Halloween in Hyde Park

Halloween is a weird time of year for me. I used to get super into dressing up, but lately… I haven’t. My current work place has a Halloween event (a room is decorated, snacks and such are set up). And people are encouraged to dress up. But… the spirit has seemingly left me. I haven’t dressed up for a few years now.

I was thinking on this and a large part of it, I think, has to do with how much I associated Halloween with my time at Emmis. I always liked the holiday, but it didn’t really kick in for me until grad school (in Columbus) and later in Chicago.

While I always liked dressing up, I rarely went out to Halloween parties. I’m still a pretty huge introvert, and dressing up pretty much meant dressing up for work. I’d never end up going anywhere afterwards, so the costume was mostly done with work in mind.

Since I was let go from Emmis, I just haven’t been all that jazzed about Halloween. I still do love it, but the idea of donning a costume just feels weird and forced and really far away. It makes me tired and a little sad, whenever I think about it.

This year? Liz and I mostly spent Halloween giving out candy. While we gave away candy last year, few kids came to knock on our door – so this year, we left the door open and got more visitors.

I met a wide range of kids: polite kids, kids with no costumes, kids that told me the kind of candy they wanted, kids that just reached into my bowl and took more candy that I thought a five year old capable of grabbing. I met kids that asked for seconds, and kids that were really shy about asking for candy.

The rule I learned pretty quickly: control the flow of candy. Offering the bowl to children is a mistake, and a surefire way to deplete your stock.

When it got to be around 7:30 PM, Liz suggested that we go and check out Harper Avenue – a certain block in Hyde Park that is really well known for their extravagant displays every Halloween and is pretty much the place to go in our area.

Last year, Liz and I drove down the street the day after Halloween – but had never seen things in full swing. Supposedly, thousands of kids arrive there each year.

We found the street was closed off, and ended up parking nearby… and walking in. Immediately, we saw just how many people were out and about.

Numerous houses had lights and decorations, welcoming kids to knock and ask for candy.

Lots of people!

I couldn’t tell, but it seemed like some houses were set up almost like haunted houses (with entrances and exits).


This was an amazing display: a gigantic “spider” that spit out candy to anyone who walked up. There was a bit of scaffolding (I saw at least one or two kids climb inside the thing), and a loudspeaker that amplified someone’s voice.

Here’s a bit of video:

I love that this thing sounds like a deranged muppet.

More folks, walking down the street. Seeing so many people was just awesome, and I couldn’t help smiling the whole time. All the kids were having an awesome time, and it just felt fantastic to be in the middle of it all.

One of many decorated houses on Harper Ave.

The text above the stairs says “Bates Motel, Child Care Center.”

A few houses were decorated, but roped off with signs indicating that they had run out of candy. I cannot even imagine how much each house must go through each year.

Cats eyes.

An inflatable cat. I’m not sure if this was just a prop, or something that marked the entrance to a haunted house.

Another view of the candy spider.

After we got back to the car, I couldn’t stop talking about how amazing everything was. Liz had heard somewhere that the origins of the event started when some area parents complained that there weren’t any safe places for their kids to go Trick or Treating. And some alderman suggested Hyde Park as a good venue.

I never did get to talk to any of the residents to check on how the event started. But it’s clear that kids (and parents) were visiting from all over, beyond the Hyde Park area… and everyone was having a fantastic time.

Seeing this made me want to be a part of Halloween again, and was truly inspiring.

On arriving back at our house (a few blocks away), we ventured over to our neighbors across the street – who are giving Harper Avenue a run for their money.

Our neighbors (Greg and YaYa) seem to really go all-out for Halloween (this is what it looked like last year). In addition to the decorations, they also have a lot of sound effects going on in the background (spooky voices, screams, that sort of thing).

This year was no exception (I’m pretty sure they also had a fog machine going). In addition to the scary couple sitting in wait on the steps, there was a scarecrow in the yard.

Which was actually a person! It was Greg’s brother, Marcus.

Liz and I hung back to watch, and it was fantastic to see various kids walk up and just totally freak out. Several were afraid to approach the porch for candy (but eventually did, after their parents prodded them). And very few folks realized the scarecrow was a real person. It was delightful to watch!

Again, after seeing how amazing the setup was across the street… it was inspiring. I think that next year, Liz and I feel like we need to up our game, and help add to the festivities on our block.

Who knows – in a few years’ time, if we can get other neighbors to join in… perhaps we can give Harper Avenue a run for their money.

Haunted House, Frankfort
A Balanced Diet
Goodbye, Emmis Interactive
Halloween in the Office (2011)

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