After an entire year waiting for Halloween, today is Mike Bloomhuff’s day.
Bloomhuff, along with family and friends, will spend several hours this morning and afternoon assembling his Highbury Cemetery display in his Northwest Akron front yard, several blocks from the site of the old King school.
After scaring hundreds of trick-or-treaters for a few hours tonight, the haunted cemetery is torn down and put away to rest in peace for another 364 days.
Bloomhuff spent a few minutes before his big day to share his thoughts about Halloween and things that go bump in the night.
Q: Were you a Halloween freak as a kid?
A: As an elementary school kid, my friends and I couldn’t wait for Halloween. Every year it would be a race to see how many houses we could hit and how much candy we could get. But even though we’d fly through the neighborhood, we always took note of those special houses that were decorated in a scary way.
Q: What do you remember about getting turned on by scary things at Halloween?
A: It wasn’t until I was in about sixth or seventh grade that I really started to get into the scary aspect of Halloween. It was about this time that my good friend Jimmy T. and I were exposed to horror movies and haunted houses. We started reading issues of Fangoria magazine and learning about all the special effects that were in the movies we were watching.
We were lucky enough to grow up during the “slasher movie” craze of the ’80s: Friday the 13th, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc. I remember specifically the movie Poltergeist and how it scared the hell out of me as a young kid. That adrenaline rush of fear became a little bit addicting and fun, and I think it might have been our first taste of rebellion, as it were.
Our first haunted house trip was to Bloodview Heights Haunted House, and as soon as we finished we were hooked.
We started having our parents take us to area haunted houses every weekend.
Q: You work all year on adding to your one-day Halloween display. Why?
A: I usually start building new pieces in June and ramp up all the way to the night of Oct. 30. For me, creating is therapeutic. I love the act of creation — from initial idea sketches through final assembly and painting. And with my yard haunt, I have total creative freedom to do anything I want. It’s not too often I get to do that.
As for putting up my haunt for only one day, in a weird way it’s like keeping the display almost sacred. After five months of planning and building, everything commences in one special moment. There’s no hint of Halloween in my yard until the morning of the 31st, when we methodically set everything up. The evening peaks at dusk with a show of movement, lights and sounds, and then it’s over. After the last trick-or-treater leaves the yard, we quickly tear down and put everything away. By morning, there is no trace of Halloween in my yard. I guess it’s like a one-time performance art show. Experience it now, or miss it until next year.
Q: What is the theme of your display?
A: My display is an always evolving Gothic-style cemetery. Classic tombstones with ornate embellishments, vibrant colors with highlights and shadows, and a cast of classic zombies, witches and other monsters meandering throughout and spilling over into the neighbors’ yards. I recently took a trip to New Orleans, and now I have voodoo elements slowly working their way into the display, too.
Q: You are part of a large group of Home Haunters. Are the meetings frightening?
A: Yes, I am part of a group called the Garage of Evil Northern Ohio Home Haunters, and actually the meetings are a lot of fun. It’s a big group of very normal people who get together every couple of months and build different props for their Halloween displays. Everyone helps everyone else, and by the end of the get-together, we all have a cool new piece for Halloween. And we’re always looking for more fans of Halloween to join us!
Q: You have named your blog and your display Highbury Cemetery. Can you talk a bit about that?
A: Ten years ago, I decided that my Halloween cemetery display needed a name. In researching other peoples’ haunts across the country, I noticed that all of them had specific names. So I decided that I wanted something that sounded old, English and Gothic and kind of rolled off the tongue when you said it. I’m a huge fan of English soccer, specifically a London team named Arsenal. At the time, they played in their famous old stadium named “Highbury” and it just stuck. I added the “Cemetery” and had my haunt name. In 2009, I decided to start a blog to document everything that I was doing, and I used the same name. So I guess my whole haunt is an homage to my favorite soccer team.
Q: What is it that excites you and turns you on to devote so much time, energy and effort to your Halloween display?
A: It starts with creating new pieces for the yard. Like I said earlier, my energy flows when I’m creating. I love the entire build process and the challenge to create the most detailed pieces that I can.
Doing this also links me back to my younger self when I used to race through the neighborhood for candy and beg my parents to take me to haunted houses every weekend. Doing this keeps me young.
I love Halloween morning when my family and friends all get together to set up and work the yard haunt. I love transforming into my zombie character. I love being known as the “Halloween house.” But most of all, I love interacting with all the people of the neighborhood during trick or treat. I hope that I can inspire at least one kid to get into Halloween and carry on the yard haunt tradition.
Q: Do you see dead people?
A: Only on Halloween night!
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or email@example.com.