I’m always amazed to see how rituals develop. One year someone has an idea, and suddenly things take off and become greater than the sum of their parts.
My husband, the early bird, was the first one to see them, on our first Halloween on the Hill. “They are HUGE!” he practically squealed– and if you have met my husband, you may know this is something that simply does not happen.
And so they were: huge, hairy spiders seemingly coming out of a window and crawling all over the buildings. Terrifying spiderwebs almost swallowing a couple of houses. Every day new details appeared: More webs! More spiders! Skeletons! Evil-looking giant spider nest pods! The fall leaf canopy tangled itself in the webs making it look ghostly but eerily real, as if some overgrown radioactive tarantulas had escaped from an evil laboratory and made the Capitol Hill house their home.
On Halloween night, the corner house on C and 13th streets, SE, glittered as hundreds of people made the pilgrimage around the neighborhood for candy cum arachnophobia. Ooh… and last year, there was spooky fog! And howls and screams!
So of course our new Hill tradition is to check the progress of the Spider House on 13th, which is how I met and talked to Lara Walker, the woman responsible for all that wonderful mayhem, and asked her to tell me more about how it came about. Read about it after the jump!
For starters, we’re for certain not the only family who looks forward to the Spider House, “I was mowing the lawn in early September when a man walked by and asked me if the spiders were going up this year! He said his family comes up from North Carolina every year to see them!” In fact, Lara tells me that busloads of children, people from several states away, and even folks from abroad make a Halloween pilgrimage to see what kind of spooky stuff Lara dreams up.
Halloween has always been her favorite holiday and, despite a dearth of celebration during her childhood in Europe, Lara now outdoes herself every year, though she confides that it’s been her little visitors’ parents over the years who have given her some of the more frightening ideas, such as pods of skeletons and eyeballs floating in the water feature in her side yard. It all started over ten years ago, with just a few spiders around the bushes; year after year, it grew with the consent and cooperation of her neighbors and landlady. One year her upstairs neighbors suggested she start from the roof; another, the windows, which were formerly painted shut, were replaced, and this allowed the spiders to crawl out of them. She’s also arrived at the magical span of two weeks during which to leave her tableau up, so it looks its best and doesn’t get too mangled by the crazy fall weather.
But certainly, her production is a labor of love– candy for about eight hundred of your closest friends is a LOT of candy!!! The webs alone take several ladders and over a day and a half of installation, which these days Lara is comfortable delegating to others, after several close calls. She instead busies herself focusing on the kooky details that make her house a must-see during October. She even helps her neighbors decorate down C Street and on Walter Street, one block to the north, specifically the woman who’s fond of putting up a giant spider that looks like it’s nesting on the front of her house. (Spidery coincidence?)
And best of all, for all the vandalism and petty theft that goes on around the neighborhood, Lara’s spidery tableau has never been vandalized. There is something to be said about the spirit of Halloween.