The spiderweb gauntlet leading to Aki Ueno's front door on the 1100 block of Hamilton Avenue is enough to make anyone's skin crawl. Three giant, hairy spiders stare down as if to pounce on any trick-or-treater who dares to seek candy on Halloween night.
Web-covered skeletons hang upside down in Erica McKenna Edwards' Byron Street front yard, and next door on the 2700 block, at her uncle Dave McKenna's house, a wild-haired zombie coroner/doctor/dentist stands at the ready — perhaps to yank a few teeth rotted from all of that candy. Boo-mwa-ha-ha-ha.
Halloween in Palo Alto's neighborhoods varies from the sublime — a single spectral orange pumpkin ghost on the 2300 block of South Court — to over-the-top elaborate: the Wicked House on the 500 block of Melville Avenue or Nicholas Blonstein's glowing grave yard and flying ghosts on the 900 block of Newell Road.
McKenna Edwards said family members start decorating in late September and don't stop until Halloween. Growing up in Palo Alto, she recalled many fun Halloween adventures, made all the more exciting by her fun-loving uncle Dave, a dentist who has always been big on holiday decorations, even putting a big display in his yard on July 4.
With a dentist and a dental hygienist (McKenna Edwards' mother) in the family, "Candy was a whole different thing," she recalled. But decorating added another way to celebrate, she said.
Now she and her husband, Brandon Daniel, go wild on Halloween decorations, prompted by their 8-year-old daughter, Jaden, who loves the holiday, she said. Jaden is big on matching outfits these days, McKenna Edwards said, so this year they all will dress as a pirate family, including 1-year-old Jackson.
Everything in the yard, from the skull on a stick to the giant purple spider on the tree, was purchased from a garage or yard sale and collected over the years, she said.
Another Halloween tradition is the party and cook-out she and her husband host. Because there are renters on her block, the occupants often change.
"We have the Halloween party so we can get to know our neighbors," she said.
Blonstein, a Palo Alto High School junior, has been fascinated with outdoor displays ever since he can remember, he said.
"I've always loved decorating for the holidays because everyone gets to benefit from the decorations. My family and I enjoy seeing a bright, fun display every night, but what gives me even more satisfaction is having other people enjoy the display," he said.
His family started putting a few decorations up for Halloween six or seven years ago, but it wasn't until two years ago when he entered high school that the family really started going big.
"We try to put up the decorations the first weekend of October so that we can have them up for the entire month. It takes my dad and I about five to six hours to set up the entire display. The set-up process is a labor of love, but I look forward to 'decorating day' each year. Every year, I try to add some new element to the display, which unfortunately has to end eventually, as there is only so much room in our front yard," he said.
Blonstein takes pride in how all the decorations come together to form the overall display.
"It's rewarding to step over to the other side of the street and see our entire house at once," he said.
The family will also have an extra special decoration on Halloween evening: "A video projection on the garage that we think everyone will love," he said.
Ueno didn't grow up with Halloween, but her husband Brian Pawlowski, did. It's his favorite holiday, she said. The couple hired a company to decorate their yard, with added lights that will double as part of their Christmas decorations after they take the spiderwebs down.
Those who are afraid of the dark will have plenty of company on Halloween night on her Hamilton Avenue block, perhaps making the evening more festive than spooky. Some of her neighbors also put up elaborate displays, which attract many people, she said.
"Each year I buy seven to eight Costco-size bags of candy," she said.