News

With DIY haunted house, two brothers bring spirit of Halloween to Old Palo Alto

Each year, Jesse and Josh Bingham add to the holiday craze in Old Palo Alto, where tech billionaires spare no expense on decorations

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.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

"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.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

"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.'"

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

With DIY haunted house, two brothers bring spirit of Halloween to Old Palo Alto

Each year, Jesse and Josh Bingham add to the holiday craze in Old Palo Alto, where tech billionaires spare no expense on decorations

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Oct 31, 2019, 8:25 am

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.'"

Comments

Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2019 at 8:41 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2019 at 8:41 am
22 people like this

Such a shame that children no longer stay in their own neighborhoods but want to go elsewhere. There are so many older people who eagerly buy candy to give out but the doorbell doesn't ring. This used to be a neighborly way for neighbors to meet neighbors in the community. Now it is just bigger, better, best and commercialized to the point of having to stand in line to get the best stash.

Such a shame.


Miriam Palm
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2019 at 10:15 am
Miriam Palm, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 31, 2019 at 10:15 am
10 people like this

I live on Waverley, and although I get tired of the crowds, especially after ten p.m., nearly all the kids are polite, say Thank You, and come with parents. I buy as much candy as I feel comfortable handing out, and then turn out the lights when it is gone. On weekends, that can be 45 minutes.

My memory is this began when 49er Steve Young moved near us, and it has escalated every year. One neighbor is having a MoTown band in his yard this year. Sigh. But the tech titans are very responsible and have staff cleaning up the droppings early the following morning.


Stop the madness
Palo Verde
on Oct 31, 2019 at 11:41 am
Stop the madness, Palo Verde
on Oct 31, 2019 at 11:41 am
12 people like this

This is an outrage. The city council needs to meet in an emergency session today to put a stop to this. They need to pass an emergency no parking rule for tonight. If even one person is inconvenienced in the neighborhood because of this, the children's fun must be curtailed. Can they pass a rule that the children must go by the home of the poor person that has only 10 children stop by?


Grateful not near me
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2019 at 12:22 pm
Grateful not near me, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2019 at 12:22 pm
7 people like this

I'm grateful I don't live near any of these meaningless, ostentatious displays.
Even as a child I disliked ringing people's doorbells and participating in this foolishness.
Don't assume all of the kids like this nonsense. They have to go along with the ringleaders.


commonsense
Registered user
Professorville
on Oct 31, 2019 at 12:37 pm
commonsense, Professorville
Registered user
on Oct 31, 2019 at 12:37 pm
14 people like this

Grateful Not - we need to party some time. You sound like a real ball of fun!


NativeMan
Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2019 at 1:35 pm
NativeMan, Barron Park
on Oct 31, 2019 at 1:35 pm
14 people like this

Grateful Not- 99.9% of kids love Halloween! Sorry for your upbringing. Good luck in the basement.


Novelera
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 31, 2019 at 2:29 pm
Novelera, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 31, 2019 at 2:29 pm
10 people like this

This will be my second year buying no candy and leaving the porch light off. I never had huge numbers of kids, but there would be at least 70 or 80, with the kids getting taller after 8:00 PM. I enjoyed it and usually wore some kind of a costume myself.

I used to buy what I considered a reasonable amount of varied kinds of candy. About 3 or 4 years ago the downturn began. I'd see maybe 10 to 15 kids and then take the candy to work the next day to have co-workers eat.

My co-workers who live in other communities and my son, who lives in Vallejo, report the same or even more kids coming by.

So I have to assume that parents in my neighborhood take their kids - in a car - to the big event houses.

Of course, another thing that's changed is the parent chaperones. My parents never did that. I vaguely remember being very small and going with my sister. After that, from around 5 years old, I went with friends the same age. The only time you saw a parent would be the rare ones who brought, say, a one year old around with a costume on.


mutti
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 31, 2019 at 4:14 pm
mutti, Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 31, 2019 at 4:14 pm
1 person likes this

We used to have huge numbers of kids when PA did an event at Mitchell Park. Now that is gone, and so are the trick or treaters. I do miss them. But the rule at our house always was, "If you are old enough to go without a parent, you are too old to go." We'd always hang around in the background, but didn't want our kids included in mobs of teenagers running around late. Anyone else have egg shells for blocks around their houses after some big egg throwing thing on Tuesday night?


Neighbor Family
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2019 at 10:18 pm
Neighbor Family, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2019 at 10:18 pm
15 people like this

We appreciate the generosity of the people who decorate their houses and give out candies to the children. We usually go out early evening and then come home to hand out candies later. It’s one of the best days of the year for my children. They love trick or treating and also handing out candies, wishing people a happy Halloween. They love visiting neighbors and meet kind people during Halloween. It’s wonderful.


AlexDeLarge
Midtown
on Nov 1, 2019 at 12:30 am
AlexDeLarge, Midtown
on Nov 1, 2019 at 12:30 am
5 people like this

Well, the ultra wealthy ruin things in a delusional attempt to outdo each other. Eh, no prob for me. Innocence is digital, but only in this bubble community. I enjoy observing these insular rubes urinating on each other. Let the good times roll...


Josh
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2019 at 11:33 am
Josh, Old Palo Alto
on Nov 1, 2019 at 11:33 am
15 people like this

Jesse and I would like to thank all the kind visitors last night who stopped by our home (the one mentioned in this article). We hope we brought you a little joy/fun...and maybe gave you a few experiences that made your heart-beat elevate. Come back next year as Jesse changes things up each year.


Love the DIY
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 2, 2019 at 9:55 am
Love the DIY, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 2, 2019 at 9:55 am
1 person likes this

Thank you Palo Alto Weekly for highlighting this wonderful DIY effort by Josh and Jesse. I'm not a fan of the Tech Titan Halloween wars (Jobs, Page, Mayer families, etc etc) which feel like narcissistic displays to see who can put on the biggest, most ostentatious and expensive Halloween "shows". Semi-trucks of theater and staging equipment come rolling in (I see the set up every year). Then they compete with their paid actors and give aways (not just candy, but "stuff").

I live in a very high traffic area near the tech titans, and since these tech titan shows started the trick-or-treaters have dwindled more and more every year (as others have commented). I have no ego tied up in how many trick-or-treaters come to my house. It's just that it's a shame because Halloween is a great way to build community, meet our neighbors and their kids, instead of compete with the neighbors. Josh and Jesse you're AWESOME for what you're doing! Thank you for keeping it real!


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.