Your kids will want to knock on this door for Halloween
Gary Alishio’s Congress Park home is already decorated for the holidays — and by “holidays,” he means Halloween and the Day of the Dead.
The cobwebs draped between his trees and porch only hint at the extravagance of what waits beyond the threshold.
A corpse lies half-drowned in the foyer fountain. Enormous cobwebs hang in the stairwell and corners. In the living room, tattered cheesecloth drapes over the sofa, evoking Miss Havisham’s ruined home in “Great Expectations.”
Here, however, the expectations are grave.
Need a helping hand? Alishio can offer the Hand of Glory, a replica of the horrible candelabra made from a corpse’s severed hand.
Hungry? On the black- draped dining-room table, there’s a plate of ladyfingers. Not the cookies, but the well- manicured fingers themselves. “They’re plastic, not edible,” says Alishio, a tidy, unassuming man with ginger-colored hair and a shy smile.
Every October for 15 of the 18 years he’s lived in this house, Alishio has lovingly filled it with dismal tableaux. It started when he came across a handful of spiders he’d made for Halloween decorations at a previous home.
“It was one of those things that kind of grew in stages,” he says. “At first, it was just the spiders. Then it kinda exploded because it was so much fun for people … and for me.”
Metal silhouettes of a haunted house, witches gathered at a cauldron, and a cluster of pumpkins occupy a bookshelf. A realistic buzzard hovers over a bust in the dining room.
A few feet away, under the sideboard and almost hidden by another black velvety tablecloth, is an emaciated figure. Its teeth are bared in a rictus that’s almost a smile.
“That’s poor Mr. Lipschitz,” Alishio says. “He’s not doing too well. He had a few too many bags of Halloween candy.”
Mr. Lipschitz, the ladyfingers and the bowl of eyeballs near them, the damp corpse in the fountain and all their dour colleagues mostly came from thrift shops and dollar stores.
He is not above shopping the post-Halloween sales at Target and other conventional stores. That’s where he found the string of “slime lights” that decorate his kitchen window and a rat that spouts groaners (“Help yourself to the food! I took a bite of everything, and it’s all delicious!”).
The standout Halloween find in his kitchen is the dark, ornate chandelier that hangs over the sink. He found that in a nearby alley.
“I can’t believe they pitched it,” he says. “I was lucky to find it before the pickers. … They like to get anything metal so they can resell it.”
Besides the Halloween chandelier, he also has a Christmas chandelier, and “one for the rest of the year” that goes up after New Year’s Day.
The many, many spiders throughout the house, along with their yarn webs, are handmade. (Tip for novice webstringers: Start with the spokes and work your way out.)
Alishio buys bags of pompoms from craft stores, adds legs and scatters them on the webs, on the floor, on the sofa and tables, the walls, the framed artwork and any other place that needs perking up. He makes 40 or 50 extra spiders to hand out to trick-ortreaters courageous enough to make it to his front door.
“I used to keep count of how many I made,” he says, “but I gave that up a while back. Looking at all this, you might not believe it, but I really am cutting back on the decorations this year.”
He says that he almost decided not to dress up his house for Halloween this year. A neighbor persuaded him to haul out the boxes of funereal trimmings.
“Why not? It looks like you’ve already started,” she says, gesturing at the dourfaced butler statue and the blood-red walls in his dining room.
Alishio didn’t need much more of a nudge. But he refrained from telling her that the butler is a year-round presence in the dining room.
“I guess my place doesn’t really look that different from this during the rest of the year,” he says.
Some people who run Halloween attractions go out of their way to make the places look old and eerie. But if you love a good ghost story, consider visiting a seasonal haunt that promises a few scares with a bit of history in the mix. These events jump out for that reason. By Elana Ashanti Jefferson
“Victorian Horrors.” Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker are just two of the period characters who will turn up at the Molly Brown House Museum tonight, and again Friday and Oct. 23. The 14- room mansion that was once home to Denver’s “unsinkable” heroine becomes an interactive fright fest with help from some of the region’s top actors. Hour-long performances begin every 15 minutes from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dress up in your spookiest garb for a chance to win a prize. Tickets: $15-$18. And then on Oct. 30, the museum hosts an extra-macabre Halloween Tea. Tickets are $20. The Molly Brown House Museum is at 1340 Pennsylvania St. Call 303-832-4092, ext. 16, or visit mollybrown.org.
Mining-town terrors. The Cripple Creek District Museum hosts Ghost Walk Tours featuring tales from the town’s colorful past beginning at 6 p.m. every Saturday this month. With museum archivist Melissa Trenary at the helm, these hour-long tours start at the Outlaws & Lawmen Jail Museum on West Bennett Avenue in Cripple Creek and end at the District Museum, where guests can sip complimentary cider and hot chocolate. No need for reservations, and the tour is free. Any donations benefit the museum. And if you find yourself in Cripple Creek over the Halloween weekend, drop by the District Museum for “Night at the Museum IV.” For information visit cripple-creek.org or call 719-689-9540.