Cool Halloween Scenes in the Neighborhood

When I was a little boy I loved when October hit. It meant that we could decorate our house for Halloween. Now by “decorate” I mean we would just take out some cut outs from the closet and tape them to our large front window. But back in the day, it was a big deal for me. Getting our house “scary” was fun!

I don’t know if it is because of Pinterest or because of where I live in the country, but over the past couple of years I have seen houses go above and beyond when it comes to Halloween decorating. It is no longer about viewing a black cat shaped piece of card stock from someone’s window or even seeing one of those generic blown up pumpkins in someone’s yard. Rather, it is about experiencing Halloween scenes right in the middle of your neighbor’s lawn, at least in Sidney’s neighborhood.

This evening, Sid and I drove around her neighborhood and I snapped a few photos of some of the better Halloween displays. Is it possible that people will start paying as much attention to Halloween decorating as Christmas decorating? I don’t know the answer to that question but here is what we found…

Even to someone like me, this scene is spooky.

Even to someone like me, this scene is spooky.

I couldn’t hold back, I had to share my personal favorite right at the start. The witches joining hands to perform a sĂ©ance is eerie. They are gathered around a fire that is illuminated with orange lights. I know if I was walking the neighborhood at night and I saw the scene I would feel a little spooked out. I bet little kids driving with their parents to school question their mom or dad about who is in that lawn and what is going on.

They erected a chain link fence to pull this cemetery off.

They erected a chain link fence to pull this cemetery off.

This particular display is neat because they have the oversized grim reaper and the witch (behind the grim reaper) for all to see but that isn’t the best part. What I like is the graveyard they erected. If you can’t tell, that is a chain link fence these people set up as the backdrop for their cemetery. They then draped it with cobwebs and placed a couple ghouls inside. Of course you then have the tombstones confined within the fence. A string of bones keep folks from getting too close. The display is visible at night as orange light is projected onto the cursed ground.

Those plots were just dug.

Those plots were just dug.

This is another cemetery in the neighborhood. However, these graves are just a tad bit more fresh. I love what they did to make four realistic plots right in the middle of their yard.

He needs a proper burial.

He needs a proper burial.

Here is the third and final graveyard. I don’t know if it was the flooding or not, but one of the departed became a little unearthed.

That is one big spider.

That is one big spider.

How about this house? They went away from death and skeletons so they could put a gigantic spider in front of their porch. If you have arachnophobia just look to the left and admire the large scarecrow.

This was definitely the most creative house.

This was definitely the most creative house.

To finish, I give you my second favorite display. Home of a family that takes pride in the color of their house (and Spanish 101), the sign reads “Casa Verde: Dead and Breakfast.” They have the lights and the tombstones just like the other neighbors but the real draw is the center column of the house. The picture quality is not the best because I had to reach over Sidney to take it but if you look closely you can see three skeletons up to some mischief.

Expect some more Halloween spirit from me in the weeks to come. I have a haunted house and a haunted forest that I want to get to. Have a great week, everyone! Don’t Blink.

When Old Businesses are Converted for Halloween

I love Halloween. I enjoy trick-or-treaters, scary movies, and pumpkin flavored food. However, I enjoy two other October 31-related activities even more. First, I love attending haunted houses. I like getting scared, jumped out at, and chased. Secondly, I love dressing up! I spend way too much money going to Spirit and purchasing a costume while also adding on several unnecessary props. Great fun for me.

Sid and I dressed up for Halloween 2014...I am the one with the mask on :)

Sid and I dressed up for Halloween 2014…I am the one with the mask on 🙂

But, believe it or not, there is something about haunted houses and dressing up that I enjoy that doesn’t directly relate to the theme of Halloween. Okay, here it goes. Halloween is seasonal. Because of that, haunted house attractions and costume shops such as Spirit aren’t open year-round. Instead, haunted houses are usually in commission for only a month while Spirit stores might operate for three months. With these short spans, they must rent space in shuttered stores.

