It’s that time of year again. Well, at least for your average Halloween home haunter it is. Even though it’s late July – with 97 days to go before Halloween – time is already running out.
What is a home haunter, you ask? The basic description would be thus: anyone who goes above and beyond to make their house, yard, garage, car-port, deck, or living room/basement just a little bit spookier. These are the people who swear by duct tape, use terms like FCG, Pepper’s Ghost, TOT’s, pneumatic pop-ups, and fog chillers to name a few. They can be seen in late summer sweating away in their garages, bent over foam core gravestones chiseling epitaphs with a Dremel, or figuring out a new and improved way to make their rickety graveyard fence withstand the wind and somehow make it through just one more year.
This will be my fifth year haunting my home (both inside and out) and it seems to just get bigger every year. What started out as a few jack ‘o lanterns and hay bales has turned into a – for lack of a better word – monster. I have enough props, masks, and costumes under my stairs to outfit a small army of ghouls.
The question I get asked the most about my hobby is: “what do your neighbors think?” Thankfully, I’m surrounded by a great group of folks who understand that Halloween isn’t just a single day at my house, but an entire month. Props go up the last weekend in September and come down on November 1st, the standard schedule for most dedicated home haunters. In fact, my neighbors seem to get a real kick out of coming over to see what new devilish design I have going in my garage – whether it be an 11 foot scarecrow, or last year’s big project: The Fog Chiller (a converted Igloo cooler packed with ice that traps hot fog from a fog machine and cools it through a chicken-wire tunnel, the end result being a spooky, ground-hugging fog rather than a thick cloud of noxious fumes).
As wonderful as it is to have understanding neighbors when home haunting, it’s nothing compared to having a patient spouse. My wife has been recruited into some pretty ridiculous schemes over the years when it comes to Halloween (like laying out on the freezing lawn covered in leaves to give passing trick-or-treaters a scare), and has pretty much accepted the fact that all weekends in September are spent in the garage, repairing old props and building new ones. Through it all, she has been more patient than I deserve, and, I think, has actually come to enjoy the process of haunting our house (although she’ll have no part in taking it all down and putting it away when the time comes...)
And speaking of time, did I mention it’s running out? I have so many projects going at once that it feels like everything is ‘last minute.’ In fact, it’s common to still be tinkering, taping, pounding, and sawing as the night’s first trick-or-treaters are coming up the sidewalk. At some point, you resign yourself to the fact that, while imperfect, you did the best you could and try to remind yourself that darkness is your friend when it comes to all the things that didn’t get fixed. In the end, it all seems worth it when you hear the screams of delight (and sometimes just screams) from the beggars at your door.