When I was in college, I went to the Mall Crawl along Pearl Street in Boulder. It was a very long time ago, but a night I won't forget. The entire length of the mall was packed with people in varying levels of costume. I didn't have much control over moving, I was just pulled along in the flood of bodies.
This was long before the days of Facebook events, but people of all ages came from all around the state to celebrate Halloween with a few thousand strangers. No need for digital invitations or notifications.
It took a few decades, but last year I finally experienced a Halloween on par with that one wild night in Boulder. And it was in my own neighborhood.
Every kid dreams of visiting that neighborhood where Halloween is magical. They imagine houses that hand out full-size candy bars and have spooky decorations. Their dreams can come true along Tejon Street — between Uintah Street to the south and Penrose Hospital to the north.
The decorations along the mile-long length of road (two miles if you make the complete loop), start popping early in October, but it's not until Halloween night that it comes to a beautiful (and creepy) culmination.
Doug Gardner moved into his house in the 1400 block of Tejon Street in 1971, when he was 25 years old. When I approached his house last week to ask him about his spectacular display, Edward gave me pause. Edward, the first decoration that Gardner bought, stands inside the living room window, keeping watch over the street. But Edward was just the start to the assemblage.
Gardner and his close friend Kim Cooper invited me in, happy to talk about the skeletons, animated characters and lights they use to lure trick-or-treaters each year.
"I already have 10 bags of candy, but will need to get another 10," says Gardner, whose candy budget runs around $300 each year.
Two weeks before Halloween, the skeletons started to fill his yard. These are not terrifying or gruesome skeletons, they have a sense of humor. One's a skeleton in a cauldron, surrounded by others. As a nod to one of Gardner's favorite pastimes, another is a fisherman. It takes the two a few weeks to get out all the decorations (which fill part of his basement and share space in a room that houses his Christmas decorations). I ask how much he's invested in the holiday: He laughs and says, "A lot."
"I have a personal philosophy, NPR — never pay retail," he said. But as he tallies, he estimates he has $640 in skeletons alone, another $1,500 in mannequins like Edward. All in all, he thinks he's probably spent upwards of $4,000.
Gardner's house stands as just one of so many who put on an impressive display. Another favorite of mine last year, just down and across the street, hosted skeletons with sequined gloves and a "Thriller" soundtrack. These houses draw kids from all over town.
My friend who lives up a few blocks on Tejon Street has tried to keep track of the number of trick-or-treaters at their house using a hand-held counter, but when large groups come to the door the clicks might not be accurate. However, they bought about 1,200 pieces of candy last year and ran out by 8:30 p.m.
Gardner, a financial planner, reports that his neighbor across the street gives one piece of candy to each child who comes to the door — and last year handed out 1,733 treats. Gardner and Cooper are too busy enjoying the crowds that flock to their house to see their decorations to bother counting the pieces of candy they hand out.
For the 16 years I lived in Mountain Shadows, I would purchase full-size candy bars, because there's nothing better than the look on a kid's face when that gets dropped into their trick-or-treat bag. But in all those years, I would never run out of candy. If I saw 50 kids over the course of a night, that was a lot.
Now, I live on a street adjacent to this chaos, hidden from view from the kids doing the Tejon Street Crawl. I didn't count the number of kids who came to my door, but I gave out about 100 pieces of candy (the days of full-size are behind me now). Gardner scoffs: "Only 100?" when I tell him.
Curious, I check, and find out some die-hards are keeping the Pearl Street Mall Crawl alive, with posts on Facebook encouraging people to attend. Me? I'll be sitting on my porch, handing out candy and enjoying the kiddie chaos of the Tejon Street Crawl.