Rattling of an earthquake can lead to Halloween display ideas

This post by author and retired journalist Mike Staton.

This post by author and retired journalist Mike Staton.

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.

On my walks through the neighborhood I haven't seen this particular house, but other houses to sport some fun Halloween decorations.

On my walks through the neighborhood I haven’t seen this particular house, but other houses sport some fun Halloween decorations.

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.

The 1999 Hector Mine quake in the desert in Southern California left quite a scar at its epicenter.

The 1999 Hector Mine quake in the desert in Southern California left quite a scar at its epicenter.

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.

My mom and I were staying at a Rialto, California hotel in October 1999 when we experienced a very noticeable earthquake.

My mom and I were staying at a Rialto, California hotel in October 1999 when we experienced a very noticeable earthquake.

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.

 

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20 Responses to Rattling of an earthquake can lead to Halloween display ideas

  1. Doris says:

    Too fun Mike, I would have loved to see such a display. More fun to see ‘earthquake’ than ‘live’ through one. Loved the post. Doris

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    • Mike Staton says:

      Yep, when I think back to that ’99 earthquake, all I can say is: “Thank God the epicenter was out in the middle of nowhere.” As it was, the hotel shook something fierce.

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  2. Ghoulish post Mike, and I loved it! Halloween is my favorite holiday and I would love to have been a kid and walked up the drive trick-or-treating with the hair standing up on my neck as my imagination ran wild. You are so creative to think things like this up! Thanks for a great post!

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    • Mike Staton says:

      I’m good at thinking up stuff like this; not so good at doing the mechanical things to actually make them real. I’m like you, Linda, I’ve always loved Halloween. One of the steps of growing up was when me and my buddies could go trick-or-treating without our moms with us. That was probably fourth grade in Rialto, California.

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  3. This is why I don’t live in Nevada, California, or any other place where earthquakes are more common. I’m glad you found something positive, but given a choice, I prefer Wyoming’s snow.

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    • Mike Staton says:

      Whoops. I wrote my reply to your comment in the main window for comments. I keep doing that. Must be a sign of aging. Lol. I could sign in and go back to the post and transfer the comment to this box and delete it elsewhere, but I’m too lazy.

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  4. Mike Staton says:

    I could probably write a Halloween horror story about an avalanche. Sorry, Abbie, I couldn’t resist. Actually, I don’t think one can find any place safe from natural disasters. In Ohio, tornadoes. In North Carolina, I was in more than five hurricanes; heard trees fall on the roof and back deck… nothing like the crack of a falling pine and the grinding roar of the mini-tornado during a hurricane.

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  5. Mike Staton says:

    I’m sure all of you remember a previous post of mine back in September where the text turned out black and hard to read. Right? Well, it did it again on this Halloween/Earthquake post. I tried to fix it and reposted it… again, the copy came out as black text. I gave up and went to sleep. When I got up this morning, I thought of something new I could try. I wrote the column using Word, and did an “Copy All” command to transfer the text to the Writing Wranglers site. Both times it carried the Word document’s last paragraph over onto the WordPress software. I decided to not copy that last paragraph mark… and PRESTO — the text is white. It’s a miracle. Lol.

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  6. Gayle Irwin says:

    Eerie post, Mike, but it’s that time of year! There’s all kinds of ways to make Halloween displays, and someone had to think them up — why not you? Perhaps that could be a new business for you, selling such things — you certainly have the creative juices to make such a business a go! Happy Halloween … but without another earthquake!

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    • Mike Staton says:

      No, I don’t need another big earthquake. Now a little tremor that makes the cupboard glasses tinkle… that’s something else. Just kidding. And wait ’til Christmas… I’ll probably do something on Christmas displays — unless I see a Thanksgiving display. Then look out.

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  7. Nancy Jardine says:

    I’ve never been near an earthquake, Mike, but the closest I’ve ever got to a natural event was arriving in Cuba at the tail end of a hurricane. Fortunately, it’s a big island and we arrived at the north, the hurricane being centred in the south. The winds were something fierce and took days to settle down, hampering only some watersports that we had planned to do. Your Halloween decorations sound just a bit too spooky for my neck of the woods- I think. 🙂 The kids here do knock on some doors, nowadays, but only people they know but we don’t usually decorate houses or gardens unless there’s a party at the house, or venue.

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    • Mike Staton says:

      When I first moved to Wilmington back in ’89 I went to an adult Halloween party put on by one of the co-workers of a roommate. The co-worker and her hubby had their house all decked out for Halloween. All kinds of spooky stuff in the yard and inside the house. What I also recall is that the husband was fighting skin cancer, a battle he would ultimately lose. I guess the Halloween party was a lost hurrah.

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  8. katewyland says:

    Love your Halloween display ideas. What a lot of work though. But I think it would be more effective here in CA.

    I’m in the SF Bay area and don’t remember hearing about the 1999 quake. I do remember the 1989 Loma Prieta though! Funny thing is my daughter and I were riding our horses when it hit, so all we felt were the horses dancing around, but we SAW the hills around us moving. Didn’t know what had happened until a while later.

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    • Mike Staton says:

      That must have been something… seeing the hills move. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, my mom would tell me that when we lived in Rialto she’d looked out a house window and seen the land shifting up and down during a low-level quake in Southern California. I do remember feeling quakes and hearing plates and glasses in the kitchen tinkling. Being in a hurricane is a somewhat different experience… the wind howls and every now and then you hearing a tree snap and then the ground rumble. If the house rumbles, you know you’re in trouble… the tree has hit it. In a ’96 quake, two trees and landed on the roof but at a side angle that allowed them roll off and do little damage. They did total the back deck when they smacked hit after rolling off the roof. We had to replace the roof shingles, though. Also had a tree level the backyard shed.

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  9. Wranglers says:

    Love your blog Halloween ideas. We were all shocked a few years ago when we were on the 4th floor of a rather large hospital, when it felt like something had hit the side of the building, shaking it badly. Of course it’d have to be something the size of a train to bump the building into a shake. I’ve seen a few disasters and worked a few after disasters when I was in The Salvation Army. I have no Trick-or-Treaters. Cher’ley

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    • Mike Staton says:

      As a reporter, I’ve had to cover a few disasters… hurricanes in Florida and North Carolina and a train derailment in Ohio that leaked noxious chemicals from a ruptured tank-car. Also, a few murders and fatal auto accidents. I didn’t like that part of journalism… never was a “bad news” junkie.

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  10. erinfarwell says:

    Love it – I do enjoy a good scare at Halloween, both giving and receiving. Nice ideas and of course I will borrow them. 🙂 Great post.

    Like

    • Mike Staton says:

      Thanks, Erin. I do find myself doing quite a lot of thinking on my walks. Enjoy the holiday periods like Halloween, Christmas and Easter… there are quite a lot to see in the front yards on walks during those times. Back before my bad-back problems, I’d walk for an hour and sometimes two hours, and could look at lots of stuff all around me. Now, I’m only good for about 30 minutes before the aching back tells me, “Mike, buddy, it’s time to head home.”

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  11. Wranglers says:

    Okay you have inspired me. This years Halloween display at the new house will be a little different. I am not sure how elaborate I will get but I am thinking I should step it up a notch.

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  12. sstamm625 says:

    I don’t do Halloween displays myself either, but I have some friends who do it up big. This sounds like a great idea, Mike. Scary and inventive!

    Like

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