Goodbye, Halloween House

An inexplicable Tenney-Lapham landmark has gone quietly into that spooky night.
A photo of the now cleaned-up "Halloween house" on East Gorham Street shows the facade of a house with tan siding and maroon-trimmed windows. On the front of the house is a string of pennants that spell out "EVERY DAY IS HALLOWEEN."

An inexplicable Tenney-Lapham landmark has gone quietly into that spooky night.

If you’ve been down the 1000 block of East Gorham Street in the last decade, you’ve likely noticed a giant spider or an encroaching dragon guarding a house festooned in Halloween decorations year-round. But if you’ve gone by there recently, you might not even be able to identify which house it used to be. The piles of plastic Spirit Halloween treasure have sadly been swept away, like fake cobwebs in a winter storm.

A dude I used to play cards with (sheepshead for dimes, baby!) swore he had heard rumors of nefarious things happening in that house. Rumors circulated of party goths keeping a sex slave chained up in their basement. I never bought into it, but I’ve certainly heard some fun rumors over the years. I knew a delivery driver who would always be asking me for the skinny on occult happenings on the block, claiming the ghosts of a murder-suicide roamed the area. But I never had any fun spooky updates for him. It was just… a whole lot of Halloween.

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The average passerby might never have known why the decor stayed up year-round. But they also likely wouldn’t have noticed that it was somewhat curated, like a yard museum: pieces were sometimes put in the archives, and sometimes called back into service. The swarm of stuff was puffed up and rejuvenated each fall, as the most important holiday of the year approached. I used to joke that it was all the result of a witch’s curse: any time a decoration was removed, more plastic headstones and skeletons would spontaneously appear.

The folks who owned the house could often be seen walking their dogs around the block. When asked about the decorations, one of the owners would just say that she loved Halloween. (“It’s just what I do, it’s who I am,” she told Isthmus in 2019.) That really was the long and short of it.

A few years ago, they scared us pretty good. We were walking our dog Greg past the house in some October twilight, and he absolutely jumped six feet in the air when a still form suddenly started herky-jerky-ing its overly long, too-skinny arms at us, and cackling “Let’s play hide and seek! You hide… and I’ll seek!” The Halloween house’s owners had put up a motion-activated talking murder-clown on their lawn. Greg was deeply offended; and, to be honest, the jump scare did get me.

When we saw the house was going up for sale this past spring, my partner and I talked about it. Should we sign the invisible contract, and become the next Halloween House on the block? Our precious Newt Gingrich full-head mask isn’t scaring anyone gathering dust in the basement. Should our decorations live a new life, weathering through the winter, on into the spring, fading happily in the summer sun before spooky season rolls around again?

As the house is cleaned and renovated for sale, a little slice of color and fun in our neighborhood has moved away. The last bit of Halloween tatters remaining on the house’s now-bland façade is a banner of flags with Jack Skellington’s face that reads: “Every Day is Halloween.”

Hopefully, wherever the former Halloween house residents have moved, the decorations are going to pop back up to confuse and amuse their new neighbors.

So far, nobody seems to have taken up the mantle on the 1000 block of East Gorham. But maybe the curse won’t rest, and by this November someone will find themselves unable to take down their haunted, happy home goods. Can you feel the dark robes of house and lawn decoration settling on your shoulders, even now? Perhaps it’s up to you to keep the curse alive.

Just how dedicated are you to Halloween?

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