I was just thinking earlier today about how to design a front-yard wood Halloween display that includes model skyscrapers leaning like the Tower of Pisa. Election motors and small gears could get the painted skyscrapers weaving back and forth as if shaking in an earthquake.
Las Vegas shook, rattled and rolled Sunday, Oct. 5 just after 3 a.m. when the earth moved about 20 miles south of Henderson where I lived. The quake was small, just 3.6 magnitude. Sharon felt it; I didn’t. She described it as a thump, as if something nearby had exploded.
That’s not my experience with earthquakes. The ones I’ve been in have been tremors, last for five to ten seconds, shaking like a nervous junior high girl at her first school dance waiting for that cute boy to ask her to dance.
The night after the first quake I took an after-dark walk through my Henderson neighborhood and discovered that seven sets of parents had erected front-yard Halloween decorations for their children – ghosts, zombies, black cats, pumpkin-men, witches boiling in kettles and tombstones. Seeing those got me to thinking about the morning’s quake and how to incorporate a quake into a Halloween display.
The most powerful quake I’d ever felt was the 1999 Hector Mine one, a 7.1 magnitude doozy that rattled and wobbled the Best Western Hotel in Rialto in the wee hours of the morning on Oct. 16. Mom and I had returned to California after 34 years to see how the place had changed. Thankfully the quake’s epicenter was located 47 miles southeast of Barstow in the Mojave Desert, inside Twentynine Palms Marine base. Had it been located closer to LA, it would have caused major damage. Instead, it knocked food and merchandise off shelves on the Marine base. On the fourth floor of the Best Western, it felt like I’d awoke on a cruise ship bobbing on choppy seas.
Now, 15 years later, I goggled the Hector Mine quake and came across some photos showing scientists investigating the gaping opening left alone the fault line. That made me wonder what a fault line disturbance would do on Halloween night if it opened inside an old graveyard. Yep, I did some ruminating, designing in my head a front-yard Halloween cemetery that had suffered quake damage.
First, I’d show a crack running through the boneyard. Gravestones along the crack route would be jumbled and shattered. Tops of caskets would be sticking out of the crack, some with lids open and skeletons disgorged. Might even have a decayed zombie climbing out of a coffin. A proper scary display should have audio – perhaps at the plywood skyscrapers people shrieking “Help! Help! Earthquake!” And at the quake-ruined cemetery, the zombie cackling “Brains, I want brains” while the skeletons moan and groan.
Of course, one could overdo the decorations. You want the trick-or-treaters to show up at the front door to get their treats. Some might not want to venture up the walkway past the weaving skyscrapers and the brain-feasting zombie. Nowadays moms and dads are often with their kids, giving them an additional ounce of courage to make the run up to the front door and back to the sidewalk. When I was in the later grades in elementary school, we did our candy collecting by ourselves. We didn’t worry about staying safe. That was the furthest thing from our minds, but that was back in the early ‘60s, a simpler, safer time.
Nine days ago I posted a scary Halloween story on Writing Wranglers and Warriors and then slept through a mild quake. The two events together got me thinking about how to combine an earthquake with a front-yard Halloween display. Sadly – or happily, depending on one’s perspective – it’s not going to go beyond “thinking.” I’m just not the type to build a Halloween display, but you’re more than welcome to “borrow” my ideas. No? They’re too macabre? But that’s why we have Halloween. Better to give away candy to the ghosts, goblins, vampires, mummies, zombies, werewolves and demons than to hear them tapping on your window after midnight.