This year for Halloween, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, Jason Voorheers, Micheal Myers and a possessed Linda Blair, among others, are bringing joy to 144 Rinconada Ave. in Old Palo Alto.
Anyone familiar with the house will know exactly who to thank (or blame, depending on one's stomach for fear) for this ambitious lineup of horror icons: Jesse and Josh Bingham, twin brothers who transform the outside of their modest home into parents', children's and pets' worst nightmare every year.
"The craziness probably started eight or nine years ago," said Jesse, 47, the bubbly mastermind behind the annual project. "It started literally with one animatronic — a skeleton guy that just sat on this tombstone."
What started as a simple ornament quickly escalated into themed decorations spanning from the entire house, which is located between Alma and Emerson streets, and then to the brothers themselves, who both dress in costumes for the festivities.
This year's "Scary Monsters from the Movies" theme includes an elaborate tour starting from the front yard — set up as a haunted theater sprawling with popular horror movie characters — and ending with a back patio-turned-graveyard scene.
"I love how the community responds to it," Jesse said. "People get really enthusiastic about it, and it's so fun to see them enjoy it because it does take a lot of work."
Along with the 60 man hours he's put in since September setting up the decorations (not counting the months of planning), Jesse credits his creativity and frugal mindedness, which he's developed since he was a child.
"Growing up, it wasn't like (there were) the kind of costumes you can get now," he said. "I came from a big family of six kids, so there wasn't money to go buy costumes, so we had to somehow make them."
Today, Jesse knows how to decorate on a budget by planning for the holiday a year in advance and purchasing Halloween paraphernalia when prices are marked down by 50%.
But perhaps the larger motivating factor that helps push him to go beyond the previous year's decor is his unending desire to interact with people, something Jesse's constantly doing as a therapist and senior adjunct psychology professor at Menlo College.
"My whole life is people," Jesse said. "I teach. I'm a therapist, and I chose that profession for a reason — because I like people. So I think that's probably one of the biggest reasons I do it. I love how it brings the community together, how I get to know more people and how I get to see individuals enjoy something and just take a break from life and all of its hardships and just kind of enjoy something that comes once a year."
Halloween has long been a mini-spectacle in Old Palo Alto, attracting crowds of visitors and closing down the streets. Two blocks away from the Binghams on Waverley Street, families of tech titans like the late Steve Jobs and Google co-founder, Larry Page, set the bar very high each year, sometimes hiring costumed actors and handing out small bags of treats to every visitor.
Some neighbors, though, have felt increasingly isolated and disillusioned by the holiday because of it, as the decorations continue to escalate and the foot traffic concentrates on that one street.
"Since the rise of these mega-events at the homes of various high net worth folk (who are well intentioned I have no doubt), the traffic in our neighborhood and to our house has plunged from a gushing river of kids to little more than an occasional drip," Bill Glasier, an Old Palo Alto resident, wrote in a post last year on Palo Alto Online's discussion forum. "We live two blocks away from the Jobs house, and people are parking up and down our street to go there, but we have had barely 10 total kids come to our door, and it is 8 p.m."
That tradition may continue this year, but Jesse doesn't feel any sense of competition as he attracts his own fans to his home.
"I always joke, 'Hey, I'm not a billionaire, but I just do my best.'"