By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
It was thumb-tacked to the front door every Halloween morning, a flimsy cardboard skeleton held together with tiny metal joints.
By the next morning, that scary skeleton was put away again, hidden someplace by my mom until the next year. Except for a pumpkin on the porch, that paper skeleton was the only Halloween decoration we had when I was a child.
Orange outdoor lights, styrofoam tombstones and other elaborate decor wasn’t part of the autumn landscape back then. Halloween was one night — that, and at school you got cupcakes and apple cider.
Calling a lone skeleton Halloween decor is a relic of the past. That’s obvious on any residential street, but nowhere more than in Don Morin’s Mukilteo yard.
“Even a couple weeks before Halloween, people were walking up the street with kids all excited,” said Morin, 41, who lives near Kamiak High School.
There’s cause for excitement. Outside his house on the 5800 block of 111th Street SW, Morin has a hand-built wooden pirate ship with a Jolly Roger flag, a skeleton crewman, and cannons that fire, or at least look like they do.
“It’s a trade secret,” Morin said. “I built some cannons and hooked them up to fog machines on a timer. It makes a big puff of smoke and some noise.”
He also blasts music each evening, from Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride and from pirate movie soundtracks.
Pirate skeletons climb a gutter and perch on Morin’s roof. A big spider guards a treasure trove of glittery loot. Across the driveway, in an area Morin calls his haunted mansion, floodlights illuminate spooky headstones. The grave markers make amusing reading — “Here lies Jonathan Blake stepped on the gas instead of the brake.”
“We started out with pumpkins on the porch,” said Morin. He and his wife, Michelle, have three daughters, Kayleigh, 18; Kaitlinn, 15; and Sydni, 12. “When we started doing all this, the girls were younger. The 12-year-old still helps me,” he said.
The family moved to Mukilteo several years ago from south Everett. It was there that Don Morin, a regional manager for a bottled water company, used to try to outdo a neighbor with Halloween decor. Now the Morins have so many Halloween and Christmas decorations that they rent a storage unit.
“It’s been a growing trend,” said Sonyong Yu, advertising and marketing manager with Party @ Display &Costume. The retailer has three stores, one in Everett.
Even in this season of pinching pennies, Yu said customers are buying. “It’s the classic stuff, the little things like spider webs. People don’t need a lot of money, it’s really more about being creative. Everyone has a budget — well, some people don’t,” she said. Along with costumes of all kinds, the store carries indoor and outdoor decorations. There are even Halloween figurines made by Department 56, a maker of collectible Christmas villages.
In spite of the troubled economy, Halloween shoppers apparently aren’t afraid of spending. In her Small Business blog on washingtonpost.com, Sharon McLoone wrote Oct. 13 that the National Retail Federation expects this year’s Halloween sales to surpass those for 2007.
McLoone cited a study conducted by BIGresearch for the retail industry group, and wrote that “the average person plans to spend $66.54 on the holiday, up from $64.82 a year ago.” That’s spending for candy, decorations, greeting cards and costumes — including costumes for pets. If even Fido is dressing up, we must have at least some confidence in the economy.
The blog quoted National Retail Federation President and CEO Tracy Mullin as saying that consumers “may be looking at Halloween as an opportunity to forget the stresses of daily life and just have a little fun.”
It’s all about fun at Morin’s house, where Don Morin guesses he has spent several hundred dollars over the years creating his display. “With three little girls, we didn’t want to do anything gory,” he said. “This is something fun and whimsical and kind of scary.”
At the costume business, Yu said politicians, not pirates, are most likely to make the party scene this year. Display &Costume carries masks of President Bush, both 2008 presidential candidates, and political figures going back to President Richard Nixon.
“They’re very popular. We just sold our last stand-up Obama,” Yu said. “This year, with the election, things are kind of on-edge.”
That’s good cause for keeping the yard nonpartisan. Skeleton pirates get my vote.
Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or email@example.com.