It was still shorts and flip-flop season when the big box hardware stores went all graveyard and ghoul, and huge plastic pumpkins – even before real pumpkins were ready for harvesting.
Halloween is hot and so is the season in which it apparently begins.
One week the shelves were full of skeletons and inflatable monsters, and the next week the inventory was down to the bones.
“Yeah, you have to start pretty early if you want to get the good stuff,” said Jared Trujillo. “Or you wait until after Halloween and grab what’s left.”
Trujillo should know. He’s purchased quite a few freaky flourishes in the past five years when he started building his perennial house of horrors at his Waterford Place NE home.
You might remember Trujillo for his outdoor decor from a different holiday. Last Christmas, as COVID-19 raged, he used Facebook to share his holiday display online and provided an extensive map of other festively decorated homes around the city.
“The idea was to give people a way to celebrate the holidays safely in their cars, especially because most of the other holiday events, such as the luminaria tour, tree lightings, River of Lights and all that are canceled this year,” he said then.
The Albuquerque Area Holiday Lights Tour page on Facebook took off like turbocharged reindeer, featured in this column, on USA Today, Yahoo and other national and local media, his Christmas light show seen as far away as Malaysia and Australia.
COVID-19 is still with us, as is Trujillo’s joy for sharing holiday decor, both his and others in the city.
“A lot of people go all out for Halloween, maybe as much as they do for Christmas, so why not let people appreciate that,” he said.
Halloween isn’t just an occasional jack-o-lantern on the porch any more. According to a national poll, 82% of homeowners decorate during this spooky season – 67% inside, 61% outside, 54% both.
Skeletons and pumpkins are the top two items of choice for Halloween decorations nationally, but New Mexico prefers its spiders, according to the poll, part of a study that also relied on Google searches conducted by Lombardo Homes.
New Mexico, by the way, is no slouch in the scary department. The study ranks our state fifth-best in terms of Halloween spirit and home decorations. Curiously, Utah is No. 1, Mississippi dead last.
The study also found that 41% of Americans begin hanging out their horror shows the first week in October.
Trujillo began his efforts Sept. 25, choosing what he calls a “spooky graveyard” motif.
“It’s really a box of bones and some tombstones, and you’re good to go,” he said.
It’s a bloody sight more than that. Which is to say, there’s plenty of blood – the fake kind, anyway – and gore going on here. Come Halloween, he adds a haunted house filled with animatronics, clowns, chainsaws, black lights and more blood, free for all who dare to enter.
“It’s definitely more on the scary side,” he said.
Trujillo’s haunted house didn’t happen last year because of COVID-19, but he estimates that around 450 people went through the house in three hours in 2019.
“Before this year, it was just word of mouth that brought people to my house,” he said. “Now, the Facebook page adds to that.”
The more, the scarier, apparently.
Trujillo asks spectators who enjoy his shock and awe to donate non-perishable items that he’s collecting for The Storehouse food pantry. He did the same thing for Christmas, amassing 1,600 pounds of food for needy families.
This is the good part of Halloween. Alas, there are not-so-good elements, too, because of those ghouls and monsters of the human kind who go bad in the night. One of the houses on the Haunted Holiday Lights Tour reported Monday that several of her inflatables – including a 16-foot-tall reaper decked out in purple top hat, robe and black bow tie – were stolen, the sticky-fingered goblin caught on surveillance camera.
Let’s hope law enforcement and a guilty conscience haunt this clown soon.
Trujillo said he hasn’t encountered any negativity with his good and ghoulish display. It’s a fun project he shares with wife, Chantel, and their two children, ages 4 and 18 months.
But it’s become more than that. Families start walking by his home early in fall in anticipation of his display. And, so far, his Haunted Holiday Lights Tour page, which he posted Oct. 1, has more than 40 homes on the map and nearly 20,000 members, many of them holdovers from his Christmas page.
In the end, though, Trujillo’s toil and trouble gives him the biggest treat.
“I’m a big kid at heart,” he said. “I love the reactions on people’s faces and in their comments when they see our houses. It’s just such a cool part.”
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793, firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook or @jolinegkg on Twitter.
Map of Halloween displays, haunted houses and trick-or-treating spots: Albuquerque Area Haunted Holiday Lights Tour on Facebook.
Halloween Haunted House: 6:30-9 p.m. Sunday, 8508 Waterford Place NE. Free but donations of nonperishable food requested for The Storehouse food bank. More information at Trujillo’s Halloween and Christmas display on Waterford Place on Facebook.