Residents of the Quail Run housing development know Halloween is approaching when they see neighbors Daniel and Tracy Perkins digging their own graveyard.
Actually, they’re burying wires that bring power to giant inflatable black cats, howling zombies and flying ghosts in their yard filled with 200 unique wooden gravestones.
The Perkins began decorating their yard in 2002 after moving to Gig Harbor, and the display they put on has made its mark on their neighbors. This is a milestone year for any Halloween event: Number 13.
The Perkins bought the house from Tracy’s aunt, who told them about the high volume of trick-or-treaters in the neighborhood. To stand out, the Perkins put out a big display that attracted 268 people.
Tombstones increased in number, as did the number of visitors.
“The more tombstones we put out, the more kids we got,” Tracy said. “Now it’s really become a big family event and we have kids coming and telling us every year what their favorite tombstones is.”
For some young haunters, the yard establishes the Perkins as “the coolest house in the neighborhood,” she said.
Normally the setup begins on Sept. 21, but one year the Perkins had a bit of a late start to it. That caught people’s attention.
“We had a bunch of people ask if we were moving, because they would miss Halloween,” Tracy said.
All those decorations and grave markers take quite a bit of time to put out, so it really does take all of October.
“We do a couple of hours a night until it’s all up,” Tracy said.
The Perkins have a lot of help from their neighborhood. People suggest slogans for the graveyard and on Nov. 1 friends and neighbors gather together to help them take down the spectacle. Annual visitors have even called the Perkins when they find hot deals on spooky stuff at garage sales. That’s how the zombie in a coffin and a scary clown came to be in the display.
The Perkins appreciate the community aspect — the more the scarier.
As of last week, the Perkins had placed 170 white gravestones. They’ll have 200 each Halloween. Daniel cuts out the wood and paints the markers white; Tracy uses her creative writing background to write puns, sayings and jokes on the grave markers.
A few examples are:
▪ “The Ghost of Christmas past parties here.”
▪ “Monsters Under the Bed Local 339 (I.B.M.U.B.) Meeting Oct. 31, 6:00 p.m.”
▪ “Your 401k.”
Sometimes, Tracy said, people will come and ask if they can keep retired signposts.
On Halloween night, the markers are illuminated with long-burning votive candles in stemless wine glasses. To keep out the rain, the Perkins have improvised a tinfoil cover to keep things burning through the Northwest night.
The Perkins will be stocked up with candy and glowsticks on Halloween, waiting for visitors by foot, car and even the van load at their yard on 31st Avenue off of Point Fosdick Drive. Then, the first of November will come and it will all move back into the corner of the garage until next year.
“It’ll be a blast,” said Daniel, “it always is.”