A pumpkin on the porch, a paper skeleton on the front door, that was it when I was a kid. Today, homes become elaborate haunts. Neighborhood groups post winners of Halloween decorating contests on social media. There’s too much creepy-crawly creativity for a comprehensive list, but here’s a tale of three uniquely spooky houses and the design wizards who made them so.
Starting in Everett’s South Forest Park neighborhood, let’s make an after-dark stop at “Fowler Manor.” That’s how an ominous-looking sign, made of false brick, describes Aaron and Dani Ackert’s house on Fowler Avenue, west of Evergreen Way and just north of Brentwood Place.
With the help of sons Daxton and Kruz, ages 14 and 11, the couple transformed the front yard of their four-bedroom home into a cemetery where the dead are definitely not resting in peace. The kids helped build the graveyard fence of black PVC pipe and wood. Its posts are topped with skulls.
“I have collected skulls since I was 13,” said Dani Ackert, 32, who by day is a pharmacy technician with The Everett Clinic. Aaron, 33, has worked as a sales manager. The Ackerts also have a daughter, 2-year-old Segen — her name comes from “World War Z,” a movie about a zombie pandemic.
Purple strobe lights, fog machines and animatronic creatures lend to the fearsome scene. Thirty tombstones fill the yard where skeletons as tall as grown men stand upright. The eyes of skeletal creatures light up when visitors walk past. Bats hang from overhead wires and zombies are on the roof.
“It gets bigger every year,” Aaron said. He estimates that in all they’ve spent about $1,000 on Halloween decor. And for those brave enough to walk up the driveway, there are real treats — full-size candy bars. “Go big or go home,” said Aaron, who admits he has dipped into their supply of Snickers and other goodies.
Next stop, in Everett’s Northwest Neighborhood, is the Hoyt Avenue home of Jenny Gialenes and her husband, Ron Dozsa. They’ve staged a truly frightening tableau based on “The Omen.” The plot of the 1976 son-of-Satan horror film includes this gruesome occurrence: A nanny hangs herself by jumping from a roof during Damien’s fifth birthday party.
And so, at the house near Drew Nielsen Neighborhood Park, a primly dressed mannequin stands perched atop a second-story balcony rail. The figure Gialenes calls “Mandy” has a rope around its neck — a chilling image, indeed. White crosses on the couple’s lawn add to the sense of foreboding.
They moved from Lynnwood into the 1923 home in April 2018, and are loving their friendly neighborhood of old houses. Last Halloween, Gialenes said, “we did up the house — I was the witch — as ‘The Blair Witch Project.’” This year’s decor uses some of last year’s stick bundles, familiar to viewers of that 1999 film. A suspense hit, it told the fictional story of documentary filmmakers and a legendary Blair Witch.
“The kids didn’t really get it, they just thought it was a spooky witch house. But the parents got it,” said Gialenes, 47, who’s planning an alien costume for Thursday.
Mandy the mannequin, an Amazon purchase, wears a dress and blouse from Goodwill.
“She looks like she’s ready to leap, but it’s reinforced with wood and bolts,” Gialenes said. “I’m the artist, he’s the engineer,” she said of her husband. Recent winds blew down tree branches, but not Mandy. “We were surprised she was able to keep her wig,” Gialenes said.
In Everett’s Riverside Neighborhood, Ivy and Fred Fulmer have crafted a fun-for-kids tunnel. It leads from their front yard on Chestnut Street, near 22nd Street, up a ramp and through a pumpkin patch.
From there, kids will find their way to the back yard on a trail illuminated by ghost faces made from 102 milk jugs. The faces are all different, drawn with black marker. Glow sticks in toilet paper tubes are part of the lighting project.
“We built it together. I started in July,” said Ivy Fulmer, 62. The mother of four has 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Her handiwork is aimed at creating a trick-or-treat stop that’s just spooky enough, without being a fright show.
Fred Fulmer built the wooden tunnel frame, which is covered with cloth and plastic. With Tlingit ancestry, he is a wood carver whose works have been shown at Seattle’s Stonington Gallery, his wife said. She put him to work making a memorable Halloween attraction for neighborhood kids.
“It’s a happy haunted house,” she said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.