Making a holiday about suspense more suspenseful

People always count the days until Christmas, but Halloween is the one day on the calendar that's really about suspense and surprises.  I don't like it when people start decorating too early, but conversely, I don't like it when folks wait until literally a day or two before xmas before they put the tree up.  To me that seems wasteful since it's there and gone in the matter of a week.  I always think of xmas being a countdown until an event.  If you shorten that, you've taken away from the build-up.  For me, Halloween starts October 1st and continues through November 1st.

When October hits, that's the day start to dole out the scary.  First I'll set up the old, crooked Halloween fencing in the front yard.  The next day I hang some crooked shutters on the face of the house.  Some gravestones appear in the yard the day after that, then ghosts in the trees, and so on.  I have enough stuff that I can literally do somewhere close to 30 days worth of setting things out.

When there's thirteen days left, that's when it's time to bring out the Halloween Countdown Clock.  In addition to counting down the days (and nights) until Halloween, I also swap the arms on it over the course of those two weeks, such that there is a little surprise there for those who are paying attention.

I try to make the build-up suspenseful for everyone watching what I'm going to put out each year.  I always think of the process of decorating my yard for Halloween as a sort of unveiling.  Sure, it might be funny to put all the decorations up in the middle of the night and surprise everyone with them the next morning, but it's much more interesting to have some suspense to it.  However, I definitely like the idea of decorating in the middle of the night.  I always try to put out things when no one's watching so that they notice there's something new sometime the next day.

Every day I put out something more, something extra.  Things get layered until there's a yard full of decorations.  It's fun because it keeps the neighbors (and especially their kids) checking it all out every day to see what's new.  Suspense builds, and the anticipation of the event becomes an event unto itself.

Addendum: Here's a proposed decorating sequence based on the props I have on-hand as of this writing:\

October 1st        Haunted fencing
October 2nd        Haunted house shutters?
October 3rd        3D gravestones
October 4th        Spotlights
October 6th        Ghosts
October 7th        Rocky Horror flag
October 8th        The Undead
October 9th        Enter At Your Own Risk!
October 10th        Glowing skulls
October 12th        Coffin
October 14th        The roof spiders
October 15th        Lamppost
October 17th        The Halloween countdown clock/Halloween Jack*
October 20th        Crank ghost

*This has to be put up 13 days before Halloween, which is 10/17, of course.

PS: Costumes too!

First of all, there's an element of suspense about the costumes.  I make it policy that no one knows what we're going to be for Halloween.  None of my friends are told.  Even the people at the costume shops are never told the big picture, just whatever isolated element we are looking for at that moment.  Our costumes are a secret right up until the Halloween party, even if I had the idea literally years in advance (which is often the case).  It's always a surprise when we show up (or to guests who show up at our parties).  I don't even post pictures until Halloween is completely over with and we aren't going to wear them anymore.


Copyright 2011, 2012 (Updated 2016) the Ale[x]orcist.