There hasn't been a three-triangles-and-a-toothy grin Jack among them, and that's the way Kahn likes it.
"Predictability is the enemy," Kahn, a design professor in Stanford's art and art history department, said.
Kahn has hosted a Halloween-pumpkin-carving contest and exhibition for his students at his Stanford campus home every year since the early 1960s. It's when students in his basic-design class get away from the rigors of academia and enter into a world of imagination and fantasy, he said.
"I realized, what an opportunity Halloween is to give education the value of dealing with tradition in an original way," he added.
On Halloween Eve, the students gather in the art department, carvers in hand, to engage in mischief. The only requirement is to stay within the original concept of the pumpkin as lantern. Beyond that, "it's a one-night stand of inventiveness," he said.
Designers create objects that are both utilitarian and environmental, but the object lesson on Halloween Eve is to design something useful and make it compelling, according to Kahn.
Through the years, the project of spontaneous mischief has become a tradition in itself, with alumni, graduate students and Kahn's family joining in.
The carved jack-o'-lanterns arrive at Kahn's house on Halloween, arranged on the lawn, pathways and tables throughout the yard. Hundreds of students, neighbors, children and friends flock to see the annual display. It's always filled with surprises, participants said.
"It's a thrill to see what they come up with," said John Edmark, an art -department lecturer who has been involved with the project for seven years.
"There are no prizes -- just fame and glory."
Edmark's class often joins Kahn's in the contest.
"The stipulation to students is to recognize that they are lanterns, but they should say 'boo' metaphorically," he said.
The young trick-or-treaters are "the most severely critical clients they will ever have," Kahn has told his students.
"The great thing is the kids are totally honest. Watching their eyes light up, their faces say more than any words. Most have never seen anything beyond three triangles and a toothy grin," Edmark said.
Neighbor Mary Kaiser said she doesn't mind the hubbub the annual even creates. The display is worth the one evening of inconvenience.
She recalled that in former days, neighborhood trick-or-treaters could come into the Kahn home and have a treat and perhaps gather in the living room to watch a mystery show on television.
These days, Kahn hires a security guard in case some visitors decide "to take the old Halloween trickery of theft to an extreme," he said.
"The traffic has been overwhelming, but I don't mind that," Kaiser said. She used to worry about children in masks dashing out in the traffic, but it isn't as it was in the old days, with children going out on their own. Now, parents accompany their children anyway, she added.
"We apologized to the neighbors. We get so many trick-or-treaters. They always say 'Oh, Matt, it's a wonderful thing,' so nobody's mad at me," Kahn said.
"It's Matt's show. We support him in his teaching and design class. The children and the adults can come and get all kinds of ideas for design," Kaiser said.
"It's an amazing display of creativity. There are very unusual carvings. It's more like an art show than a pumpkin festival," neighbor Alice Gardener said.
"There is a gathering of neighborhood people, many coming back for years and years. It's one of the few times when you'll see the neighbors."
Gardener said the pumpkin that stands out in her memory was a big one with a smaller one floating inside of it. The interior pumpkin had lights inside that illuminated the whole lantern. "They are very out-of-the-box designs," she said.
Kaiser said she likes the excitement the pumpkin contest brings to the neighborhood. But some of her favorite sights have been the pumpkins the Kahn family -- all artists -- would carve, she said.
"Their magnificent, big pumpkins were right before the entrance in the front," she said. "It's an exciting, beautiful time."
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