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People love dressing up like the MBTA for Halloween

Every year, people from across Greater Boston turn to the MBTA for inspiration when putting together Halloween costumes.
Every year, people from across Greater Boston turn to the MBTA for inspiration when putting together Halloween costumes. Ceara Chewning/Rachel Barstow/Jacob Klaybor/Rachel Barstow/Jacob Klaybor

Meghan Pierce and Scott Holmes were determined to stay in character, so they arrived late to their friends’ Halloween party in the Fenway last week.

The couple blocked partygoers waiting at the bar and announced a service disruption. Out on the street, they walked into people’s paths and declared a derailment. Some joked that they’d ruin the night.

It turns out being an MBTA train for Halloween is almost as hard as being an actual MBTA train.

“We were committed to the costumes,” said Pierce, 36, who wore green and taped bits of trash to herself to capture the essence of the Green Line. Holmes was a Red Line train on fire. “We almost won [a contest] for best costume.”

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Every year, people turn to the MBTA for inspiration when putting together Halloween costumes. They poke fun at the agency’s foibles — delays, track fires, derailments — or celebrate their love of all things transit.

Rachel Barstow’s 7-year-old son, John, asked his parents this year to gussy him up in a T-themed ensemble so detailed that riders could look at him to find out which train they need to catch.

“Every year John seems to pick a costume of a topic he’s interested in. Last year he was a calendar because he loves dates and times; the year before that he was a box of Cheez-its,” Barstow said. “This year, he sparked an interest in maps.”

To achieve John’s ideal look, Barstow and her husband, Matt, who inspired their son’s new obsession with trains by taking him on weekend rides, printed out MBTA and commuter rail maps. They glued the maps onto boards, attached pictures of a Charlie Card and T logo, and draped the boards over their son’s shoulders using straps. On his legs, they slapped stickers of various train stops.

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“He wanted to make sure the full transit system was represented — commuter rail, all of the subways, the bus lines, so that’s why we had to do a double-sided map,” Barstow said. “[The T] ends up being the butt of a lot of jokes. But in our household we have to speak highly of it, because John just — he’s a fan.”

Cambridge resident Ceara Chewning’s public transportation fandom drove her to create a custom-made costume dedicated to the Red Line and the lines that intersect with it.

Chewning wore the outfit — a red jumpsuit with white felt dots to represent each stop along the route, which stretched from her legs, up her torso, and along one arm — to a recent Halloween party, where two other couples were also wearing transit-related gear, she said.

“I really appreciate public transit and I think it’s great we have public transit, and I want more public transit,” said Chewning, 27, who spent four hours perfecting the costume and plans to wear it again this week. “There’s a lot of humor to be had in something as dorky as dressing up as a subway line.”

She did, however, “get a lot of jokes about catching on fire and being late to my party.”

The outfits aren’t just reserved for humans. Two dogs won first place at Saturday’s Jamaica Plain Canine Costume Parade, after donning train costumes created by their owner.

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“Ladies & Gentlemen,” tweeted City Councilor Matt O’Malley on the day of the event. “I present to you the first place winners at today’s #JP Canine Costume Parade: Chloe & Charlie, dressed as the new and old Orange Line cars.”

The costumes over the years have garnered praise from MBTA and transit officials, who have retweeted and shared some of the more creative attempts to mimic the subway lines and vehicles.

In a 2012 tweet, the MBTA announced its nomination for the best Halloween costume of the year, after two kids dressed up as the Route 39 bus.

The MBTA Transit Police had the same thought when a child wore a scaled-down version of a department vehicle as a costume in 2017.

Last year, MassDOT spokeswoman Jacquelyn Goddard highlighted the creativity of a group of apparent rail fans, who when they stood next to each other formed the entirety of the subway system’s map — including the Silver Line.

And more recently, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo admitted that he was so moved by five children whose families dressed them as a set of new Orange Line train cars, he decided to make the image his Twitter cover photo when the picture was shared widely online.

While some of the outfits take blatant pot-shots at the T’s frailties and follies, officials still seem to appreciate the sentiment.

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“It reinforces the undeniable bond between the nation’s oldest subway and the people it serves. It’s great to see the creative T-related takes on Halloween costumes,” Pesaturo said in an e-mail. “But I’m still hoping to spot someone dressed as our $8 billion capital improvement program.”


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.