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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Itching to celebrate’: The spooky season has arrived in Spokane as Halloween lovers decorate early

Just as the leaves began to turn color, rain fell, temperatures dropped and things started to get a little bit spooky on Pacific Avenue in the Browne’s Addition neighborhood last month.

Two giant skeletons with pumpkins for heads and glowing eyes guarded a historic home on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Elm Street.

A few days later, the skeletons were joined by a massive spider peaking over the roofline.

By mid-September, the house was ready for Halloween, typical timing for homeowner Tyler Henthorne. He has been creating “haunts” for more than 40 years, most recently when he managed large haunted houses in California.

It started in the 1980s when he was just being creative with his friends.

“I think the funnest part about Halloween is the fact that you can be whatever you want,” Henthorne said. “You can be creative, you can be somebody different, you can be the same person, you can do whatever you want.”

For many, Halloween is just one day or maybe a weeklong affair. But for lovers of all things spooky and scary, that’s just not long enough.

Tonya Hinshaw has been obsessed with Halloween ever since she was in high school. Now a mom in her 40s, she starts decorating at the end of August, ringing in fall with giant inflatables waving in her front yard.

“October is just not enough,” she said.

Her favorites are Jack and Sally from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” She even has the pair tattooed on her arm, along with the couple from the “Corpse Bride.”

“I’ve kind of been obsessed with Jack and Sally stuff for a while,” Hinshaw said, pointing to her giant inflatables of the couple. “I’m a huge Tim Burton fan.”

At Halloween Express, the seasonal store that sets up each year on Wellesley Avenue, people are ready to celebrate, owner Craig Walter said

“I think people are itching to celebrate and have something fun for this fall,” Walter said. “People are buying decorations and costumes and animatronics.”

The store is a franchise that opened on Sept. 1 and traditionally stays open through the first weekend in November, said Walter, who also works in The Spokesman-Review circulation department.

Early in the season, most of Walter’s customers are people buying decorations. Then, as the season progresses and Halloween and Harvest parties begin, costumes become the main focus.

Last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, people were still excited to dress up, Walter said. While they did sell a little bit less makeup than normal, Halloween was still a fun event for many families.

He doesn’t have a prediction yet on what the most popular costume will be this year, but last year, ensembles from Netflix’s “Tiger King” were the hot item.

A love for Halloween can often bring people together, like Ryan Oelrich and his husband, Robert Thompson.

“When my husband and I got married we realized we both love Halloween,” Oelrich said with a chuckle. “That’s when the madness really got started.”

They built a Hobbit house that looks like it came straight out of “Lord of the Rings” at their home near People’s Park about four years ago.

Oelrich admits he used to put up every single decoration he had, but Thompson suggested they edit a bit and stick to a theme.

“I think that has greatly improved the quality of the display,” Oelrich said.

In the past, those themes have been spiders and Disney, and once they did skeletons dressed up in the couple’s own clothes.

This year, the focus is on the Hobbit house with a dragon rising from the garden surrounded by scarecrows and pumpkins. A second dragon sits on the balcony overlooking the shire. The new additions this year are a couple of Ents, large humanoid trees popular in “Lord of the Rings.”

The couple waited until the beginning of September to start setting up this year. They completed the elaborate display last week just in time to do trick-or-treating throughout October.

“We feel very lucky that folks are very respectful and stop by almost every day to see the Hobbit house,” Oelrich said.

They post updates on their Facebook page, Spokane Hobbit House, for trick-or-treat events. Oelrich said it’s never too early to decorate – or trick or treat, for that matter.

“There’s a shortage of happiness in this world, so if it makes you happy, go for it,” Oelrich said.

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