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The 26 Most Popular Halloween Costumes by State

Thanks to social media platforms like Instagram, painstakingly-crafted Halloween costumes now live on in viral glory long after the night has ended. For people who measure the success of their Halloween in Instagram hearts, the holiday outlet store Halloween Express has put together a map of the app’s most-liked costumes from the past four years. 

The spooky data was compiled by searching posts from 2012 to 2015 with the tag #halloween and combing through the captions for costume mentions. The most popular costume posts have been organized by state, so you can see how your area stacks up against the rest of the country on October 31.

There are a handful of classic costumes that crop up year after year, like ghosts, zombies, skeletons, and cats. Others reflect pop culture trends: Marvel superheroes were popular in California in 2014 while Star Wars characters are beginning to make a comeback this Halloween. Surprisingly, E.T. has remained the most consistently liked Halloween costume each year, despite being based on a 33-year-old film.

Then there are the oddball costumes that appear in one state for a year only to vanish the next. For Halloween 2014 in Massachusetts, Where’s Waldo? was unusually popular, while narwhals experienced an inexplicable hot streak in Utah in 2012. To see what each state’s most popular costume looks like in the filtered flesh, we've gathered together some of this year's creepiest, funniest, and most adorable #halloween posts from Instagram. 

1. GHOUL 

Ghoul earned the top spot in North Carolina.

2. ARTIST 

An artist is this year's most liked costume in Wisconsin and Connecticut.

3. CAT 

This classic costume nabbed the number one spot in New Hampshire.

4. ELF 

Elf costumes are a favorite among Iowa residents this year.

5. WONDER WOMAN 

Wonder Woman is an especially popular costume choice in Nevada.

6. E.T. 

E.T. is the most popular costume in not one, but seven states this year including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, New Mexico, Mississippi and New Jersey.

7. CORPSE BRIDE

Corpse Bride is the top choice in Colorado. 

8. DEADPOOL

This year, the majority people in Georgia are dressing up as this topical Marvel character.

9. GHOST

Residents of Maryland know you can't beat the classics.

10. HARRY POTTER

Harry Potter costumes are still going strong in Oklahoma. 

11. FOOTBALL PLAYER

Even if they don't have an NFL team of their own, there are plenty of football players in Utah come Halloween.

12. THE FLASH

This superhero costume is popular in Hawaii.

13. FRANKENSTEIN

This costume takes first place in Arizona.

14. GOTH

An abundance of Pennsylvanians are going goth this Halloween. 

15. MONSTER

Monsters take the top spots in Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Tennessee and West Virginia.

16. MERMAID

Mermaids are this year's most popular costume in South Carolina.

17. PUPPY

It shouldn't be too hard to spot puppy costumes in Oregon, Washington and Ohio this Halloween.

18. PUNK

Michigan is channeling their inner punk rocker for Halloween this year.

19. SCARECROW

So far, scarecrows are Maine's most popular costume of 2015.

20. GHOSTFACE

This cinematic villain is the costume of choice in Rhode Island.

21. WITCH

This year, witches account for the most liked costumes in Alabama, Nebraska and North Dakota.

22. SPIDER-MAN

Spider-man is the most popular costume in the superhero's home state of New York.

23. STAR WARS

The new movie isn't coming out until December, but that hasn't stopped residents of Kansas, Massachusetts and Florida from getting in touch with their inner Star Wars nerd for Halloween.

24. WIZARD

This is Texas' most popular costume of 2015.

25. SKELETON

This year, Kentucky residents are breaking out their spookiest skeleton outfits.

26. WEREWOLF

Be on the lookout for werewolves in Louisiana come October 31. 

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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holidays
10 Things You Might Not Know About Chinese New Year
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Some celebrants call it the Spring Festival, a stretch of time that signals the progression of the lunisolar Chinese calendar; others know it as the Chinese New Year. For a 15-day period beginning February 16, China will welcome the Year of the Dog, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac table.

Sound unfamiliar? No need to worry: Check out 10 facts about how one-sixth of the world's total population rings in the new year.