Most haunted houses and Spirit locations are in old supermarkets, supplies stores, and random strip mall locations. Old out of business stores that shut their doors are brought out of retirement so they can be converted into a temporary maze of screams or a space for folks to spend around $60-$100 on the season’s hottest Halloween costumes. I sometimes think of it as a professional athlete who retires only to come back a couple years later with a new team and diminished skills.

This intrigues me though. For me, there is just something kind of cool and mysterious about a long shuttered grocery store having its locks removed and given a second life. In my head I immediately start to think about how the haunted house crew or the Spirit managers will use the space for something completely different.

I lived in Spokane long enough to visit businesses for years only to see them go out of business and then be reincarnated as a haunted house or a Spirit store. It is kind of a weird feeling because you have memories of the prior tenant and what it used to be. You thought the day would never come when the doors would be opened again. Finally it happens but the reason it does is for a temporary and gimmicky cause. The old store is not going to look nice. It is going to be cold and rugged. It is going to look exactly like someone is camping out there just for a short duration of time (no surprise). It is going to be a shell of its former self. However, when you walk in memories will still surface.

But even if I don’t have history with what a certain building was before a haunted house or Spirit took over I still find myself interested. Especially with Spirit stores, I look past the costumes and temporary lipstick and try to envision where everything was placed when the brick and mortar actually had a tenant that planned to be there for the long haul. With haunted houses you are usually disillusioned as you go through the maze but the thought always goes through my head…people used to walk on these floors to buy milk and bread, now I am scurrying across them at midnight to satisfy my need to be scared.

Does this interest anyone else? Or is just another one of my weird quirks? I also get really excited about old movie theaters that are repurposed into other businesses but that is for another day. When you visit your local Spirit next month be mindful of the history of the building it inhabits. Don’t Blink.

The Best Houses to Trick-Or-Treat At

Throughout this week I have seen various news channels, websites, and blogs feature lists on “the top trick-or-treat candy.” Okay, not a bad idea. Well it wasn’t a bad idea until seemingly everyone started doing it. Believe me, I definitely know by now that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are gold on October 31.

So forgive me if I refrain from using the above topic exactly…instead I want to add a more original twist to it. Growing up as a kid I definitely had my favorite candy that I wanted handed to me but even more so I had the favorite houses that I wanted to make sure I either knew about ahead of time or stumbled upon while going door-to-door. Please take note, my favorite houses did not necessarily give out the best candy, rather they just did something cool that most other homes did not, thus making them stand out even more from the houses that passed out Peanut M&Ms (my favorite candy). Here now is my list of the three best characteristics to look for in houses when trick-or-treating.

#1: Full Sized Candy Bars! – Everyone who has ever trick-or-treated has at one time or the other gone to a house where they were handing out (gasp) full sized candy bars! We look back on it now as adults and laugh because all we have to do is go to the vending machine at work and pay 75 cents to get a Snickers. But back when we were ten it was as if the person at the door was handing out $100 bills. Even if the nice man or woman was giving out Heath Bars (which I despise) it was a big deal to get a full sized candy bar. It definitely put a badge on your Halloween costume, something to tell your friends about at the bus stop the next day. Especially for someone like me who grew up in a household where if my mom ever gave me a candy bar it was cut in half, getting a full sized one thrown in the pillow sack was a major thrill.

#2: Help Yourself, Leave Some For Others – This is another situation that I am sure most of you probably encountered at least once or twice during your trick-or-treating days. You go up to a house and the lights are out and the garage door is shut and it is obvious that the people are not home. You start to walk away before fully reaching the door but then you see something on the door step. Is it what you think it is? Yes! It is a bowl of candy. Upon reaching the top of the steps you eye the candy bowl and the note that is attached to it: “Happy Halloween! We are sad that we can’t be home tonight but we still want to take care of our trick-or-treaters who come by every year. Take a piece or two of candy but please leave some for the next group.”

