Early one June morning, Bev Haydon was on her way to have surgery when her phone buzzed.
“I got him!” she exclaimed. “I won!”
The “him,” a 12-foot-tall skeleton, now looms over the entrance of her Hays Park-area home.
Weeks prior, she submitted a pre-order request to Home Depot’s online store and had just received word that a shipment was headed her way. She had tried and failed to buy the skeleton the two previous years.
“You have seconds to get on there, get it into your shopping cart and check out before they’re sold out,” she said. “It’s like Taylor Swift concert tickets, but this is way cooler.”
That was three years ago. Since then, she has added another 12-foot skeleton, an animatronic witch, a 6-foot-wide spider and dozens of other decorations to her yard.
As open space in her yard diminishes, her fervor for decorating intensifies. She recently installed a large shed in her backyard devoted to her holiday decorations.
This year, American consumers are expected to spend a record $12.2 billion celebrating Halloween, exceeding the previous year’s record by almost $2 billion, according to data from the National Retail Federation.
The findings showed more people celebrating than ever before at a 73% participation rate, greater than the record 72% in 2017.
Sam Fetters, owner of Petunia & Loomis, an oddities shop downtown that specializes in bizarre products fit for the Addams Family house, has an explanation.
“We’re finally getting out of COVID and things are getting less heavy,” Fetters said. “People want to celebrate things again.”
The business owner said she is no exception.
“I spent an atrocious amount on our house,” she said. “I wanted to set up a graveyard, so I thought, ‘You know what this needs? A Frankenstein, an archway, inflatables, and I even got a stoplight that says ‘Trick or Treat’ – Why did I need that?”
“Then all the neighborhood kids were looking around our front yard last night,” she said, “and I knew we needed more.”
Before opening her store last year, she worked at Spirit Halloween for 12 years and began noticing holiday shopping trends.
“I can definitely tell you that people are spending more and more on Halloween decorations that are getting bigger and crazier.”
Fetters met her fiancé and store manager, Jesse McCauley, when they worked together at Spirit Halloween.
McCauley said their affinity for the holiday is simple.
“People love Halloween,” McCauley said. “It’s fun to be a weirdo.”
Craig Walter, owner of Halloween Express at the old Sears location in the NorthTown Mall, is in his ninth year running the seasonal operation.
His store offers the coveted 12-foot-tall statues and animatronics fit with LED eyeballs, but he says customers are looking for more.
“Height is cool, but a lot of times people are decorating with a theme,” Walter said. “People come in and say, ‘Oh, this would look good with what I’m trying to portray in my scene.’ ”
Haydon created a scene in her front yard that is reminiscent of her experience growing up in northern California with her eight brothers and sisters.
“We’d sit around a fire every night,” she said. “It didn’t matter where we were.”
In her front yard, four skeletons are sitting on lawn chairs around a stack of wood wrapped in orange lights to imitate a fire. With the nostalgic scene and towering skeletons painted to appear weathered, the theme of her yard has a more practical feel.
She plans to keep it that way.
“I almost bought him,” she said, holding up a photo of a cartoonish figure akin to that of the half-bat, half-man creature from the Jeepers Creepers film series. “But he wouldn’t fit the motif.”
As consumers begin amassing larger collections and putting together increasingly more intricate displays, most will never reach the scale of Chris Sheppard’s Spokane Valley front yard that earned her the title as the Queen of Halloween.
Sheppard has long been collecting inflatable Halloween decorations, and this year, she will have over 100 – including the 20 that overflowed into her neighbor’s yard.
“I’ve had people who trick-or-treated here when they were young, then went on to bring their own kids back,” she said.
She describes the theme of her display, which she has been doing for 30 years, as “whimsical.”
But this year, her Halloween will be different.
Earlier this month, her husband, Mark, died from heart failure originating from a congenital condition.
Sheppard said her husband played an integral role in the display.
“You have to manually adjust the inflatables every day, and he would do that,” she said. “I called him my inflatable inspector.”
Though Mark would occasionally grumble about the task of putting up and down the decorations and the electricity bill at the end of the month, Sheppard said her late husband enjoyed the occasion.
“He loved talking to each person that visited the house,” she said. “He was such a personable guy.”
Before COVID, they would even invite each guest into their home.
“Throughout the evening, we’d have hundreds of people coming into the house, and he would try to talk to each one,” she said. “I love those memories of the grand parties with wonderful people.”
Without her partner, she wondered if she should participate this year.
“But then I thought to myself, ‘Isn’t this kind of part of my spirit?’ ” she said.
As in years previous, Sheppard will display a donation jar to help with the electricity bill. But this year, she hopes people will also come with memories of Mark.
“I lost my King of Halloween,” she said, “But we honor my husband by continuing on, having a happy Halloween.”
And with help from the community, she put up her biggest display to date.
“Keeping the spirit going after such a deep loss has been hard,” she said. “But I’ve been touched by all the support from the community, so we better keep it going for Spokane.”