Some in St. Paul take Halloween very, very seriously.
On the big night, one resident in my Summit-University district dresses as a gorilla and goes apeshit in a cage for a good cause – He collects canned goods for the needy.
Another does a killer “Thriller” routine on his front lawn – Michael Jackson would have been impressed.
Then there’s Matthew, one of my neighbors across the street, who also goes all out on All Hallow’s Eve.
This year, his first Halloween at his current address, he used the “American Horror Story” TV show as inspiration for his house’s fright-inducing Halloween display.
Those walking up to the home saw a spookily illuminated clown sitting on the steps and holding a candy bowl. Just behind the clown and to the right, they spotted … a mattress?
It seemed an odd Halloween prop, with what looked like a mannequin inside it, its face and arms partly protruding.
Some, sensing a trick instead of a treat, proceeded no further. But teens or adults who went up the steps were in for a fright when the mattress mannequin came to life:
Yep, that was Matthew.
The horror show didn’t end there. Many of the victims overlooked a creepy woman in a white dress until she maneuvered to block their retreat. This was all too much for a couple of visitors, who hastily retreated, but most were impressed after their initial scare.
Matthew and his co-conspirators – 12-year-old brother Dakota as the clown and 14-year-old cousin Jalena as the woman – didn’t unleash their routine on little kids, but older folks were fair game.
“It is the one time of year when you can scare people and not get into trouble,” he said.
Halloween is big deal for Matthew, who works in graphic design, and has a creative spirit.
He has done large-scale Halloween decorating before. One year, he set up the front of his house as a blood-spattered murder scene. Another time, his porch sprouted sharp teeth, with huge eyes just above to complete the monster effect:
Matthew called this year’s display “Circus Asylum,” with the mattress setup loosely derived from this year’s hotel-themed “American Horror Story” season.
I haven’t watched the show, so I’ll let Matthew describe the scenario:
In the show, there is a serial killer who haunts the hotel and kills people. She then buries the bodies in numerous places within the hotel, and one of the places is in random mattresses around the hotel. So when residents check in, some may encounter a trapped person inside of the mattress trying to get out. I guess you could say my cousin Jalena was that serial killer who trapped me in there. I was a person held hostage by insane clowns, and trying to get out.
The mattress was actually a box spring with a mattress-like wrapping that Matthew ripped, spray-painted and festooned with yarn to give it a burned, tattered look. He slipped into the box spring from the back.
“At first I felt kind of stupid,” he said. “But once it got dark and I let out a couple of shrieks, it didn’t take long to get into character.”
The Halloween display had a number of nice touches. Matthew dressed a dummy as a clown and jammed it into a cage, which he suspended aloft. To make Jalena seem creepier, he roped one of her ankles to a post so she could only get as far as the sidewalk. Strobe lights and a smoke-making machine completed the sinister effect.
Matthew figures he spent about $250 on his display … and said it was worth every penny.
“Halloween and Christmas are my two big holidays because of the decorating, and the whole atmosphere,” he said.
Here is the mattress man out of costume: