A familiar cat face graces the author’s home every October. ADAM ANIK/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

For Montclair Local

Kirsten D. Levingston moved to Montclair in 2008. She works in the city and writes on the


side. In “Welcome to Montclair” she explores the quirks of this special town. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Huffington Post and Baristanet.


My husband is a Halloween person. Me, not so much.

As soon as the calendar flips to October he pulls out the three-foot-by-five-foot inflatable black cat with orange menacing eyes and massive paws. He plugs it in to make sure the motorized tail still moves from side to side, and places it in the front yard. Then the cat unfurls the ghoul heads shrouded in long cotton, inspecting the fabric to make sure moths have not yet turned the tunics into swiss cheese. Those hang in our tree. Checking the batteries in the skull sculpture comes next. The collection of shrunken heads, messily piled one atop the other, hangs on our front door. Frightening enough at rest, when you get close to it each skull moves to and fro. Their red eyes, which you didn’t even realize were there, start flashing. The sculpture groans and chants “chaw”, “chaw”, “chaw” — mimicking the terrifying sound effect from the movie Halloween.

Halloween enthusiasm runs deep in these parts. Next door in Clifton, for over a decade a dentist has been transforming the outside of his office into a house of horrors. The corner lot on Grove Street is filled with spiders the size of horses, bleeding-out zombie torsos, and ghosts hooked up to float above the roof. To his neighbors’ chagrin a steady flow of onlookers meander by the haunted office at night. Am I the only one who thinks a dentist office is scary as hell even without the props?





My kids’ bounty of treats has included everything from full-size bags of fresh Swedish fish to Bobbi Brown lip glosses. One of their friends even has a Chinese food fest where kids can re-charge part-way through the night. My Halloween breakout moment came several years ago when I handed out decorated pencils instead of that poison known by its stage name —“sugar.” The following morning my mortified children helped me pick up the pencils that littered our yard. Fortunately, the disgruntled candy-seekers didn’t use one to puncture our inflated kit kat.

Our most memorable Halloween was the one that didn’t happen until November. The date was October 28, 2012. As the east coast braced for what weather people were calling the “Frankenstorm,” we hosted a long-planned gathering. Our costume-clad guests frolicked in the backyard all afternoon, enjoying the unseasonably warm air. That year, I paired Frankenstein head-wear and storm-cloud angel wings, thumbing my nose at the dire weather prediction. Oops. Within 48 hours, Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey, downing trees and power lines, triggering power outages that lasted for weeks in some places, and generally wreaking havoc across the state. Months before stopping traffic elsewhere, Gov. Chris Christie put the brakes on trick-or-treating, officially postponing it for a week.

Even if extraordinary events don’t disrupt Halloween 2019, I might still take a pass because my husband will be away. Who will don an elaborate, home-made costume? 

Who will bound to the door with each ring, ready to compliment every costumed kid who knocks?

 A big part of the fun for me is watching my jolly rancher enjoy the night. Without him around I see a rocky road. I’ve jotted down some other options for the night:

Unplugging the black cat, turning out the lights, and binge-watching Fleabag on a dimmed laptop screen;

Placing a tub of candy on the front porch along with a sign reading “two pieces only — Freddy is watching”;

Disabling the doorbell and playing dumb; and

Paying my kid and her friends 100 grand to cover the door.

This is a big decision — no snickers, please.