Several influences have led me to become a soft yard haunter. As one of the later baby boomers, trick or treating in the Oakland hills neighborhood of my childhood was magical. The parents of a friend erected a witch in their yard every Halloween to amuse the children. Mr Martin had a microphone set up so there was a supernatural echo feedback effect when he spoke into it. As the voice of the witch, he'd make comments as he spied trick or treaters coming up the walk from inside his house. This astonished and mystified us, and for me was the highlight of the evening. With this inspiration I became a haunter of my parent"s yard, with a talking witch stirring a kettle perched atop a huge rock.
Every year something was added - a black cat and owl with lighted eyes, a flying bat and spider operated with strings, a mummy in a case, sound effects and lots of dead branches draped with Christmas angel hair for cob webs. Preparations began when school started in the the fall and my friend and I saw each other every day. With later teen year, my haunting partner and I parted ways, socializing became more important on Halloween than haunting, and after graduating from art school, I moved away from my parent's home. There was no yard for a haunt in San Francisco. For over a decade I put haunting aside. However, while in San Francisco I became a collector of antique and vintage holiday decorations - Valentine's Day, Saint Patrick's Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas, and even May Day and Scandinavian Midsummer. But at one point, as much as I enjoyed my old decorations, I began to feel that the fun and meaning of these observances was to be found in people coming together to enact traditions, customs or other activities in a more public acknowledge of holidays, more than my private museum of collectibles. Parties with holiday themes became a mainstay of every season, and a movie "Calendar Queen" was made against the backdrop of decorations as well as commemorative events like San Francisco's Saint Patrick's Day Parade. But there weren't enough children, and the audience that would appreciate it most, and the community involvement I sought, was still illusive.
After fourteen years, in 1992, when the building that we rented was sold, my partner, Carl, and I moved to an Oakland triplex with a three car garage overlooking Greenwood Avenue with a flat roof. For some time before the actual move, I was busy sculpting a large witch that I planned would overlook the street from the rooftop. My inspiration for this was the memory of an animated witch figure that greeted riders into the dark ride at San Francisco's old Playland at the Beach, called "The Haunted Mine". That witch overlooked the carts that patrons rode in, and she had little drops of blood dangling from her fingertips as her arms swayed back and forth. I omitted the blood, and designed my witch to look like she was made in a time from my collection (the turn of the 20 century to the 1970s). I had to sit outside and pull wires to make her head and arms move while a tape recorder played witch laughter (left photo). That first year on Greenwood, Carl and I also put together a Halloween party for the neighborhood kids with a simple puppet show, refreshments and craft projects. It was a wonderful experience (right photo).