Welcome to the Monac family’s front yard, on Route 6A in Dennis.
It’s just before Halloween, and they’ve put the finishing touches on a tableau of larger-than-life creatures that stretches across the entire lawn.
Visitors hear the sounds of holiday cheer, so to speak — in this case, a demonic growling and a scream-like roar.
It’s coming from the Predator of the Night, an animatronic beast with huge, bat-like wings. Its eyes glow intensely red as it moves its head and bares pointed teeth.
“He's a mixture of, like, a bat, and a devil, and a gargoyle, if they all had a baby — and were nine feet tall,” homeowner Jennifer McNally Monac says.
Her family loves Halloween, and every decoration has a story. Their favorite pieces are homemade, largely by Jennifer’s husband, Ben.
There’s a werewolf, and there’s a pirate skeleton in a dinghy. A pumpkin-headed ghoul is wearing clothes that used to be some nice Calvin Klein sheets.
HOW IT STARTED, HOW IT’S GOING
It all started when their son, Coleman, who’s now 16, was in kindergarten.
His mother recalls, “We were sitting at dinner one night, and he said, ‘I told all the kids on the bus that we're going to have a haunted graveyard this year.’ And we said, ‘What?’”
Like any sane parents, they said he probably shouldn’t be making those kinds of promises on the bus without checking with Mom and Dad.
And yet, not long after, Dad spied an interesting ad on Craiglist.
“A high-end department store in Chatham was closing … and they had mannequins for sale,” Monac says.
Unbeknownst to her, he drove out to Chatham.
“And I came home from work and there were all these, like, naked body parts on the back deck,” she says. “And I was like, ‘What's this about?’ And he said, ‘For the haunted graveyard!’”
The rest is 11 years of Halloween history in Dennis.
NOT JUST FOR KIDS
The broader history of Halloween in the United States spans two centuries.
Local historian Anthony Sammarco, who lives in Osterville, wrote the book, “Halloween Traditions in Boston,” published last year.
He says Irish and Scottish immigrants get much of the credit for bringing their Halloween customs here.
And he makes clear what any seasoned reveler knows: that Halloween isn’t just for kids. It never has been.
“Americans began to dress up in costumes to go house to house, asking for food and money, a practice that eventually became today's trick-or-treat tradition,” he said in an interview. “And at the turn of the century, Halloween was something for both children and adults.”
It’s also for teenagers, like Angelina Brahms and Sean Ruggieri of East Sandwich. She’s 18; he’s 19.
They went to Spirit Halloween at the old Christmas Tree Shops in Bourne last week, looking to pass that age-old relationship test: the couples costume.
“I wanted to be a vampire,” she said. “But he didn't want to be that. And then I was like, ‘Let's be — you can be a prisoner.’ He was like, ‘No.’”
“Too dark,” he said.
They settled on something matching: Princess Peach and Mario, from the Super Mario Bros. video games.
They’re going to a costume birthday party before Halloween. And then on the big night, probably a haunted house, or even Salem.
“I like the candy,” he said. “I like the spirit. I like how everyone — there's certain days where everyone can just get out there and connect and just see each other and compare their costumes. Get to give each other things, give each other candy.”
Back on 6A in Dennis, at Jennifer McNally Monac’s house, they don’t get trick-or-treaters. It’s a busy street with no sidewalks. But they do add more decorations each year.
Once, their display even made the homily at church.
“I mean, the priest put it best,” she said. “It's about taking what scares you, and turning it on its ear, and finding the fun in it, and, you know, really celebrating.”
And that’s what they do: make Halloween a bit spookier, and happier, for many a passerby.
Copyright 2023 CAI. To see more, visit CAI.