By Melinda Lavine, Duluth News Tribune
Charlie Bussey wanted to see the coffin.
With his father, Fran, the 6-year-old trekked down the road to Jean and Wade Engebretson’s home, where large spiders clung to webs on the patio. Legs jutted out of the bushes, and a top hat-wearing skeleton rested in a black coffin.
“My husband made it,” Jean Engebretson said. “We like it, we’re creepy like that.”
Jean and granddaughters, Camryn, 12, and Carsyn Seguin, 5, have a tradition of hamming up the home for Halloween. It all began when Camryn was 3 or 4. “She takes after me,” Jean said with a smile.
Outside, zombies hang from window sills. (Fishing wire is the trick, Jean said.) Inside, a hand sticks out from under the fridge. Skeletal birds congregate over a splat of convincing, fake vomit. In the windowsill sit jars labeled “bats,” “eyeballs,” “extra eyeballs.”
That was Camryn’s idea, and she’s a pro at brainstorming, said her grandmother. Their decorating tips are stock up on things you like, and their go-tos are spiders and skeletons.
“You can pose them in different positions … and put them in different costumes,” Jean said, and she wasn’t kidding.
Many of the rooms in the Piedmont neighborhood home included quirkily clad bones.
A skeleton laid in a clawfoot tub, her legs elevated and a towel wrapped around her head. In the bedroom, another skeleton clutched a baby on a top bunk bed. In the kitchen, a skeleton wore a chemistry jacket and Frankenstein boots.
The family’s collection of goods has been built up over time, and they’re buying items year-round, Jean said. They typically get their goods from Target, Savers and online retailer Grandin Road.
As far as living with the Halloween decor this time of year, it’s business as usual. Even the family’s Yorkie doesn’t mind a skeletal dog perched by the door or a battery-operated black cat near the kitchen.
That goes for Camryn, too. “I’ve had it all my life. Now it just feels normal.”
Body bags litter the yard of Christina and Steven Allshouse.
The bodies are new this year, the couple said.
There’s also a cemetery of tombstones, a grim reaper holding a scythe, a sign directing onlookers to Elm Street, Silent Hill, Woodsboro.
All of the pieces in the couple’s Lincoln Park yard are homemade, repurposed or bargain buys. (The grim reaper is wearing Steven’s costume from last year.)
“I am a huge budget person,” Christina said.
They get their goods from the Dollar Tree, garage sales or Craigslist. The latter is where Steven snagged free sandbags — the trick behind keeping the body bags from flying away.
Yellow tape warns passersby to “Keep out,” but step in to see some Halloween accents — and year-round avant garde pieces like a shrunken head figurine, potion bottles, homemade wands.
“I usually like creepy things in general, so I just make it more creepy (around Halloween),” Christina said.
That includes her handmade works. Bat cutouts arranged to look like they’re swarming out of tombstones in the living room. A “Handbook for the Recently Deceased” — both pieces Christina made herself. “I love to craft.”
Also in the living room: webbing, a bleeding skull candle, a “ceremonial red balloon” light from the movie “It.” A pillow with Freddy Krueger, Chucky and Jason.
The draw to spooky things is all about fun, Christina said, and costumes.
“I love to dress up,” she said wearing purple tights and a piece inspired by “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Steven said his wife’s enthusiasm for the holiday has rubbed off on him. “I love it now,” he said, holding their two pumpkin-suited Pomeranians.
Their biggest tips to Halloween decorating is to just get started.
“It doesn’t have to be expensive. You spend five bucks and you have a decent start,” Steven said.
Don’t be afraid to try any idea, Christina added. “The whole point is for everything to be scary and kind of ugly.
“It’s the only holiday where if it’s ugly, it’s fine. It’s probably better that way.”