It’s early, but masks are already all around us

If you’ve entered a grocery or drug store since, oh, July, you have noticed that Halloween items are filling the aisles.

Candy corn, miscellaneous goodness from the fine people at Hershey and trinkets that howl or laugh ominously greet you at every turn. There are costumes for witches, warlocks and wizards, to go along with beloved Disney characters and the old standbys, like Strawberry Shortcake and various superheroes.

So, yeah, like nearly all the other holidays that are celebrated throughout this country, Halloween gets an obscenely early start at our stores. But don’t look at this remarkably-handsome editor to complain about this one.

I like Halloween. I love watching kids get dressed up in their costumes and excitedly chase candy. I like when people decorate their houses, haunted houses open up and scary movies dominate the television listings. I get a kick out of the new costumes that pop up every year that reflect our current times, smoke machines at nearly every event and the playing of “Monster Mash” on the radio every 11 minutes.

The celebration of Halloween in this country is largely centered on individuality and creativity. Every kid wants the coolest costume of his or her friends. Many adults want to host or attend the craziest Halloween party, give away the best treats or make their homes the wildest in their neighborhoods.

It’s fun.

Sure, there are the random eggings, candy-stealing and flaming bags of poop that mysteriously pop up on the doorsteps of people who either don’t give away candy or give dental floss, but I’m an adult now, so I’m guessing those numbers have dropped dramatically since about 1981. There was that one year when my friends and I...

But I digress.

There is also the thrill of being anonymous, right? You get to put on a costume, toss aside who you are on a day-to-day basis and become someone else, entirely, if only for one night.

And then there is Shaun Miller.

Miller, 31, of Hyannis, Mass., was a heroin distributor for the notorious Nauti-Block street gang, which investigators claim is responsible for “a significant portion of the heroin that is distributed on Cape Cod,” according to

Federal prosecutors had been reportedly staking out Miller’s mother’s house for weeks, but didn’t arrest the old man who walked out — until an alert officer noticed something was odd about the old man’s eyes. As officers approached the old man, they got a little closer look and one of them reportedly pulled a mask off the old man. Lo and behold, it was Shaun Miller, and he had allegedly been avoiding arrest for months by wearing the realistic mask around town.

“I think it was pretty clever,” said Peter Dunbar, a neighbor who had watched the arrest take place. “I’ve never seen something like that before. That’s someone who really knows what they’re doing.”

Well, kind of. Miller was indeed arrested, after all, and police reportedly discovered two loaded weapons and nearly $30,000 in cash hidden in a laundry basket in the house.

An NBC affiliate in Chicago reported on a bank robbery that took place in a neighboring suburb last Friday. According to the FBI, the robber showed a handgun during the robbery, and was able to get away before law enforcement got to the scene.

It was the description of the subject in the story that most stood out to me: “He is described as a black male, standing between 6-feet and 6-feet-2, with a medium build, the FBI said. The suspect was wearing a wolf mask, a red hat, light-colored pants and a dark blue long-sleeve shirt.”

I’m sorry. Did you say, “wolf mask?”

Here’s why I would make a terrible witness in a crime like this:

“Mr. McCann, can you describe the suspect?”

“Yeah. He was a wolf.”

“I understand he was wearing a mask, but what else can you tell us?”

“Dude was a wolf. A wolf wearing a hat. Are there a lot of those running around town these days?”

“I think we’re done with you, Mr. McCann.”

Of course, while masks are nearly always used for concealment, sometimes it’s not about hiding who’s inside as much as what’s inside.

Authorities in New Zealand, according to another story on (I swear, I do visit other sources), discovered an 881-pound diamante-encrusted horse that arrived at Auckland International Airport, via Mexico. Within said horse were 35 bricks of high-grade cocaine, valued at nearly $11 million U.S., according to the story.

Two quick thoughts: First, “diamante” is a word describing a glittering ornament, not just a make of car. I looked it up. Second, why was it not surprising that the two men arrested at the airport were a Mexican national and an American?

You would think that the people responsible for a potential drug-smuggling operation in New Zealand might be, you know, from New Zealand. But, nope.

And they will probably be wearing orange jumpsuits for Halloween.