What’s the most “Cereal Holiday?” That is, which holiday shares a strong parallel energy with the tenets and countenance of breakfast cereal?
A solid argument could be made for Christmas, but in a season of immeasurable symbolic ecstasy, the jolly whimsy of cereal still pales in comparison to the likes of Coca-Cola and milky cookies.
National Cereal Day doesn’t count, and though Thanksgiving mimics the vacuumous nature of cereal binges, I’ve yet to encounter any green bean or stuffing cereal to stoke my memory.
No, it must be Halloween to whom cereal is the strongest edible analogue. Sure, sure, candy and Halloween go together like peanut butter cupped in chocolate, but for all intents and purposes, any of the Halloween cereals I’m here to share could be considered candy by any personal, governmental, or demonological standards.
Cereal is sweet, candy is sweet. Halloween has ghouls and ghosts, cereal has CGI’d Snap, Crackle & Pop. And just as cereal boxes have prizes at the bottom, every trick-or-treater’s pillowcase is destined to have an apple (predestined for the trash three weeks later) at its bottom.
So if Halloween is cereal, and cereal is Halloween, what are the best old Halloween Cereals that have come to define our perception of the stuff as apt for any autumnal appetite? Here are my top 5:
5. Halloween Krave (2015)
Look, I immediately understand why Halloween Krave was a one-season wonder. The very existence of Krave elicits a whole lot of bitterness from Krave haters, who seem to possess a cilantro-Esque genetic disposition to this stuff they compare to dog food. Personally, I love the stuff. Beyond its status as a tenured bane of existence, one might be quick to judge Halloween Krave for really phoning it in by simply painting the rest of the year’s Krave into something they could call Halloween Krave.
But therein lies its beautiful simplicity. In my mind, a Halloween cereal either needs to go big (and introduce a Halloween-specific flavor varietal) or go redecorate its home, thus recognizing the strength of aesthetically pleasing familiarity. It’s orange Krave—you can’t really judge it as anything better than normal Krave, because it tastes the exact same and hey: Halloween Krave’s got a Kaiju Chocovore on the box, and that’s just gravy.
4. Ghostbusters II Cereal (1989)
As will be a theme on this list, I tend to love the most limited of the limited edition Halloween cereals. The ones so largely forgotten they might as well be ghosts. Ralston busted out four different Ghostbusters cereals between 1985 and ’89, and when researching them online, the quartet of Ghostbusters Cereal, The Real Ghostbusters Cereal, Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters Cereal (best pronounced like Panic! at the Disco), and last but certainly remembered least Ghostbusters II Cereal garner fewer and fewer results.
Each Ghostbusters Cereal was pretty much the same: knockoff Monster Cereal oat ghosts and equally spectral marbits. But what sets Ghostbusters II Cereal apart is the sweepstakes it presents. The chance to meet a real Ghostbuster? Though it seems kind of strange to meet just one Ghostbuster out of an iconic four—as you’d be apt to meet the Ghostbusters Cereal II of the Ghostbusters, whomever that may be for you—this contest seemed to have worked very strangely. Kids could find small records in their cereal boxes that would play pre-recorded trivia questions read by Harold Ramis.
Two different question sets would focus either on the first movie or the second—a movie that, for many kids buying the promo cereal, wasn’t even out at the time of said breakfast discovery. It’s unclear which kid mailed in the correct answers and had the time of their life, but I know if I had been blessed with such a gift, this whole blog would be about it.
3. Frightening Froot Loops (2000)
In both obscurity and ancestry, Frightening Froot Loops must be ranked just above Ghostbusters II. Whereas there were four in that family, there are seven generations of Halloween Froot Loops, each incredibly subtly different from the last. In short:
3a: Froot Loops with Ghosts: An elusive cereal released in Canada, these Loops came In the more natural colors found in non-U.S. Froot Loops, and of course had ghost marbits to commemorate the release of Casper the movie in 1995.
3b: Spooky Froot Loops were the first American edition in 1996. With the best box art of the bunch, this also paired domestically normal Froot Loops with ghost marbits.
3c: Frightening Froot Loops—more on those in a minute
3d: Spooky Marshmallow Froot Loops came in 2002, with orange, yellow and purple loops, build-a-skeleton marbits, and a haunted mine box theme not quite as cool as its ancestor.
3e: Next up was Freaky Froot Loops in 2003. The exact same cereal composition as SMFL, but with Toucan Sam’s best costume yet: an adorable bat.
3f: Haunted Manor Froot Loops came near perfection in 2004, with both colored loops and bat/ghost/green eyeball marshmallows. Finally: a chance to feel like you’re eating eyeballs without stealing the top hat full of grapes at the school Halloween fair.
3g: As a bit of an epilogue, modern-day Froot Loops with Spooky Marshmallows feel phoned-in again, despite continued costume innovations. I want to see this legacy taken to another level though, to the level of eye-popping vanity seen in Froot Loops with Eye-Popping Marshmallows.
Oh, right, still haven’t mentioned Frightening Froot Loops. Not only did this edition turn all the Loops to a delightfully noxious green or purple, it also added atomic orange pumpkin pieces, that weren’t just puffs but bumpy clusters. Plus it has Toucan Sam in a wizard costume soaring across an apocalyptic hellscape. Pure magic.
2. Yummy Mummy Cereal (1987)
A Monster Cereal is a no-brainer for this list. These 3-5 Halloween cereal troubadours are basically the Rushmore of their genre. Count Chocula, Franken Berry, Boo Berry, and occasional second bananas Frute Brute and Yummy Mummy, are the face of cereal come late August, and though the first three of them are the lynchpins of the annual occasion, Brute and Mummy are by far the cultest of classics.
It’s truly tough to decide between the two. I love the original design of Frute Brute, and his cherry cereal flavoring has met no match to date. But Yummy Mummy’s orange-flavored cereal hits my citrused soul a little harder, plus the character’s wide grin and technicolor wrappings make him precisely the type of cereal mascot I’d like to terrorize a pastoral drive-in movie theater with. You know, like in the kind of buddy-horror movie they’re watching.
In particular, when General Mills made the genius (albeit one-time) decision to bring FB and YM back in 2013, I’ll never forget how good Yummy Mummy looked in its vintage packaging, let alone how good it tasted. I know there’s a future waiting for this gruesome twosome, and I’ll hold onto hope like it’s my last bandage—even if we keep getting the same lame Monster Cereals of late.
1. Candy Corn Pops (2001)
A controversial choice? Possibly, but of all the Halloween cereals on this list, Candy Corn Pops were the only ones to really do what I mentioned earlier: introducing a Halloween-specific flavor varietal. While we had Candy Corn Pebbles in 2014, Candy Corn Pops were ahead of their time. And even beyond the holiday, I applaud Corn Pops for the days where they actually messed with the stuff—because it’s weird in texture already, so Corn Pops only benefits from being wacky. Outside of Chocolate Peanut Butter Pops, we’ve seen the Corn Pops brand’s creativity deflate as of late.
But I digress: this is meant to be a celebration of the past, not a dirge for its loss.
The sheer experimental nature of Candy Corn Pops—though the wordplay may have been a zombie-tier no-brainer—is best reflected by its mad scientist mascot. This is perhaps the only cereal that recognizes a universal truth: the real horrors of the world aren’t Franken Berry’s monsters, it’s the mad man that made him.
(But we like this scientist now. He paid his penance.)
Happy Halloween to you, Dr. Candy Corn Pops. And happy early Halloween to all spooky cereal lovers. May your bowls overfloweth with pumpkin, spice, and everything nice tasting.