It was a dark and stormy night, as a coven of witches cackled over the ingredients they planned to include in their noxious brew, and skeletal beings gathered as if around a campfire to rattle their bones with some music.
Actually, it was dreary and drizzly evening, the witches were an animatronic trio that would start speaking if someone in passing activated the motion sensor, and the skeletons with guitars and cowboy hats are more likely to produce chuckles rather than shudders.
“We don’t do scary,” said Tom Berry, as he guides visitors through the south Tulsa home he and his wife, Pam, have filled inside and out with all manner of Halloween accoutrements.
The front yard boasts a fenced-in graveyard, and a nearly two-story ghoulishly grinning figure presides over the driveway, while the backyard is home to the witchy trio, the musical skeletons and skulls with glowing red eyes.
Inside the house, there is hardly a square inch of wall and table space that is not taken up with something spooky, from the silhouettes of witches and bats that bedeck the walls, to expansive tablescapes crowded with a Halloween-themed village and a haunted carnival.
It’s all a tad over-the-top, to be sure. But then, Halloween is more than just a holiday to Tom and Pam Berry. It’s also the date of their anniversary.
“We were married in this house, seven years ago, under that alter,” Tom Berry said, pointing to a crepe-draped construct in the corner of the living room. “We had a ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ theme. I was dressed like Frankenstein’s monster, Pam was the Bride of Frankenstein, and the guy who married us was dressed as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, complete with stethoscope.”
He said that the couple’s mutual love of Halloween predates their time together.
“In fact,” Tom said, “on our very first date — Oct. 6, 2008 — I asked her if she liked Halloween.”
“I told him I loved Halloween,” Pam answered. “That’s when he said I should come and see all the Halloween stuff he had been collecting.”
“She was, I would say, mildly impressed,” Tom said, laughing. “Then she said, ‘Well, you need to come and see my village.’ It was the beginning of our big village, but it was even then pretty impressive. And I knew this was the woman for me — it was almost like love at first sight.”
For both Tom and Pam Berry, the roots of their fascination with Oct. 31 and all its trappings date back to their respective childhoods. Tom Berry grew up in Lawton, where one of the local TV stations would broadcast “Shock Theater,” showing old black-and-white monster and science-fiction films, interspersed with skits by the costumed hosts.
“I remember going out trick-or-treating when you could go door to door and feel safe,” Tom said. “Of course, at the time, my dad was in the Army and we were living on base at Fort Sill, so you really felt safe.
“And when I think about Halloween now,” he said, “it takes me right back to when I was an 8-year-old kid. That’s why we don’t have any real scary or gory things. It’s about capturing that sense of child-like fun Halloween has.”
Pam Berry grew up in a small town in Kansas, another place where as a youngster she and friends could go trick-or-treating door-to-door through the neighborhood.
She recalled one time painting her face to look like a skull for Halloween and scaring her young children when she emerged from the bathroom in full make-up.
“It took me a while to convince them that this was still Mommy, that I just had make-up on,” she said.
The Berrys are always looking to add to their collection, although they confess that they are running out of room for some things, such as the Hallowe’en village.
“This is something we love doing together,” Tom said. “Although there are times we get into some pretty heated fights over where we want to put certain things.”
The process of setting up all the Halloween decorations takes the Berrys’ a couple of months. “We usually start around the middle of July,” Tom said.
Pam said that some neighbors aren’t terribly pleased with the Berrys’ way of getting into the spirits for All Hallow’s Eve.
“Some people have said we’re devil-worshippers and things like that,” Pam said. “But the truth is, the whole purpose of Halloween was to keep evil away. It was believed that evil spirits were loose on Halloween and they went out searching for places to inhabit. People would put up these scary things to trick the evil spirits into moving on to another place.
“So the real spirit of Halloween is the exact opposite of devil worship,” Pam said.
“In any case,” Tom added, “the day after Halloween, all this stuff comes down and we start decorating for Christmas.”
“I like to decorate for all the holidays,” Pam said. “But we easily do the most for Halloween.”