Every neighborhood has one. That guy with the mismatched porch furniture and the occasional broken toilet adorning the weed garden, the overgrown foliage that probably isn’t even native to the area, and the stolen street signs leaning up against the side of the garage. Some of these eyesores bring your property value down all year round. However, there is one kind of eyesore that can really add something to your life, and it only happens once a year.
Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday in the United States with over seven billion dollars in revenue generated from costumes, candy, decorations, and activities. Every year, thousands of venues are producing interactive seasonal entertainment in the form of haunted attractions. The haunt industry has grown to become a multi-million dollar cash cow despite its humble beginnings as almost exclusively charitable events. With all the commercial Halloween fun and excitement being marketed to you instantly at summer’s end, it’s easy to forget the spirit of the season which is rooted in centuries-old tradition. Home haunters keep trick-or-treating alive and safe. They exist only to be the most memorable house on the block.
All haunters, be they professional or amateur, open year-round or one night only, live and breathe Halloween 365 days a year. Many with creativity and passion that far outweigh their bank account and availability, work or volunteer in professional haunts just to scratch the itch. Halloween is less about finally blending in for them and more about standing out and finally having the chance to share their talent and passion with anyone brave enough to take a peek at their creations.
It’s not unheard of for home haunters to sink hundreds of thousands of dollars into supplies. They sacrifice so much time on their haunt that it can affect their families, relationships, day jobs, and health. For some, there is a struggle to keep the passion from becoming an obsession. They absolutely must keep it in perspective, or they run the risk of it no longer being any fun.
To put the magnitude of such an enterprise into context, think of the haunt (pro and home) as a professional stage production. There’s a story that needs to be written, sets to be designed and built, props to collect and build, lighting to design, actors to train, costumes, make-up, the list goes on and on. Not to mention the consideration of safety and security for the people that come to enjoy the show as well as those who are in it. So much to remember and do. And yet… while the director has a crew and the professional haunter has a staff, the home haunter does it themselves with the help of maybe two or three good souls who are willing to work for sandwiches, and/or family who are infinitely patient and hopefully just as passionate about the holiday as the haunter. Another key thing to remember: Unlike the professional haunted attraction, the home haunter’s display is only in full swing one night of the year.
That’s a lot of work for just one performance!
Not only can it be a thankless endeavor, but it can also be one that you receive negative attention for. Every October brings one or two headlines making their way across social media: LOCAL MAN ASKED TO REMOVE OFFENSIVE HALLOWEEN DISPLAY. It’s true, some of these displays cross the line into the realm of indecency. Some of them are just unimaginative attempts at shock value, giving the proverbial finger to the uptight homeowners association and the nosy lady a few doors down whose dog always craps in your yard. But more times than not, these “inappropriate” displays are misunderstood works of art that just aren’t located amongst the right demographic.
Haunters are true artists and they are doing this for themselves, sure, but more than that – they do this for you. There comes a time when the artist must step back from their creation and remember that what they perceive to be awesome and what you perceive to be awesome are not always going to be one and the same. Sometimes it’s a tough pill to swallow and others, it’s a push to use that creativity that haunters have in droves to create something even better than what they originally planned. Something that people from every walk of life and all ages will remember with glee for many years to come.
Halloween, more than any other holiday, is a community affair. It’s the one night a year when it is completely acceptable to go door to door begging strangers for food. Whether you’re a haunter or the haunted, Halloween is an opportunity to build that community and be strangers no more.
Most professional haunted attraction owners began as that guy or gal on your street with a broken toilet in the weed garden, always out in the garage designing, building, and orchestrating the most memorable experience they can fit between the sidewalk and their front door. They’re living on a steady diet of Pepsi, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, and Oingo Boingo, and they do it for nothing more than a simple “thank you,” or at most, a charitable donation to an organization that means something to them.
So this year, when you take the kiddos out for a fun night of trick-or-treating, skip the malls, costly events, and health food. Hit the pavement the old fashioned way. Ask around to see if there’s a particularly ghoulish front yard on display. You’ll get more than just a piece of candy… you’ll get memories to last a lifetime.