Categories: Local News

Putting the fun back into Halloween

SCARY PLACE – Halloween decor enthusiast Ingrid Carli stands in full costume in front of her home in Erin Ridge on Monday. For the past 10 years the Carlis' have made it a tradition to go all out for Halloween.

The first thing you notice about folks who go a bit overboard for Halloween is their smiles. In fact, despite having a yard full of scary things designed to make their neighbours jump and scream and perhaps run in terror, Halloween house decorators have the ability to laugh out loud.

This year Jason McNutt of 184 Heritage Dr. turned his yard into a scene of carnage by heaping a pile of bones in front of his garage. Red drops of something gooey and gross are liberally sprinkled throughout the area, especially near the “city morgue” body bag that’s on the gurney parked right beside his door.

McNutt, a heavy-duty mechanic, is especially fond of startling his Halloween guests so his yard décor includes lots of things that go bump or that leap out and make a noise.

“Most of them are pneumatic,” McNutt said, pointing to an air compressor in his garage.

Among other things, the pneumatic system operates the lid of a coffin. During Halloweens past McNutt hid out of sight so he could operate the lid.

“It slams down and scares the bejesus out of people,” he said, grinning.

Stop by McNutt’s house on Halloween to get a scare and a sucker as you drop off a donation for the St. Albert Food Bank.

All Hallows’ Eve

The word Halloween is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve, referring to the eve before All Hallows Day, which is the mass day for saints.

Leering, carved pumpkins pay tribute to the lost souls, who prowl and pull pranks along with the tiny witches and ghosts, who go out on Halloween.

But simply carving a pumpkin and putting it out on the step doesn’t thrill those who crave a night of creatures and chaos in their front yard.

“I could carve a pumpkin. It’s not the same,” said Larry Patterson, who with his wife Lori decorates their 92 Forest Dr. corner lot with huge inflatable Halloween decorations.

Coffins are essential when it comes to Halloween and of course the Pattersons have one set up too.

“We have Dracula in a coffin,” said Patterson, laughing.

Patterson first started putting up Halloween inflatable props 10 years ago and says his grandchildren love it.

“Because of them, I tried to make it kid-friendly. It’s not too scary. But you know, people come to expect it now. They stop by and ask, ‘When are you putting your Halloween stuff out.’ The display brings the kids out on Halloween but it brings the adults too,” he said.

Mr. and Mrs. Halloween

The trick is more important than the treat for Ingrid and Brian Carli at 64 Embassy Pl. and they’ll hand out cans of pops to the thousands of visitors, who stop by on Oct. 31.

“People call us Mr. and Mrs. Halloween now. Even in the summer, when the kids see me, they call me Mrs. Halloween,” said Ingrid Carli.

The cans of pop are the quickest way to give something to the children, Carli said, adding that they also will accept donations for the St. Albert Food Bank on that night.

Setting up for Halloween is a year-long endeavour for the Carlis, though they don’t put the bulk of their display out until the day of the event.

“We wait until the kids go to school, then we put out the things that will surprise them later that night,” she said.

Their collection of spooky stuff includes two hearses, a wardrobe full of costumes, hats and rubber masks and two storage containers full of all the props they have built so they can scare people. Like McNutt, they have noisemakers and things that unexpectedly bang and jump and howl too.

Carli has already put out a few hints of what’s to come in her yard. A frightful pair of gauzy-looking skeletons and scarecrows floats over the front door and a stone gargoyle guards the entranceway, but the really special things, such as the oak coffin the Carlis built, are still tucked away.

“It’s an 1800s-style toe pincher. So it’s wedge-shaped and narrower where your feet go. It’s beautiful,” said Carli.

Carli, who studied interior design, likes to set up a series of little vignettes in the front yard.

“Don’t give away all my secrets,” she pleaded. “But we’ll have a street person out there. You won’t know who is real and who is not real.”

Another scene will be Carli’s Morgue, enclosed by hand-made columns, painted to appear as if they are made of stone. Nearby an old pump organ, acquired from an online sale, will be rigged up to play music such as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, so that a deep da-da-da-da will accompany the boys and ghouls looking for a handout.

On Halloween, the Carlis will decorate their yard with closets and cabinets and places to hide, all designed to provide the scariest surprise. And if the Carlis can make you jump, of course, you’ll hear a haunted laugh trailing off somewhere behind you.

“We’re trying to put the fun back into Halloween so that people go out trick or treating again,” she said. “It’s a shame when people tell me; ‘We only had 10 people at the door.’ Last year it was cold and miserable on Halloween but we still had 2,000 people.”

Susan Jones: Susan Jones has been a freelance writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2009, following a 20-year career at the St. Albert Gazette. Susan writes about homes, gardens, community events and people.