Zombies. Elves. Puppies. Whether spooky, strange, or downright adorable, costumes are the highlight of Halloween. After all, dressing up is your big chance to let loose and really be yourself - or, if not yourself, perhaps a superhero, corpse bride, or werewolf. To help you get in the Halloween spirit, we've ranked the costumes that Instagram users in every state like most frequently (both this year and in years past) and compiled a list of users' favorite photo filters. Dig in to the results . . . if you dare.


Clearly 2015 is the year of the aliens and monsters. E.T. is the most-liked costume on Instagram in seven states, while monster disguises draw the most likes in five states. Spooky is definitely in: Other popular costumes include witches, skeletons, and ghosts, as well as specific creepy characters such as Frankenstein and Ghostface from "Scream."

But it's not all a big spookfest: In the canine-loving Pacific Northwest (as well as Ohio), puppies tumble their way into the top spot in terms of Instagram likes, and in New Hampshire, cats rule. Loveable scarecrows come out on top in Maine (if they only had a brain!), while Santa's elves bring holiday cheer a bit early in Iowa.

Interestingly, neighboring states often have the same taste in costumes. West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Minnesota share a love of monsters. Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, New Mexico, Mississippi, and New Jersey, are major "E.T." fans (even 33 years after the movie hit theaters!). Texans like wizards, while their neighbors to the north in Oklahoma have a penchant for Harry Potter in particular. And, as mentioned, Washington and Oregon residents both love posts that mention puppies - whether that means dressing up as puppies or dressing their puppies in cute costumes.


The animated map above tracks the changing trends in Halloween costumes shared (and liked) on Instagram. In 2012, E.T. drew the most likes in seven states. Other often-liked pop culture icon costumes included Minnie Mouse (Idaho) Cookie Monster (Connecticut), Neo from "The Matrix" (Alabama), Mario from Mario Brothers (Minnesota and Ohio), and the Kardashians (Florida). Animal costumes abounded (tigers and cats and bats, oh my!), while on the naughtier side, Alaskans went as French maids, Vermonters dressed up (or down) as strippers, and North Dakotans donned schoolgirl disguises.

In 2013, E.T. costumes jumped in popularity on Instagram, garnering the most likes in 10 states, while zombies lurched to the top spot in seven states. Cheerleaders (Florida), artists (Michigan), angels (Illinois), and gypsies (New Jersey) appeared on the scene, while animal lovers went wild for rabbits in New York and puppies in California and Pennsylvania.

In 2014, movie costumes dominated the map. E.T. remained an Instagram favorite in eight states, while Orc from "The Lord of the Rings" conquered three states: Michigan, Tennessee, and Louisiana. Other most-liked costume photos featured Alice in Wonderland (Texas), Batman (Washington), the Hulk (Florida), The Flash (North Carolina), the Mad Hatter (Washington, D.C.), and various Marvel Comics characters (California). But it wasn't all about the movies: In Colorado, nerds sidled up wearing pocket protectors; in Kentucky, horses galloped onto the Halloween scene; and Waldo from "Where's Waldo?" suddenly and inexplicably popped up in Massachusetts.


With the single click of a button, Instagrammers sharing Halloween costume photos on the popular mobile app can take a snapshot to a whole new level, making it artsy or modern, eye-catching or ethereal.

With an average of almost 80 likes per post, the Skyline filter, which produces eye-popping color, ranks as the most common filter applied to Halloween posts. The Clarendon filter - beloved for its vintage flavor - comes next with an average of nearly 54 likes per photo. No filter (Normal) takes third place with an average of almost 47 likes, while Vesper (which lends character) and Ashby (which brightens colors) both average around 39 likes per post.

"Disguise" the Limit

Breaking down Instagram likes by state reveals some interesting trends about the Halloween costumes that cause people to click "like." Some costumes defy time - ghosts, kings, skeletons, and zombies - while others experience a short-lived burst of popularity (such as bartenders, Cookie Monster, and sailors). E.T.'s across-the-board popularity on Instagram is enough to make the little guy want to phone home with the good news.

Whether you want to wow your friends with a wild disguise or stick to a tried-and-true favorite, you'll enjoy Halloween to the fullest if you find the costume that really speaks to you. Are you a witch or a showgirl? A football player or a punk? Head to Halloween Express - online or in the store - to find the right costume at the right price. And don't forget to share a photo on Instagram.

Methodology

Using the Instagram API, we looked at every post tagged #halloween from 2012 to 2015 and searched the captions for mentions of 496 costumes. We looked at the average number of likes per post and sorted them across the country in various years of posts to see the most-liked costumes on Instagram in every state.

Fair Use

Feel free to share the images found on this page freely. When doing so, please attribute the authors by providing a link back to this page, so your readers can learn more about this project and the related research.