The Haunting of Hillcrest 2012!

The Spookiest Street in the Ville is Trick-or-Treat Central on October 31st!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, all my little face paint Frankensteins and drugstore Draculas, the time is finally here for our twilight procession into the cold October 31st night in search of haunted yards, Jack-O-Lantern lit front porches and Styrofoam cemeteries. There are only a few short hours after dusk to fill your treat bags and plastic pumpkins with sweet loot, so you’ve got to have a game plan. There aren’t as many neighborhoods that truly indulge in Halloween night festivities as there were when I was a kid, and four years of a tough economy has reduced the number of participating houses even further.

Indeed, a lot has changed over the last 30 years with regards to the American tradition of Halloween. Some of it good, some of it not so good. Halloween has gotten a lot bigger in scope, but the significance of All Hallow’s Eve has shrunk to almost a footnote. When I was a wee Phantom of the Ville, the thirty days before Halloween were just a slow burn build up for the main event which started about 6PM on October 31st, rain or shine. Now Halloween starts about the second week of September when the local haunted houses start to open and the big box stores start putting out their seasonal candy and decorations. The Halloween party builds throughout the first three weeks of October until it finally coasts quietly to a stop before the actual day even arrives! I would often get the Post-Halloween Blues the morning after all the excitement was over, but now that same feeling hits me almost a week before Halloween. Maybe it has become too much of good thing; too many haunted houses, scary movies and pumpkin flavored food and beverages leads me to an early Halloween hangover. But I still say Halloween night, unless it happens to fall on a Friday or Saturday, has gotten too quiet!

The most recent news reports say that even the hootenanny on Hillcrest Avenue, which has become a grassroots neighborhood tradition, will be scaled down this year. Fewer houses between Brownsborro Road and Frankfort Avenue are apparently participating this year and crowds are expected to be between 1,500 and 2,000, down from the over 2,000 Trick-or-Treaters in the shoulder-to-shoulder madness of last year. I took a stroll down Hillcrest Avenue a week and a half ago, however, and the displays already built were nearly as elaborate as usual.

What I love most about the Hillcrest Halloween tradition is that it isn’t a civic event or a for profit endeavor. Quite the opposite, some of the participants spend upwards of $1,000 on candy alone. It’s not even an officially planned or publicly announced party. It’s something that grew organically by the neighbors of those two blocks out of the love of Halloween. Many of the home owners were ex-Trick-or-Treaters themselves who wanted to keep the neighborhood tradition alive. This year, participants are asking little ghosts and goblins to come early, as the police will clear the streets starting at precisely 8:45PM. I brought my camera with me to give you a preview of the early stages of what you can expect to see on Halloween night, but these photos just can’t do justice to seeing the neighborhood lit up, animated with stunt gags & props, spooky music pumping through sound systems and creepy characters wandering the streets. It truly is something to see.

Some of the themed yards I encountered included a Wizard of Oz yard complete with Munchkin village, a whole yard dedicated to “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” with animated scenes, a Ghouly Garden with a bone-yard, a scary Tiki themed yard, a torture chamber full of “forgotten prisoners,” a clown yard, an Area 51 with aliens and a flying saucer, Hillcrest Cemetery and a crazy skeleton wedding scene including Bridezilla and the corpse of the King, Elvis Presley, himself!

Wherever you choose to Trick-or-Treat or spend your Halloween night, The Phantom of the Ville sends you his best orange-and-black wishes for wonderful, memorable nightmares to look back on for many years to come. By the way, on November 1st, you can all start referring to me as The Christmas Spirit of the Ville! I hope to see you all again next year.

The Phantom of The Ville

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