As far back as mid-August, weeks before the Halloween displays went up in Home Depot stores, people were already scouring the internet for leads on Dean the Deathologist, the 6-foot-tall, animatronic skeleton bartender — excuse me, mixologist — with a hipster mustache and old-timey bartender garb that fetches a spendy $149.

“Tried to get Dean multiple times both online and in store with no luck until recently,” wrote one customer in an Aug. 11 review on Home Depot’s website. Needless to say, Dean would be joining their home bar year-round, this person added.

“I FOUND HIM!!!!!!” wrote a triumphant r/halloween Reddit user, also on Aug. 11, three days after someone posted asking if anyone knew of Home Depot locations planning to restock Deans anytime soon. Searching past September online or in stores would prove futile; Dean was long since out of stock by early October when I spoke to Home Depot’s senior merchant of decorative holiday, Lance Allen.

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Created by holiday decorations manufacturer Seasonal Visions International, Dean debuted in 2022, the latest in a series of animatronic decorations from the home improvement chain that have gone viral. It all started when Home Depot released Skelly, the $300, 12-foot lawn skeleton in the summer of 2020 — a year in which pandemic-lockdown boredom and unspent disposable income collided to spectacularly up the ante on Halloween decorations.

In fact, spending on Halloween decorations is expected to reach $3.9 billion this year, out of a record $12.2 billion in total Halloween spending, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation and consumer data company Prosper Insights & Analytics. Some 73 percent of 8,034 people surveyed plan to celebrate Halloween this year, up from 69 percent last year and exceeding pre-pandemic levels. And 77 percent of those celebrating plan to purchase decorations, on par with last year, but up from 72 percent in 2019.

 “I hope you don’t mind my prying, but… you’re not from around here, are you?” Dean says flirtatiously.

“We expected Skelly to go viral,” Allen says. Indeed, if there’s one thing people love more than a lawn skeleton, it’s a massive one with LCD eyes that move. This in turn prompted the rollout of a whole cast of giant, spooky characters, like a demonic animated predator, light-up ghost, and hovering witch.

Dean, too, is motion-activated, though only intended for indoor use. Sensors ignite red LED lights in his eye sockets as he cascades some twinkle-lit, green liquor from an opaque bottle into a cup while he cycles through six phrases in a lilting British accent set to plinky piano music. “I hope you don’t mind my prying, but… you’re not from around here are you?” he says flirtatiously. He rattles off jokes about his skeletal regulars and bar tabs costing one’s soul; sometimes his mouth clacks a little too loud for them to fully land (“but what skeleton wouldn’t?” wrote one customer). He also takes drink requests, though only for cocktails with spooky names like Bloody Mary and the fictitious Witches Brew.

Pumpkin Spice Creep, but With Skeletons

I can’t help but notice that Dean opted for the more pretentious “deathologist” instead of “deathtender” title. Maybe he has imposter syndrome, or the choice was ironic, like his oily, curled mustache and two-toned, wing-tip shoes. Allen won’t indulge my psychoanalysis, except to say that Dean’s tie and shoes “accentuate him perfectly.”

Nor will Allen divulge specific sales metrics, but suffice it to say that Dean has flown off the shelves since he was created last year. In fact, Home Depot went so far as to kick off Halloween in July this year, which is when it made its whole animatronic skeleton lineup available online. It’s like pumpkin spice creep, but with larger-than-life skeletons. The NRF survey likewise confirmed that consumers are shopping for Halloween earlier and earlier — with over half of people 25 to 44 starting in September.

“Halloween is all about having fun and going the extra mile to delight those around you … whether it’s for a single day or throughout the year.”

“I cannot believe I got my hands on Dean!” wrote one customer in August 2022, who nabbed him in-store before the decorations were even “fully set.”


Seemingly, despite the occasional flaw (a few lighting malfunctions and spontaneous arm loss — all purportedly addressed by SVI), he’s as good as advertised; a well-dressed conversation starter who talks a little too loud for some (thankfully, an adjustable feature). Dean has not only become an all-season accessory of multiple home bars and the subject of a (private) Facebook fan group called “The Dean Team,” he was a guest bartender at one couple’s wedding reception in September (“I had him riding shotgun with me to the venue. LOL,” wrote the groom in a review on Home Depot’s website, including a selfie with the Deathologist from his car).

One man drove to a wedding with Dean the Deathologist from Home Depot riding shotgun in his car.

It’s not unlike Skelly, who Allen tells me has been spotted “perching on a fire escape in Chelsea,” “dressed up as Taylor Swift,” and left up all year with seasonal adjustments for Christmas and Easter. I recall spotting one Skelly in Las Cruces, N.M., in 2021, dressed as a mail carrier holding a sign in support of the U.S. Postal Service. These accessories seem to scratch a growing collective itch for silliness and the kind of creative expression that goads one’s neighbors into upping the ante.

“Halloween is all about having fun and going the extra mile to delight those around you … whether it’s for a single day or throughout the year,” Allen says.

The Cult of Dean the Deathologist, the Bartending Skeleton Home Depot Can't Keep In Stock.
Credit: Home Depot

All told, consumers will spend an unprecedented $108.24 per person on Halloween this year, up from the previous record of $102.74 in 2021, per the NRF. This may explain why No. 5 of Dean’s six phrases is simply laughter. All the way to the bank, am I right?