Then and now: A Halloween journey

Then and now: A Halloween journey - recounting, some in pictures, the road from Halloween lights to full-blown scary displays

Just yesterday my oldest friend called me to, among other things, praise me on my Halloween display this year. As we talked, he thought that a retrospective, in words and pictures, of my evolving Halloween decorations would be interesting. So, let’s take that trip to then and now: A Halloween journey.

Way back then there were no pictures

No, not because they didn’t make cameras back then. I have been doing this a long time, nearly 25 years, but they still had cameras in the 1990’s.

But not camera phones. And, hard as it is to imagine, I didn’t even own a camera in those days. Not since the old Kodak Instamatics did I have a camera.

In the mid-first decade of the 2000’s, I finally got a digital camera and just before that decade ended, my first smartphone. But, I’ve never been a picture guy. Either posing in or shooting.

The beginning of the journey

So, the earliest Halloweens in my new house and new neighborhood were basically lights stung around the house and trees.

I would take my ever-trusty fishing line and string it from my mailbox to my doorway, winding it into the tree in between. Then I took another line and did the same to my next door neighbor’s mailbox.

Upon those lines hung various goofy and rarely scary lights. Ghosts, spiders, lanterns, eyeballs. You know them, the little string lights you see in any store’s Halloween section.

Let there be (more) light

The next phase was more lights. In addition to the strung lights, I now purchased more and wrapped them around the tree limbs.

Following years led to…even more lights. Now I bought yard stake lights. Ghosts, pumpkins, skeletons, etc. I used these to line my driveway all the way up to the front of the house.

Then the journey gets social

While numerous sloppy computer upgrades left me with less resources than helpful on my hard drive, old Facebook posts do finally allow me to give you some early photo evidence of “back then”.

For example, in 2013, I was still using webs across much of my lawn decorations.

You can see the stakes and the lights. You can also notice, if you squint, there are now things hanging from the trees.

Based on the photo proof, you can also see that I’m terrible at taking photos.

The journey continues with inflated expectations

Now we start cooking with gas. 2014 brings in mass inflatables. Not instead of, but in addition to my already extensive lighting campaign.

As you can see, I tried to find a few interesting and illuminating characters and figures. One of my saddest days was when Frankie finally bit the farm. He sprang too many leaks for duct tape to save.

I was extremely happy with the giant pumpkin. He went well with all my other pumpkins (lights and stakes). In fact, by the next year, I created a nighttime illuminated pumpkin patch.

Of course, the next year would bring about my last light show extravaganza and decisions were going to be made to change my Halloween displays forever (or as long as my back holds out).

But first, let’s journey back to the then of 2015.

Then: One journey ends

It’s 2015 and I am taking my lighted display to the maximum capacity for my limited lawn space.

So, first, we have the left side inflatables, led by my spooky horseman. Then there are those little cuties following him, just cuddly widdle inflatables, hanging on to a web “rope” so as not to get left behind.

Then, you all remember my big sucker pumpkin, right? Well, here’s that pumpkin patch I was telling you about.

I have to admit, this was one of my favorite lighting designs because it combined all three types of lights: stakes, strings and inflatables.

You may also see some other stuff in the pictures. That, my friends, was the harbinger of what was to come, so let me do a brief side-journey to clue you in.

Then turning into now

2015 was also the time where my side displays matured into full displays. These displays are still part of my Halloween designs today.

First up, the fence gang. Ah, these little guys have been around a while.

Originally, many of these were hanging from tree limbs amidst webs and lights. I felt they weren’t getting enough exposure, so, with the help of a whole lot of paper clips, I started hanging them on my front fence.

Notice how in those days, I still used webbing. Kind of cool, but also kind of obscuring. I don’t use webs anymore.

Next is my graveyard. Oh yeah, dem bones.

It’s hilarious to me when I see this picture now. Back then, I still had my full landscaping, so the graveyard is just a skinny thing. Not much effort, as I recall, but good effect. And yes, more webs.

Still, these two sections of my Halloween are now standards every year.

The ending of then

Ah, 2016. I made the leap. Done I was with the webs and hanging lights. I have one last nod to the past with the return of the inflatables.

This time, I stack them all on one side. Now they are not about scary, because the scary is taken care of on the other side.

No, the boys are here to make light (both meanings) of the holiday and to say their final goodbyes to the happy displays of yesteryear.

For soon, very soon, there would be Dead Things…

The beginning of now: The Dead Thing Pen

I hit upon this cool idea. What if I created a space where I would just place a bunch of skeleton animals with tombstones and bones around them? Nifty, huh?

Of course, I was young and naive then (56) and knew not of what I attempted. I picked out these edging stones and painted them black with gray highlights (awesome). But they weigh 15 pounds each. Oy!

Then, with no foresight, I bought ten 50 lb. bags of black mulch and dumped it inside the “pen”. Much regret would I have over that come Halloween’s ending.

Still, the placement of the skeletons and the impact of the purple LED lights was phenomenal. The response in the neighborhood was even more enthusiastic. I had hit on a winner.

The journey continues, closer to now

Okay, sure, I had hit my sweet spot. All that meant was that I now had to come up with an idea for 2017 that was even more ambitious. But what could I do?

Well, I could design the Driveway of Doom! Duh!

The idea was this: I would have two “human” skeletons in costume. One was in an animal control outfit as it tried to capture the skeleton dogs and cats. The other was a Pied Piper as it attempted to cajole and attract skeleton rats.

No puny pen was going to be big enough for this display. Nope, I was going to need both sides of the driveway. And lots more skeletons and edging stones. Oy!

Plus, there was absolutely no way I could manage as much mulch as would be needed to fill all that square footage. Not to mention the backbreaking work needed to clean up that mess the previous year.

You can find a lot of the details within the blog posts of October 2017, but short version is I hit on the idea of spray painting foam blocks black and using them as my floor. It worked like a charm and the 2017 display wowed the neighborhood once more.

When “then” was just a year ago

Gorsh. 2018 was a’comin’ and I had already formed the idea for the display. That’s just what happens with my goofy brain when it comes to Halloween. As soon as I complete the current display I am almost immediately thinking, how do I top it next year?

So, this one was easy (in theory): those skeleton animals wanted some payback. How about a Revenge of the Dead Things? Yeah!

Well, fortunately, I had all the materials from the year before and that made it (somewhat) easier to set up. I still had to move 73 edging stones at 15 pounds each (yes, half a ton on my now 58-year old back).

Still the results were awesome once more. The rats ripped apart the Pied Piper (take that!) and the animal control skeleton failed miserably in trying to escape all those enraged skeleton dogs and cats.

The only problem with the displays is that they needed a waking path and that ultimately precluded me parking in my driveway for most of October. Sigh.

But, check out that finished product. Ooo, spooky!

Then and now: A Halloween journey

Whew. That’s a lot of writing and not a bad amount of pictures after all.

I didn’t mean to prattle on like that, but it’s hard to tell a 20+ year story much shorter, even if only the last six had pictures.

Hope you enjoyed the trip between then and now: a Halloween journey. Make sure you read up on this year’s awesome displays, if you’re not caught up to speed.

I need to go back and start sub-categorizing all these posts under Halloween (in the category list on the right side of the blog), but all of 2019 are in there, so have fun!

And see you right back here next year to read how I topped this one!

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