Take Vicki Barrett from Parma, Ohio. She loves Halloween as much as anyone else, but instead of celebrating with an inflatable jack-o'-lantern in the yard, she put up a Stephen King-inspired display that's been taking the Internet by storm:
Barrett was recently forced to take down her graphic front yard display when neighbors complained. Barrett explained to Fox 8 News that her chilling yard decor had begun to receive attention in a way that made her family feel unsafe. "I came down one night a little bit after midnight and happened to see stuff flashing in my front yard and looked out my window, and our front yard was full of people that we didn't know," she said.
The big issue wasn't Barrett's love for all things ghoulish and gory. The problem with this Halloween display was its context and location. Barrett put up her chilling yard decor, complete with hanging corpses and bloodied bodies, within walking distance of Dentzler Elementary School.
And while this Halloween "enthusiast's" display has been getting the bulk of the attention of late, this is not a problem unique to one town. Within the same week, another Halloween lover in Detroit had the cops called on her over a dead body in her yard that looked a little too realistic.
It happens every year.
In 2013 in New York City — the city where people are known to let just about anything fly — a filmmaker had parents seeing red over a pumpkin-headed doll doing surgery on a bloody doll out on the sidewalk.
Grown-up Halloween lovers scoff because these scary displays look like child's play compared to, well, a Halloween classic like Child's Play. But at the risk of stating the obvious: Someone has to think of the children.
Yes, there are plenty of slasher movies and haunted houses and midnight ghost tours around that are much, much scarier than a few bloodied dummies hanging in a yard. But in the real world, elementary school-age children can't view or participate in these adult Halloween activities without a parent's permission. When someone puts a graphic Halloween display up in their yard "all in good fun" that any kid can see, parents have every right to complain about it.
Most of the time, today's parents get a bad rap for overreacting, but this isn't one of those times. Halloween is kid-friendly first of all, no matter how many Carrie reboots have been made. Once Oct. 31 rolls around, it is the very young children who will be traipsing through a neighborhood with their parents, asking for candy. It's these young kids who will come eye to eye with a dead corpse in a neighbor's yard, not the adults the gory Halloween display was intended for.
Admittedly, concerned parents don't always handle their reactions well. In Barrett's case, she received so much negative attention that she was forced to take down the display. No parent came knocking on her door to talk to her about it. In the case of the "dead body" in Detroit, neighbors called 911 instead of having a civil conversation. But what many people fail to realize when neighborhood conflict occurs is that police can't mediate or provide a resolution. Their job is to arrest someone when they have committed a crime.
A neighborly conversation is the most effective way to handle this type of disagreement — experts recommend documenting each conversation in the event conflict escalates.
This is the one time of year when parents get a free pass to freak out. A violent and bloody Halloween display isn't OK in a family neighborhood. It isn't OK in a mall, and it isn't OK in a park or anywhere else where young children can freely see it. There are plenty of people, young and old, who love Halloween, but let's not forget the true purpose of the holiday: kids having fun. Haunted houses are for grown-ups, and neighborhoods are for kids.
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