Saved by the Giant Plastic Bones of a Monster Skeleton

October 6, 2023 —
I wasn’t going to decorate for Halloween this year. Not inside, not outside, not anyside. Just seemed sad to, under the circumstances, like festooning a house gutted by fire with streamers and balloons.

Granted, decorating the outside of my house is a relatively new thing for me, anyway. For most of my life, I never decorated the exterior of any house I lived in for Halloween. Inside, I went crazy, turning my living room into a glowing orange cocoon, a little Halloween pocket dimension of plastic pumpkins and things with glowing eyes. I was very selfish with my Halloween. After I moved to New England, the first home I owned was a cheery yellow one. And that definitely didn’t inspire me to splash a coat of Halloween on it every September and October.

But when I moved to the Black House six years ago, I felt compelled morally, ethically, Samhainically to decorate it for Halloween. I mean, you can’t live in a black house and not decorate it for Halloween. That’s a crime against the Great Pumpkin. So I started doing it. Planting foam tombstones on my lawn. Hanging ghosts from the porch. I even got on my ladder and lined the roof with lights. Like a dad, man. It was a lot of work.

And also kind of silly because the Black House is at the end of a cul-de-sac. We get no passersby other than the errant kid using our street as a shortcut to school.

But that was fine. Like my Halloween pocket dimension, the exterior decorations were almost totally for my family. To see when we arrived home after dark or just to feel the glow outside our windows as we lived life inside the house. And also, of course, as a family activity to do together.

But now, not only do I live at the end of a dead-end, that “us” is a lot smaller and more sporadic. It’s mostly me at the house, and sadness bathed in orange and purple is somehow sadder.

So I’d already kiboshed the idea of decorating for the season.


Until two weeks ago. I had a single night with my girls and wanted to do something interesting with them. And that’s when I remembered the massive plastic bones of a mostly disassembled twelve-foot-tall skeleton in my garage.

We bought that giant skeleton last year. And it was amazing. I know a lot of people have one of these things these days, but it belongs at the Black House. Like whatever Halloween engineer Home Depot employs was looking for inspiration at random and found my house on Google Earth and thought what it needed most in the world was a twelve-foot skeleton. And they were right.


Since its inaugural Halloween, the skeleton’s been stored in my garage, bathed in the lights of my Civic’s headlights as I pulled in every day. Its legs are still assembled up to the pelvis, its ribcage leans against the wall. Its skull is on the floor. It struck me suddenly as sad to only give it one year in front of the Black House.

“Do you want to put up the skeleton?” I asked the girls.

“Yes!” They shouted. They’re always enthusiastic. I could have asked, “Do you want to scrape moss off the house siding for the next four hours?” And they would have said the same thing with the same level of excitement. They’re awesome girls. Despite their parents.

So we put it up. And, as it towered over us, its dark eyes empty (because its glowing eyes stopped working this year), the girls realized that we hadn’t named him yet. They argued for a bit before settling on Dean. I can’t remember why. But now he’s Dean. Skelly Dean.


But then I realized it might have been a mistake getting Dean back on his feet. After the girls left, it was just me and an empty house and a giant skeleton looming outside, his bony butt blocking one of the windows of my library.

I felt silly. Like my house was just squatting there half-dressed. So, the next time the girls came over, we decorated some more. And then some more. And then some more. Outside, we strung lights on the roofline and installed colored spotlights. We staked a metal scarecrow into the ground, set up a mini-graveyard, and resurrected a trio of black-cloth witches whose heads used to glow but don’t now because I’ve never changed the batteries.

Inside the house, we turned it into a hamster ball of soft orange and purple light, all lorded over by Big Face, our giant animatronic scarecrow who was the mascot of our Halloweens for years before Dean and who hangs out headless in the basement for the rest of the year.

So, almost like that story of stone soup, I somehow fully decorated for Halloween. And I’m glad I did. Not just because it was more memories made, but because now it acts like the proverbial candle in the window, welcoming my girls back when they return to the Black House. I like that a lot.

Still, while the exterior lights are on a timer, I only turn on the inside lights when the girls are here, when we’re all together in our Halloween bubble, piled atop each other on the couch, our faces tinted Halloween colors as we watch The Nightmare Before Christmas or Hocus Pocus or ParaNorman.

And I think that’s what Halloween decorations will be for me, at least for a while: A candle in the window.