1. THE HOLIDAY WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT TO SCARE OFF A MONSTER.

Nian at Chinese New Year
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As legend would have it, many of the trademarks of the Chinese New Year are rooted in an ancient fear of Nian, a ferocious monster who would wait until the first day of the year to terrorize villagers. Acting on the advice of a wise old sage, the townspeople used loud noises from drums, fireworks, and the color red to scare him off—all remain components of the celebration today.

2. A LOT OF FAMILIES USE IT AS MOTIVATION TO CLEAN THE HOUSE.

woman ready to clean a home
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While the methods of honoring the Chinese New Year have varied over the years, it originally began as an opportunity for households to cleanse their quarters of "huiqi," or the breaths of those that lingered in the area. Families performed meticulous cleaning rituals to honor deities that they believed would pay them visits. The holiday is still used as a time to get cleaning supplies out, although the work is supposed to be done before it officially begins.

3. IT WILL PROMPT BILLIONS OF TRIPS.

Man waiting for a train.
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Because the Chinese New Year places emphasis on family ties, hundreds of millions of people will use the Lunar period to make the trip home. Accounting for cars, trains, planes, and other methods of transport, the holiday is estimated to prompt nearly three billion trips over the 15-day timeframe.

4. IT INVOLVES A LOT OF SUPERSTITIONS.

Colorful pills and medications
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While not all revelers subscribe to embedded beliefs about what not to do during the Chinese New Year, others try their best to observe some very particular prohibitions. Visiting a hospital or taking medicine is believed to invite ill health; lending or borrowing money will promote debt; crying children can bring about bad luck.

5. SOME PEOPLE RENT BOYFRIENDS OR GIRLFRIENDS TO SOOTHE PARENTS.

Young Asian couple smiling
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In China, it's sometimes frowned upon to remain single as you enter your thirties. When singles return home to visit their parents, some will opt to hire a person to pose as their significant other in order to make it appear like they're in a relationship and avoid parental scolding. Rent-a-boyfriends or girlfriends can get an average of $145 a day.

6. RED ENVELOPES ARE EVERYWHERE.

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An often-observed tradition during Spring Festival is to give gifts of red envelopes containing money. (The color red symbolizes energy and fortune.) New bills are expected; old, wrinkled cash is a sign of laziness. People sometimes walk around with cash-stuffed envelopes in case they run into someone they need to give a gift to. If someone offers you an envelope, it's best to accept it with both hands and open it in private.

7. IT CAN CREATE RECORD LEVELS OF SMOG.

fireworks over Beijing's Forbidden City
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Fireworks are a staple of Spring Festival in China, but there's more danger associated with the tradition than explosive mishaps. Cities like Beijing can experience a 15-fold increase in particulate pollution. In 2016, Shanghai banned the lighting of fireworks within the metropolitan area.

8. BLACK CLOTHES ARE A BAD OMEN.

toddler dressed up for Chinese New Year
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So are white clothes. In China, both black and white apparel is traditionally associated with mourning and are to be avoided during the Lunar month. The red, colorful clothes favored for the holiday symbolize good fortune.

9. IT LEADS TO PLANES BEING STUFFED FULL OF CHERRIES.

Bowl of cherries
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Cherries are such a popular food during the Festival that suppliers need to go to extremes in order to meet demand—last year Singapore Airlines flew four chartered jets to Southeast and North Asian areas. More than 300 tons were being delivered in time for the festivities.

10. PANDA EXPRESS IS HOPING IT'LL CATCH ON IN THE STATES.

Box of takeout Chinese food from Panda Express
domandtrey, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Although their Chinese food menu runs more along the lines of Americanized fare, the franchise Panda Express is still hoping the U.S. will get more involved in the festival. The chain is promoting the holiday in its locations by running ad spots and giving away a red envelope containing a gift: a coupon for free food. Aside from a boost in business, Panda Express hopes to raise awareness about the popular holiday in North America.

A version of this story originally ran in 2017.

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