St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

Dressed to impress

Shelli and Mark Olson defy the notion that Halloween get ups are just for kids.

Published October 26, 2006


Shelli Olson made her first Halloween costume in grade school: a barrel painted to look like a Coors beer can.

"Of course, I was quickly sent home," she said. "I was a sixth- grader walking around school in a beer can."

Nearly 30 years later, Shelli is still making costumes for her favorite holiday. She and her husband, Mark, spend weeks perfecting their costumes and months planning their annual Halloween soiree.

They take it seriously. In the 15 years they've been together, they've won nearly $20,000 from costume contests.

More than 100 people showed up Saturday for the Olsons' "Unlikely Superheroes" party. They built a replica of Gotham City - complete with fog and large rats - in the front yard.

Ranae Sorensen, dressed as Super Mommy, has been coming to the party for years. She was hauling around a doll, milk bottles, a stuffed Elmo and a Dunkin' Donuts coffee cup.

"They do the best Halloween parties," she said.

Mark decided to dress as Super Surfer Man in a red cape, blue shorts and no shoes. The extravagant costumes, the ones that win thousands of dollars, won't come until next week.

The Olsons' creations have ranged from wacky - Mark once went as "The Well Hung Man" with a noose around his neck - to grotesque.

Their favorites, though, are the 8-foot Invisible Man and Woman, which they created for their first party in 1991.

"The Invisible Man and Woman are such world travelers," said Shelli, a graphic designer by trade. "They've been everywhere."

They've been on Regis Live and won trips to New York and Dallas. Mark estimates the 8-foot costumes racked up about $2,000 in prize money.

They took about a week to make them, Mark said.

Shelli bought a large felt coat at a second-hand shop. They molded the bodies using "a lot of duct tape and chicken wire. Then they added the details: sunglasses, hats, eyes that lit up.

"They're very elegant," he said. "He's got a cigar and a glass of brandy and she's wearing earrings and gloves."

The Olsons have yet to decide what they will be this year, but Mark said it'll be "big and weird-looking." They plan to compete in costume contests all weekend.

By the time Halloween rolls around, they'll be exhausted.

"Last year I got so tired from carrying around my outfit that, on Halloween night, I just stayed in," he said.

[Last modified October 26, 2006, 07:21:46]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters