on Elm Street movies on a loop, a costume contest and drag show, and “the world’s tiniest haunted house.”

This year, Old Witch anticipates that Halloween revelers will be going big. “People are not just hungry for a good time and communal activities because of being cooped up,” she says, “they’re craving something different and a little darker.” Lately she’s seen more ostentatious outfits when she DJs goth nights at Pony — the vibe is sexier, seedier, with echoes of '70s gay leather culture.

“Folks are a little tougher these days,” she says. “They’ve survived a lot. I think that’ll be reflected in the outfits we see.”

That brings us to one more rule for Halloween this year: “Are there going to be COVID costumes?” Old Witch muses. “I may have to jump-kick those. No COVID costumes.

The Stranger's Slay Film Festival, featuring short horror films created by readers worldwide, happens this weekend at the Egyptian Theater in Capitol Hill. Snag tickets here, ghoulies.