When the Osters bought their home on the North End’s Harrison Boulevard in 2005, they didn’t realize what exactly went into the street’s famous Halloween celebrations.
“My husband was at our house because he was redoing the inside, and he had no idea what was involved,” Sharon Oster recalled. “He had to call my daughter to bring over candy. He had to call me. He was asking us all to please just get more candy. There were hundreds of people coming through.”
Oster’s husband, David, loved Halloween. After that first year, they went big every year — skulls decorations made by their daughter, costumes for the dogs, cases of candy bought from Costco, one year even a fog machine. At one point they inherited leftover decorations from David’s office, and those went into the mix as well.
David died suddenly in July, just a few weeks before his 65th birthday. After 42 years of marriage, Sharon was going to have to do Halloween without her husband, in a year when so many were already feeling alone.
That’s when the “monster house” was born.
When David died, Oster’s daughter, Stephanie, and Stephanie’s boyfriend, Justin Kleine, came to Boise from Seattle to help get the house in order and manage the other things that accompany an unexpected death.
Stephanie and Justin came up with the monster house idea. Both had graduated with art degrees from Boise State University, and Oster said the idea let them use the skills they honed there. They crafted a single giant eyeball, several feet in width, and several teeth.
The creations makes a normal home look, well, monstrous: The eyeball hangs in front of a second-floor balcony and shoots out a laser at night. The teeth come together to make a menacing mouth that blocks access to the porch. Cobwebs hang from bushes in front of the house, and faux bones are scattered around.
At night, the display glows with colorful lights. On Halloween, the fog machine will return to make the monster look extra spooky.
Oster said it took Stephanie and Justin about a month to put the whole thing together.
On a street that often goes all-out for Halloween, Oster said people love the handmade elements of the design.
“I was just out getting some of the leaves off the walkway, and everybody who walked by said they think it’s the best one,” she said.
Candy won’t be provided this year at “Halloween on Harrison” because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Sharon Oster’s home and dozens of others will be dressed for the annual trick-or-treater pilgrimage to Harrison Boulevard in Boise’s North End that normally attracts thousands. Homeowners ask that people be mindful of their properties and practice appropriate social distancing, and some, like Oster, are opting not to give out candy at all. Darin Oswald DOSWALD@IDAHOSTATESMAN.COM
It’s a long way from that first Halloween, Oster said, when some trick-or-treaters mistook the red bonding agent on the house’s columns as some sort of blood-themed decoration.
This year, she doesn’t plan to pass out candy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials have called trick-or-treating a “higher-risk activity” in terms of potential COVID-19 exposure.
Instead, her house is one of more than 60 stops on the North End Neighborhood Association’s Halloween scavenger hunt, offered as a replacement for the normal festivities. The scavenger hunt ends Friday, Oct. 30, but trick-or-treaters and others coming to look at decorations are still expected Halloween night.
Oster will dress up Lulu, the dog who loves Halloween. Together they’ll watch kids and their parents react to the monstrous decorations with her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend.
Halloween wasn’t going to be the same this year anyway, she said.
“He loved Halloween. Even if he complained about putting up the decorations every year, he loved it,” Sharon said. “This feels like the right way for us to honor him together.”