ATLANTA -- On Halloween, Tasia Katapodis will dress as a witch to thrill young trick-or-treaters in her neighborhood. Ross Marland plans a resurrection as "dead Elvis" in sideburns and a sheet. And Ron Watson will transform himself into a singing Hank Williams Jr. -- with the help of a Stetson, some shades and a beer.
In Atlanta and across the country, Halloween has become an excuse for adults to party.
"In the mid '80s, we began seeing a trend for adults and teens," says Betsy Helgager, a spokeswoman for Hallmark Cards. Until then, "Halloween hadn't traditionally been an adult holiday."
Any nether-worldly terrors that Halloween once held have been banished with the advent of fake blood and revealing costumes. Ms. Helgager says industry sales were up from $280 million in 1986 to $300 million in 1988, and jumped another $100 million between 1988 and 1990, to $400 million.
"And we expect it to be bigger this year," she says.
About 50 million Americans will celebrate Halloween this year and nearly a third of the nation's adults will go to a costume party, according to Hallmark. Only New Year's Eve and the night of the Super Bowl surpass Halloween as party nights, Ms. Helgager said.
With Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, parties are more plentiful than warts on a witch's nose.
This eerie holiday allows us to forget our inhibitions. Fantasy without fear.
"Everybody has an opposite side, a counter-personality, that's dying to get out and be exposed," says Dr. David Ryback, an Atlanta psychologist. "Because they are anonymous, they can say and do things they don't have to account for."
C. Neal, co-owner and chief designer at Costume Architects, sees Atlantans shed their repressions with their everyday attire each Halloween. The staid accountant becomes a sexy devil; the mousy secretary, a sensuous harem dancer.
Keith Pope, who works for an engineering consulting firm, went as a cave man last Halloween, wearing "very little," his wife, Deborah, points out.
"I definitely was uninhibited," he says. "I actually wore it to work. .. It's fun. You can definitely lose some of your inhibitions."
"The alter egos play on people," says Mr. Neal. "Their hidden personalities come out. Costumes help remove people's inhibitions."