Pumpkin spice-flavored everything has become such an "outrageous" pop culture staple that we could create an entire list solely made up of other rubber-stamped lists about "crazy pumpkin-flavored products" (like this, this, this, this, this, and this). And yet, the trend doesn't appear to be tapering off. Why is that?

Obviously, it's time for someone to carve the lid off this once and for all. So sit back and allow us to take you down the festive-smelling rabbit hole ...

3
Pumpkin Is a Made-Up Flavor (That Has Nothing to Do With Pumpkins)

True story: pumpkins actually taste like nature's cardboard -- a collection of seeds and mucus wrapped in an impossible shell of inedible sadness. Once a year we carve them to look like fear, but other than that there's basically no reason for them to exist.

3 Ways the Pumpkin Spice Craze Is Creepier Than You Think
Melty-faced Stallone-o'-lantern wholeheartedly agrees.

[inject-module]

Case in point -- that pumpkin pie you enjoyed as a kid? Actually made from a variety of squash, flavored with signature spices. It's those spices that are associated with the "pumpkin" flavoring we stick in our vodkas and Oreos and Starbucks at varying degrees of intensity. In other words, much like grape and watermelon flavoring, "pumpkin spice" might as well taste like the pope's farts so long as the label is the same. And yet, despite tasting nothing like pumpkins, the sale of pumpkin spice has amazingly boosted the sale of actual goddamned pumpkins 34 percent in the last five years -- all by association. It's almost as if a totally different beast is in play besides our sincere love of this worthless fall crop.

3 Ways the Pumpkin Spice Craze Is Creepier Than You Thinkzhu difeng/iStock/Getty Images
"The spice must flow."

2
The Industry Fakes a Shortage So Much That There's a Black Market for It

Let's get one thing clear -- pumpkin spice is seasonal by choice and choice alone. As we've already pointed out, nothing about the flavor relies on the harvesting of its namesake, and so if we wanted to we could be lathering in the stuff head-to-toe every morning. Instead, the industry shuts down the moment spring hits, creating a controlled withdrawal from the seductive aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg.

3 Ways the Pumpkin Spice Craze Is Creepier Than You ThinkJason Iannone
If only there were a way to procure such rare and exotic treasures.

So why not just keep the doors open all year round? Well, as any rookie marketing strategist could tell you, there's a little something called "artificial demand" used to hype goods and services that are otherwise completely worthless. By limiting it to one season, the pumpkin spice industry has created scarcity that gives the product such a heightened value that there is actually an underground offseason black market of monstrously sad humans hawking substitute products on eBay. So instead of opening the floodgates, they've actually created a subculture of consumers alerting one another about which Starbucks are selling pumpkin spice lattes later or earlier in the fall.

3 Ways the Pumpkin Spice Craze Is Creepier Than You ThinkIzabela Zaremba/Hemera/Getty Images
Pictured: A modern-day squashbuckler.

This leads to the final mystery: why did they choose fall in the first place? Or pumpkins? There's a reason for that as well.

1
Pumpkin Spice Popularity Is Directly Linked to Our Economy

The fall and winter seasons are so important for the U.S. economy that FDR changed the date of Thanksgiving specifically to give Black Friday jerkasses more time to shop. Being an end-year time of disposable purchases, the holidays are the baseline test for knowing how stupid good the U.S. is doing. In other words, it's the perfect time to see how willing the public is to toss money at an exuberantly worthless fad based on impulse.

Let's wind the clocks back to 2008, when Obama was soon to take office. America and the world faced the largest potential financial crisis since the 1930s, and while the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte had been going strong since 2003, the popularity of the ridiculous drink shot up tenfold not long after the economy began to recover.

3 Ways the Pumpkin Spice Craze Is Creepier Than You ThinkGoogle Trends
Either everyone's rich again, or they've all converted to Great Pumpkinism and are eagerly drinking of their savior's blood.

In fact, pumpkin-related everything shot up a mother-humping 234 percent since 2008, a pretty darn clear reflection of an economic recovery. So in a way, seeing hordes of Starbucks-wielding pumpkin fuckers is just a nice sign that the country is doing well enough to spend barrels of hard-earned cash on a made-up fall flavor. What else could it be? Unless ...

3 Ways the Pumpkin Spice Craze Is Creepier Than You ThinkNBC News

3 Ways the Pumpkin Spice Craze Is Creepier Than You ThinkNBC News

3 Ways the Pumpkin Spice Craze Is Creepier Than You ThinkNBC News

Dear god.


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For more autumnal fun, please see 5 Facts About Thanksgiving Your History Teacher Left Out. And then check out 15 Holidays They Need To Invent.

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