The surburban splendors of a random party-crashing

pirate house!

Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

Just up the street from me, about 6 blocks away, there’s a house with the most extreme giant halloween decorations ever. Instead of trick or treating at their door, it was clear we were supposed to walk up the driveway into their back yard which was an enormous pirate-themed haunted house AND a party, with dry ice and a fire pit, bowls of candy, snacks, booze, bewildered people standing around, people who were clearly friends of the party-throwers. Party complete with sobbing children scared witless yet still greedy and curious enough to keep going into these strange people’s house past the glowing-skull-decorated rabbit hutches, animatronic zombies, and mysterious grownups covered in fake blood who jump out at you. Spiderwebs. Strings of tiny lights. Candles in paper bags, like Christmas luminarias. Those giant inflatable things. They had everything. They even had a Rodent of Unusual Size.

I really loved the idea of pushing the idea of suburban trick-or-treating way past where it usually goes – throwing a party and putting on a show for random people in your neighborhood, for all ages. To some people it’s a holiday about shallow display of costume, unhealthy greed & consumption. To me it has this beautiful aspect of performativity and the celebration of generosity, public trust, and abundance. Anyway, I’d heard that “those people up on Myrtle” threw some great block parties in the summer. Our little group of trick or treaters was lucky to stumble across the madness.

So, thanks to Sue for a cool experience! I got in her face, demanding her name, screeching, “Who ARE you people?!” Can I put my kid to bed, sneak out of the house, and go back to their party. Does it sound like I’m totally making it up?

Then I went on to have the totally opposite experience, one which I remember well from my own childhood. We went to a plain little house with a very neat and symmetrical lawn. “We HAVE to go there… she’s 80- something.” And indeed this very old lady came to the door in a red sweater, a nice hairdo, clearly having made an effort on many fronts. Her mantelpiece was decorated with tiny little pumpkins and paper cutouts. She had the TV on in the background, around the corner. Everyone adult tried to draw out the interaction as long as possible. If she could have figured out how to invite us in and feed all the children baked things and hot chocolate I think she would have. As it is, she commented on every costume… I can’t really explain the pathos of the situation. You know how there are a million children’s books about suddenly being befriended by the kind yet scary old lady next door? LIke in “The House of 30 Cats”, or endless Andre Norton books like “Octagon Magic”? I could imagine being 80-something and really looking forward to the moment when that comes true for about 2 minutes and a group of children come to your door all happy and bustling. (I’m sure it’s nice when they leave again without messing up your house.)

2 Comments so far

  1. Poormojo (unregistered) on November 1st, 2006 @ 10:28 am

    Back in Detroit, a few blocks from where I grew up there was this house that did 30 minute horror shows on their front lawn. Every night on the hour, from about 7 to 9pm.

    They had fake blood and rudimentary storylines. Unchained chainsaws and hidden hatches dug into their front lawn and covered with leaves.

    They would perform for the week leading up to Halloween and then do a special, super-long and gory show on Halloween proper. And all out of the evil of theor hearts.

  2. Liz Henry (unregistered) on November 1st, 2006 @ 10:35 am

    Awesome… isn’t it strange?

    I lived in a suburb of Detroit (Allen Park) from around 1975-1980. Maybe we were neighbors! But my area of A.P. was a lot heavier on the 80-year-olds who’d give you a round hard candy, than the exuberant chainsaw displays.

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