This is terrible, but I trick-or-treated with friends who once they saw the unguarded bowl made a straight out dash to the candy, knocking over the dish in a hasty attempt to be the first person to the loot. The candy would fly all over the place and my friends would scour like hyenas to pick up every piece they could. It was barbaric and bush league of them but the fact that the homeowners left a big bowl of candy out for the taking always impressed us.

#3: Goodie Bags – For me, the houses that gave out these goodie bags I am about to describe weren’t always as random as the full sized candy bar and help yourself houses. Whereas I never knew which homes would give out the big candy bars or leave a bowl of candy for the taking, I could always count on at least two specific houses in the neighborhood to give out goodie bags.

Again, this is something that was much cooler when I was a kid than looking back on it as an adult right now. The goodie bag consisted of a small Halloween decorated sack. Inside the sack you would find a combination consisting of a piece of salt water taffy, a fun sized Starburst pack, and a fun sized Milky Way. Getting a cool bag with an image on it that probably cost three cents and a few pieces of not very good candy got us very excited. Probably it made us so happy just because it was different. There was more effort thrown into it and it held a very good trade value later that night when bartering with friends.


There you have it my friends! What were the characteristics of your favorite trick-or-treating houses? Please let me know. Happy Halloween Eve! Have a fun and safe time tomorrow night. Don’t Blink.

Cookies, Parkour, Slasher Movies

I have not blogged since Sunday. That means this is the third night since my last post. Because of my laziness since that previous post (in all seriousness I have actually been insanely busy) I will make up for the missed days by writing about three different topics. Of course I would have used these topics as stand-alone posts if I had not neglected my blog for my job and late night Halloween horror movies but such is life. Let’s get this over with.

Monday Cookie Day: Although I hate the way every single day on our calendar is designated for some activity or food, for all I care this past Monday could have been called The National Day of Giving Cookies to Brent. Imagine my surprise and gratitude when a student-worker in our internal operations department came into my office and gave me a bag of chocolate chip homemade cookies. Although I had hinted at her before that I wouldn’t mind it if she ever brought me some cookies since it is well known that she is a great cookie baker I did not expect it to actually happen, especially not on a random Monday. It was very nice.

That exact same day, HuHot ran a Twitter promotion for Missoula residents. Thanks to my brother who screen captured the tweet and sent it my way, I was the first person to respond to a specific tweet from HuHot’s Twitter account asking followers if they would like their special dessert called Cookie Dough Conquest (several fried wontons filled with cookie dough). Because I was the first person to respond, a rep from HuHot brought the deep fried cookie dough to my office! Complete with chocolate dipping sauce I had to give most of them away because after eating just one I felt like the most terrible and unhealthy person on the planet.

Me standing with the cookie dough dessert that was delivered by HuHot to my office.

Me standing with the cookie dough dessert that was delivered by HuHot to my office.

Parkour: I had another one of those moments where I realized I am not that young anymore this week. For our big Griz-Cat volleyball game on Monday night I booked an act called Unparalleled Movement for halftime. To my knowledge I thought they were just an eccentric, entertaining group who used some basic props and did cool flips. I was not up to speed on the fact that Unparalleled Movement is part of something much bigger, something that has swept the nation, something that people cooler than me call parkour. I admit it, I knew very little about the parkour movement that has attracted thousands of people to the demanding and physically daunting discipline. But I have now done my research and I have a lot of respect and appreciation for parkour. I also now know how to pronounce it correctly. Even if for some unfounded reason I didn’t like parkour I would at least feel somewhat indebted to it because on Monday night Unparalleled Movement rocked the gym during halftime and had over 1,000 fans on their feet. When my crowd is happy, I’m happy.

A photo from Unparalleled Movement's performance on Monday.

A photo from Unparalleled Movement’s performance on Monday.

