My Uncle Ronnie was one of the coolest people on the planet, if not the galaxy. Growing up, he always gave us the best presents. My two younger brothers and I looked forward to them every year. As we got older, we used to joke about there being a special isle at the toy store that only opened up for him. He even found the most unique cards. I swear, the man had mad skills.
Halloween was his favorite holiday. This is where his secret isles came in handy. Every year you could count on him to have the most decked out yard in the neighborhood. People would stop to take pictures. It might have been the grave yard, complete with tombstones and skeletal remains. It might have been the skeletons sitting in the mist filled hot tub. Of course, it could also have been the giant spiders that spun webs all over the trees. They perched precariously on the branches, waiting for a wayward trick-or-treater to stray from the safe paths.
Every year he would add to his growing collection of frights and delights. Parachuting witches that cackled madly, two foot rats, realistic ravens and owls, plus enough skeletons to fill even the largest of closets. He would even dress up as a werewolf to hand out candy. I remember one time a door-to-door saleswoman tried to shoo this raven off of the front gate. We watched her through the window as she attempted to get rid of the bird. The best part is that it was just a prop but so realistic that she eventually gave up and left.
After Uncle Ronnie passed away, my family and I wished to keep his Halloween tradition alive. We could think of no better way to honor his memory every year. Since my neighborhood saw hundreds of trick-or-treaters, we decided that I would host the annual party.
The first weekend in October we assemble like a small army preparing for battle. It takes us several hours to transform my quiet suburban yard into a feast for the senses. The first step is sorting everything out. I have tons of plastic totes filled with treasures. Next, my mother and I start spinning webs over my hedges. My brothers, father and little one start stetting up the graveyard.
I purposely let the hedges and grass overgrow a little at the end of summer. I also leave the dead vegetation in my flower beds in anticipation of Halloween. It is only afterwards that I clean it up. I think it adds character and helps to set the mood. Spiders get hung from the roof. Skulls and bones climb out of the hedges. A small army of rats greet you at the front door, commanded by two larger specimens. A demon claims a new victim and keeps its severed head as a prize. Bats cling in the trees. A rotting pirate welcomes you to the Haunted Estate. A grim skeleton, with his pet spider, even guards the mail box in case the postman steps out of line. (I am kidding. My postal carrier is actually a huge fan of my display and has even left kind notes saying how much it makes them smile every year. It makes my day.) All of these are fun, but the real treasures come out on Halloween night.
Only one block in my neighborhood gets into the Halloween spirit. We all sit outside and have a party. Last year, we decided to kick things up a notch. We have a folding table that gets decked out. A bloody table cloth is only the beginning. A few severed legs and hands, a witch’s pot full of candy, and two old lanterns to light your way, are just the reward if you make it past the Guards of the Candy.
Through the fog, compliments of a fog machine, trick-or-treaters must face the growling menace from hell. I am speaking of none other than the feared Cerberus, the three-headed dog. Smoke streams from his snarling jaws as each head snaps at your dangling fingers. His glowing eyes bore into you, pulling you in closer. Can you make it past all three heads and reach the candy safely?
If you make it that far, congratulations. Take a moment to let your guard down. Breath that free air. I DARE YOU! I must warn you of my next little surprise. Well, she is not little. At 6ft tall, she stands proud. I wouldn’t get too close if I were you. My Banshee has one doozy of a cry and has been known to flail around wildly. Don’t worry, you are safe if you do not look into her glowing eyes. If you do, heaven help you for madness is not to far away.
Note: Because we do not wish to scar the littlest of trick-or-treaters, we have a kill switch under our candy table. When we see them approaching, we turn off the animatronics so not to scare them. Halloween is all about fun. Grown ups, on the other hand, are fair game!
Only the very brave are rewarded with the best of treats. The ones who do not make it, well let’s just say that I am always in need of new decorations. I would be honored to add you to the ranks of the fallen. Not up to the challenge? That is too bad. I guess I will have to save these king sized candy bars for someone else. Oh you wish to try your luck? That’s the spirit! What’s that? Oh don’t mind the fellow in the cage. He’s just hanging out.
In loving memory of my Uncle Ronnie. For our family, he was the true Master of Halloween. I hope we have done you proud.