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Paula Fetterolf, Halloween Site

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About the Artist/Site

Halloween provides Paula Fetterolf with an annual excuse to fill her front yard with a display of her fancy, which is newly-themed each year. Among many others, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the 80’s rock band Poison, a whimsical fairyland of dolls and trashcan lid mushrooms, a mental asylum, King Tut’s tomb, a Hollywood-style Western saloon, a vampire lair, and a nest of overgrown spiders have all suddenly appeared in the small northwestern Pennsylvania town of Cranesville in early October, only to suddenly disappear on November 1st. In 2009, after more than five years of preparation for the seventy-year anniversary, a colossal disembodied Wizard face looked out of her living room window through parted plastic drapes toward a gingham-dressed Toto-carrying Dorothy, a silver-coated car-parts Tin Man, and a straw-stuffed Scarecrow. Other Oz characters filled out the yard under the malevolent gaze of a roof-perched Wicked Witch of the West. In front, near the yellow brick sidewalk leading to Fetterolf’s door, the Eastern Wicked Witch’s black-striped leggings protruded out from under a fallen chunk of wooden house, while the Lion cowered in the rear. 

Assembled by her husband Joe, an avid amateur drag racer, the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz theme made a rare, much altered reappearance as a black-bodied, golden-armored “Egyptian Knight” the following year (and now serves as a cannoneer in this writer’s nearby front yard), but usually the components of each year’s new display are seen only once, and Fetterolf begins the following year’s planning / acquiring process at least one, but typically several years, in advance.

Born and raised near Cranesville, young Paula enjoyed trick-or-treating in costume, and by high school she began to create small-scaled Halloween decorations for the family home. She graduated with a degree in accounting from a local university, where she thoroughly enjoyed her single art class in ceramics.  She now works as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), and served four years as the mayor of Cranesville (an unpaid position). She doesn’t recall seeing any outsized Halloween displays in the area while growing up, but after buying her own house in 1998, she began to put up modest displays of her own. Slowly growing in size, by 2006, “they started using up the entire yard.” Paula and Joe had a Halloween-themed wedding, guests to their five- and ten-year anniversary parties were requested to arrive in costume, and although he’s not a Halloween enthusiast, Joe cheerfully helps with fabrication and construction of the displays. Their front entrance room is lined with traditional Halloween props, and the lighted decorations visible in the window help to loosely tie the yearly themes back to the Halloween season.

With no particular taste for the macabre, Fetterolf likes to keep her displays “kid-friendly,” and on Halloween night, dressed in a theme-inspired costume, she gives out candy and small presents: plastic teeth from the vampires, colored markers from the fairies, and red bandana-wrapped candies from the cowboys. The witches and warlocks’ nest offered small black caldrons with upside down tootsie pops as stir sticks. While driving to various work locations, Fetterolf keeps an eye out for possible display props: one year a neighbor gave her a “made for parties” fiberglass coffin, and in 2002 she passed an Amish buggy for sale, which became the “Boneville Hearse.” Paula says decorating for Halloween is her “only creative outlet,” and next year’s idea is, of course, already in the works.  She plans to continue entertaining the neighborhood indefinitely, but says she may eventually have to rework previous themes into (always) new displays. Perhaps, in 2039, Dorothy will return after all!

~Fred Scruton



Map and site information

10270 Crane Street
Cranesville, Pennsylvania, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 41.905407 / -80.342383

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