Costume Shop Makes Inventory Disappear

Abracadabra, a costume store in New York City, is losing the lease on its storage building in Rutherford, N.J. It has only a few days to rid itself of decades of surplus costumes, and it's giving them away for free — by the truckload. It's a pre-Halloween free-for-all.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Halloween has come early to a small town in New Jersey. The Abracadabra Superstore, a New York costume and novelty outlet, lost its lease on its storage space in Rutherford. The owner, faced with having to clear out thousands of old and mismatched costumes, came up with a solution: Give it all away, for free. NPR's Robert Smith went searching through the piles.

ROBERT SMITH reporting:

Imagine a Muppet explosion.

Unidentified Man #1: Purple, furry, somewhat Barney body suit.

SMITH: A costume hurricane.

Unidentified Woman: An antique tutu, like an old-school ballerina outfit.

SMITH: Thousands of veils and wigs and tunics erupting from hip-deep volcanoes of fabric.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, none of us brought a big enough vehicle.

SMITH: Dozens of costume freaks and theater nuts are picking through the treasure of the century--thousands of free costumes for the taking at the Abracadabra storage space. The mantra is `grab everything,' and sort it out later. But people can't help but try the stuff on. Steven Pildez(ph) from Manhattan lunges at me wearing...

Mr. STEVEN PILDEZ (Manhattan Resident): Grrr! A tiger's head. It's amazing. There's everything here you could possibly want--any animal, spaceship, human, religious costume you could ever consider putting on, all available here.

SMITH: Paul Blum, the owner of Abracadabra, can understand the desire to grab everything. He's a little like that himself. Blum bought most of these costumes by the truckload, selling some in his store in Manhattan, but letting thousands of others get dusty out here in New Jersey. He points to the red glacier in the corner.

Mr. PAUL BLUM (Owner, Abracadabra): So I own about at least a thousand Santa suits.

SMITH: So are you a pack rat?

Mr. BLUM: Well, I'm unpacking now. I'm an unpacking rat now.

SMITH: Unpacking because his landlord gave him until Wednesday to get out of this space, and that's when Blum realized that he needed help to get rid of the stuff. An e-mail made the rounds of the costume subculture that exists in New York City. Jim Glaser, with the group Kostume Kult, plans to use his treasures as giveaways at his fabulous parties.

Mr. JIM GLASER (Kostume Kult): This was a real haul. This was, you know, a train robbery for costumers.

SMITH: After a few hours, it didn't even seem like the foragers made a dent. Ed Martin headed to the door with a chicken suit and two full garbage bags of other costumes.

Mr. ED MARTIN (Foraging Costumes at Abracadabra's Storage Space): I'm out of here. I'm done. This is like "The Twilight Zone" of the mind. You just keep picking and picking; more and more junk to pick.

SMITH: So you're forcing yourself to leave.

Mr. MARTIN: I'm leaving.

SMITH: But not without a quick glance around to make sure he didn't miss anything. Robert Smith, NPR News.

HANSEN: It's 22 minutes before the hour.

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