A Halloween tradition that keeps on growing

Published 1:12 pm Monday, October 9, 2023

By Clark Curtis, For the Washington Daily News

What would Halloween be without a giant spider on your roof or the Grim Reaper standing guard at your front door? Boring, would be a safe guess, for Julia Clarke and Buckley Callum who reside at 922 N. Market St..“Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year,” said Julia. “I simply love it! It is the best holiday ever!”

It has been two years to the month since Clarke and Callum moved to Washington from Los Angeles. And they admit the decorations were a bit slim that first year. “We had nothing for decorations so we literally carved a pumpkin and put it on the porch,” said Julia. “We didn’t even have our furniture yet.”

They certainly upped the ante last year, when they added the large giant spider that sits atop the roof, peering down on unsuspecting, innocent bystanders. “I saw one online and thought to myself, we have to make it bigger and better,” said Julia. “The body is a balloon exercise ball covered in spray foam. The legs are wire covered with gray pipe insulation. And the eyes are Christmas balls.”

And, of course, no spider would be complete without a little technology woven in here and there. “I wasted silly amounts of time writing programming for the microprocessing controllers to get the eyes to blink randomly as if it were alive,” said Buckley, a visual effects and character generator supervisor, animation producer, and digital studio builder. “It took us about two weeks to bring our spider to life.”

Buckleys’ programming skills can be seen and heard at work as you near the home at night. “The Grim Reaper is there to greet you at the front staircase,” said Buckley. “He swings back and forth and has a great baritone voice, which was a bit too menacing for one of our neighbors and their dog. They asked us to turn him off when they were walking their dog as it was freaked out.

Buckley has also put his technological touch on the porch light. “I have it set up so it gives off that creepy kind of haunted house thing when you sense somebody must be dead in the basement,” Buckley said with a big grin. And, of course, he considered his work a big success when a neighbor came by to tell them that something was wrong with their porch light.

There are skeletons lounging on the front porch in rocking chairs and skeletal remains of human bones here and there in the front yard. The huge spider web makes its way from the roof down to the ground. And yet to make its debut in 2023 is their ghost. “When the light is just right a ghost will appear in the window, “said Buckley. “It will be vaguely reminiscent of the “ghostly” girl from the movie The Ring. Just imagine her standing up in the window and staring back at you,” he said with his whimsical smile.

It is obvious that Halloween brings out the “true kids” in both Julia and Buckley, as they glow when talking about their creations. “It is all really fun for us, but at the same time we enjoy making other people happy,” said Julia. “I was out in the front yard today and saw a car really slow down in front of the house, stop down the street, and then turn around and come back by very slowly.”

“I’ve seen folks just pull off and park along the street and take a real long look,” added Buckley. “There have even been a few folks who slow down, honk, and wave. I think they really enjoy it all.”

As Julia and Buckley pointed out, this is an ongoing work in progress and is not finished by any means. And as they are putting the finishing touches on 2023, they are already thinking about next year and the years to come. “My goal is to eventually build a mini-haunted tunnel that extends the entire length of the walkway leading to the front door,” said Buckley. “We shall see what year I get that done,” he said with a huge chuckle.