Spooky on the Outside: A Tale of a First Time Halloween Decorator

October 21, 2017 — In the past, Lindsey and I treated Halloween decorations like dragons treat treasure hordes. We scooped it all up around us in our living room, mounds of orange pumpkins and white skulls and yellow leaves and black spiders, and left the outside of our house as stark as a cave. I just don’t always like to wear my spooky on the outside. However, Lindsey’s been steadily poking holes in that wall. Over the years she started putting fall-colored mums out on our porch, then a couple of pumpkins, some gourds, and then last year, she added wooden spiders and plastic skeletons. I could see which way the witch weather vane was pointing.

And then this year we sold our sunny yellow house and bought a somber black house.

And now we have to decorate its exterior. We just have to. Even I see that.

There are a couple problems with decorating our new house, though.

The first problem is that we live on a cul-de-sac. Nobody will see these decorations in person except our neighbors across the street.

The second problem is that we won’t be at home on Halloween. We’ll be trick-or-treating the streets. So if feels like decorating the house is false advertising. Like decking the hall with boughs of holly and then hauling a brick at any carolers harmonizing in our front yard.

But we decided to do it anyway. For our peace of mind. And to try it for once in our lives. And, of course, for the pleasure of the neighbors across the street.

Honestly, Lindsey did most of it. She picked out all the decorations. Thought through where she wanted them. All I really did was string a few extension cords and act complicit in an impulse purchase of a 12-foot-tall inflatable ghoul.

Here’s an aside. After all these years, I still don’t know exactly where I stand on inflatable Halloween decorations. Part of me loves them to death. That part thrills like a child every time I see the bouncy things illuminating lawns. But part of me also hates them. That part feels like they’re kind of tacky. Cartoonish. That they lack the creepy subtlety of the season.

But I have fallen in love with our ghoul. He’s white during the day. Purple at night. He towers against our house like a giant and flickers and flashes brightly and irregularly like he’s gearing up for some kind of dark magic attack. The first night we put him up, I was afraid his light was leaking through the windows of our neighbors and pissing them off. I mean, just standing behind my house, I could see a nimbus of pulsating purple surrounded the place. Like my house was in the middle of a strange, cosmic storm.

Even watching him deflate every night has been a sweet experience. I’d unplug him and then lift my arms and grab his large claws as he fell, gently guiding him down in a way that ensured he avoided getting stuck or punctured on the surrounding bushes, until he was finally softly sleeping in a pile of thin fabric in the dirt. Well, that’s what I did the first few nights he was up. Then we got a timer, and now he just flops down by himself while I’m cozy inside on the couch watching horror movies.

Normally, our house is a dark spot in the neighborhood. That’s partly due to its color, but mostly due to the fact that it’s set far back from the street and surrounded by trees. If we turn off all the lights at night, it looks like a vacant lot.

But for the next three weeks, it’s the most haunted spot in the neighborhood. And that makes all the effort worth it.