Slasher Movies: As I mentioned at the start of this post, I have watched my fair share of horror movies this week. With Halloween right around the corner, a couple networks go the route of showing horror movie marathons. Over the past several days I have watched bits and pieces of Chucky, Friday the 13th, and Halloween. I think probably the only reason why I watch them is because it is that time of the year. I mean why else would I? In my opinion these movies are garbage. I find no thrill or suspense in a guy wearing a mask or, worse yet, a doll in overalls going around killing people. It is not scary, it is predictable and rather boring. If I want something that is scary, I am watching a movie that is either about a possession, about something that is unexplainable, or about a girl who has telekinetic powers with a mom who is nuts. It is Halloween so I can tolerate and even watch some of these slasher flicks but once October is over I never waste my time with them.

Time now to sit down on the couch and eat some cookies while watching Halloween 6 and keeping an eye on my phone that is playing parkour demos off my YouTube app. Ah yes, another typical Wednesday night in the life of Brent Reser . Don’t Blink.

Halloween Haunted Houses

Ever since I was just a little kid I have liked scary movies, paranormal phenomenon, and ghost stories. Basically I have always enjoyed the unsettling and suspenseful feeling you get in the stomach from controlled fear. I think I was born with an innate tolerance and appetite for scary things but I also think that something my dad did with me when I was young also helped build my threshold for long childhood sessions of “Bloody Mary” and my never think twice attitude of strolling through any cemetery that I might drive by. As always, let me explain.

When I was just six years old, my dad took my sister and I to our first haunted house. Let me be clear for the people who might not know about the type of haunted house that I speak of. My dad didn’t take us to some old, abandoned house that once served as an insane asylum that is now possessed with demonic spirits. He took us to a Halloween haunted house, a modern day staple in our country where a group takes over a building and uses actors dressed in scary costumes, a variety of misdirecting routes, a plethora of strobe lights, and several guys in Jason masks with chainsaws to try to scare the customers who pay money to walk through.

My dad drove us from the north side of Spokane out to the valley area and to a deserted high school. It was at this defunct school where the haunted house was staged. I probably remember about 2% of my sixth year of life and about 1.3% of it comes from that haunted house. I remember standing in a long line in the dark outside the school. I remember hearing screams from where we stood in line. I remember getting to the front of the line and seeing the witch pointing us into the entrance…and then from there I remember all the images inside. A floating graveyard on what looked like blood. People hanging from nooses. Grotesque figures moving in the strobe lights. Dracula style coffins coated in blood and graffiti. Then there were the noises too. High shriek screams. Sounds of glass breaking. Maniacal laughter. Slamming of doors. Then there were the actors jumping out at us from every corner possible and coming out of trap doors. Of course the final (and cliché) thrill came when we were chased out of the premises with guys in hockey masks revving chainsaws.

I loved every second of it.

From then on we made it a tradition for the three of us (and later the four of us when my brother was old enough to join in) of going through a haunted house each year. Besides the high school set up as the years went by and sites changed we also toured through old “haunted” grocery stores and warehouses. We would always rate each one compared to the other ones we had visited in the past, although it always seemed like we had an affinity for that very first one at the old West Valley High School.

Then something happened: I got old. High school came and I didn’t have a prayer of doing anything not related to academics or athletics. I then moved away for college and the drought continued except for during my junior year where I went with a church group to a haunted corn maze. Although not completely like a haunted house I did have a great time and was reminded of what I had missed for the past several years. However, it must have not reminded me enough because I have not gone back to a haunted house or a haunted corn maze since then.

This year that changes. Despite the absolute craziest time of the year just on the horizon for anyone associated with intercollegiate athletics, I am going to find a way to go through the main haunted house attraction here in Missoula. I got the Facebook event invitation and I have my heart set on it. I am working Halloween night this year so I need something else to get my fix in. A haunted house will do just that for me. Of course I want to take a date with me so if you want a brave man who will protect you from zombies and Michael Myers freaks, let me know…it will be a fun time. I am ready for a good scare! Don’t Blink.