Spirits & Skeletons approaches: Dress up without dumbing down with these scientifically inclined costume ideas

We know you know all about Spirits & Skeletons: Molly and the Ringwalds will be rockin’, a caricature artist will be zombifyin’, and a bug chef will be grossin’ you out. But do you know the most important part of all? Namely, what you’re wearing?

We’ve all been atwitter over here planning our ghoulish get-ups, and we figured we should share the wealth of in-house costume ideas with you fine folks.

Here are three scientifically inclined costume ideas sure to strike a nerve with any nerd worth their pocket protector.

The Pacific Garbage Patch

Turn a sad thing funny with this easy last-minute costume. Simply wear blue clothing and glue or pin bits of plastic refuse. Bonus? You can inform anyone who asks about the acres of plastic junk floating in the earth’s oceans.

Winners! Beth Terry & Eli Saddler at Bay to Breakers 2009Antimatter

Spending Halloween as antimatter is the scientific equivalent of dressing up as Daria. What could be more misanthropic?

Remember Lost in Space? I don’t, because I wasn’t yet born, but I hear it contained the perfect get-up in “The Anti-Matter Man”: A full black-and-cream jumpsuit. Recreate the look!

The Anti-Matter ManPinky and the Brain

Can you say “couple’s costume”? Pinky and the Brain make a perfect pair, particularly if one of you is a little portly.

Pinky & BrainHave your own science-themed costume ideas? Share them in the comments or, better yet, show us yourself on Oct. 26!

What: Spirits & Skeletons, the annual HMNS Halloween party
When: Oct. 26, 8 p.m. to midnight
Where: The Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Dr.
How much: $25, $15 for members
This event is 21 and up only.

Boo! Frightfully Fun Halloween Events at HMNS

Every year around the end of October, the world gets a little scarier – and a lot more fun! HMNS is no exception to the rule. Join our ghosts and ghouls for a Halloween weekend full of frightful events.

Start the weekend off right with Spirits & Skeletons on Friday, Oct.29.
Leave the kids at home and attend our totally rad 80′s Halloween party featuring the band Molly and the Ringwalds. Show up in your awesome costumes, dance under the dinosaurs, and be astonished by our master magician. Then head on over to our Real Pirates exhibition or try some creepy crawly insect dishes with our bug chef. You can also see our Real Pirates exhibition for just $15 during the event!

Real Pirates at HMNS
Party like a pirate at Spirits & Skeletons on Oct. 29!

On Saturday morning, Oct. 30, bring the kids in their costumes to the only dinosaur bone-yard around!
At Tricks, Treats, & T.Rex, our mad scientists will shock everyone with their spine-chilling skills and our creepy scientists will create bizarre concoctions. Discovery the scary side of science, only at HMNS.

Then head on over to the George Observatory in Brazos Bend State Park for a special Halloween Challenger Mission. Help out on our space ship as you salvage the abandoned Space Station Observer (lost in 2025) and return it safely to Moonbase 1. Or aid the astronauts from mission control. This event is only available the afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 30 – and advance reservations are required. Call 281-242-3055 for information.

Haven’t had enough Halloween yet?

On Sunday, Oct. 31, we will be holding Spooktacular at our Sugar Land location.
Meet our mad scientists, terrorizing taxidermists, and a mysterious magician who will dazzle everyone with his amazing tricks.

To finish off this epic weekend, join us for our Pirate Feast on Sunday evening.
Eat, Drink, and Plunder aboard the Elissa, docked at Pier 21 on Galveston Island. Hear tales of the Golden Age of Piracy, and explore the historical and archaeological evidence for many new theories associated with pirates from a culinary perspective. Learn about the evolution of the rum trade, and how food affected the sea routes of pirates. The Texas Seaport Museum will also be open for this event.

Creepy Critter Cameo – Caecilian

Smoke Tinged Halloween Moon
Creative Commons License photo credit: peasap

Halloween is by far my favorite holiday.  I love that everyone, young & old alike, can dress up as just about anything from the classic witch to the random Roman column I spotted at last year’s Spirits & Skeletons.  Each year is a new opportunity to unveil yourself as a superhero, an Indian princess, a mad scientist, or even a hideous monster. 

Let’s focus on this last costume – the monster – the creepy, skin-tingling costume that never fails to invoke fear deep within us.  Why do we insist on wearing a scary costume?  Humans (and animals) have instinctual fears, a natural survival technique to avoid possible near-death situations, which includes dangerous animals.  Perhaps by dressing up as these scary beasts we can overcome our fears. 

Where does the inspiration for these beasts come from?  From nature, of course!  We see films or photos of animals in real life and can create a whole new monster with the help of our highly over-active brain, especially when watching a scary movie alone, at night, in the dark, with a full moon out, and possible werewolves ready to pounce at any moment!  Yikes!  Let’s take a look at one creepy critter that resides here in the Museum – the super-slimy Caecilian!

We have a Mexican Burrowing Caecilian (pronounced sə-sĭl’yən) , Dermophis mexicanus, a legless amphibian from the order Gymnophiona.  They live underground in Central Mexico and can grow up to 2 feet long.  Their diet primary consists of small invertebrates, including termites and earthworms.  After an 11-month gestation period, they give live birth (most amphibians lay eggs) to between four and eleven young.  When presenting this amphibian to students, we discuss how is it different from other vermiform animals such as worms and snakes.  The kids usually determine that it has a backbone (worms are invertebrates) and that it is slimy, not scaly (reptiles have scales and are not slimy).  Our caecilian is a very shy, quiet animal that also happens to enjoy attempting great escapes.  I think it’s a rather cute amphibian!

Our Mexican Burrowing Caecilian

There are over 150 species of caecilians, ranging along the tropics from South America to Africa.  They may be a dull grey or brown or even brightly colored purple, pink, orange, or yellow.  Most lack tails and all have tentacles, a specialized chemosensory organ near their nose that helps them to locate prey.  Many caecilians are nearly sightless, some without any eyes at all.  They may be aquatic, terrestrial, or fossoriallike our Mexican Burrowing Caecilian.  Depending on where they live, caecilians may be oviparous (egg-layers) or viviparous (live-bearers). 

Warning!! Here comes the creepy flesh-eating part of our story!!

In the womb, the developing caecilian embryos have specialized fetal teeth that allows them to stimulate secretions from the oviducts of their mother, providing the young with nourishment.  In another species, Boulengerula taitanus, an oviparous caecilian from Southeastern Kenya, the newborns also have specialized teeth to eat the skin off the back of their mother!!  The skin is regenerated every 3 days for the young, providing a nutritious meal.  Research has also found that a female may take care of young that aren’t biologically hers, a term called alloparenting.  However, this is a costly to the “nursing” female.  Check out this BBC video to experience these flesh-eating, super slimy critters in action.  Truly a fascinating animal worthy of mention at Halloween.

Boulengerula taitanus

To see more super scary, awe-inspiring yet repulsive critters for the Halloween season, check out this fun blog I found while researching tigerfish and then again while looking for caecilians: Ugly Overload!