Award-Winning Spookiness: First-rate Halloween
by W. Winston Skinner
Carrie Knight’s grandfather used to tell her about the neighbor witches — stoking her creativity and creating a lifelong love for Halloween.
Newnan residents benefit from that legacy of creativity each Halloween when the Knight family transforms their front yard — at 37 College St. — into a spooky scene complete with flying witches, giant spiders, a creepy cemetery and several socially outgoing skeletons.
A photograph of a skeleton couple enjoying a picnic on their lawn won first place in Grandin Road’s Spooky Decor Photo Challenge. Grandin Road has been around since 2003, is part of Cornerstone Brands, Inc. and has its headquarters in West Chester, Ohio.
“They’ve been selling cool Halloween decorations for years. I’ve bought from them over the years so I get their first Halloween catalog during summer,” Carrie Knight said.
She decided to enter a photo in the Spooky Decor contest and later was notified her photo was in the top 10. About a week ago, the Knights put a sign and fliers about the contest at their front walk.
Friends shared the details through social media, and The Newnan Times-Herald’s Facebook page gave them a plug. When the contest ended Wednesday, it was clear they were well ahead of the rest of the pack.
For the winning photo, Carrie Knight will get a $5,000 gift card to buy Grandin Road merchandise. “There were 1,100 entries from all over the place,” she said.
Knight has been decorating for Halloween for about 20 years, but she ramped things up about 15 years ago when she and her husband, Philip, moved to Newnan and bought the Victorian home on College Street.
“It just keeps getting bigger every year. And every year I say to myself that we have enough decorations… but I haven’t been able to control myself yet,” she said.
A huge pirate ship was a central part of the Knight’s Halloween decorating for several years, but the scene changes. New figures and facets are added, and the Knights are delighted when youngsters who have been the previous year point out something new.
“That’s the whole point of all of this — the kids,” Carrie Knight said.
Large numbers of adults, however, also enjoy watching the scene take shape. “I jump-started the car of an older couple two mornings ago because their car battery went dead while they were parked in front of our house looking at all the Halloween in our yard,” she said. “I love it.”
One of the obvious additions this year is the huge spider web stretching from the house to the ground.
“I’ve had this large collection of giant spiders for years and never had a really good plan for them. This year, I did some pre-planning and got them a home. They’re busy weaving a web around their victim,” Knight said.
There also are more life-size skeletons. “Those are my absolute favorite,” she said.
Older daughter, Abbey, 8, suggested the picnickers who won the Grandin Road contest. There also are skeletons playing chess and two dancing in top hats. “One is riding a bike through the cemetery,” Knight noted.
Several of the pieces that trick-or-treaters will see on Thursday will not be put in place until that day. “The best things come out Halloween day because they’re not weatherproof,” Knight explained.
Creating the perfect blend of spookiness takes weeks.
“Honestly, it should take a month, but I’m never that organized. I usually drop about five pounds in October,” Knight said.
She said taking everything down and packing it up takes about the same amount of time — with the result that the Knights put away the last of the skeletons just in time to get out the holly, candles and Santas.
Knight confessed she has “even more decorations” for Christmas, “but they stay inside the house because of weather.” She has been collecting antique and vintage Christmas items since she was 12.
“I take orange storage crates back to the cellar and exchange them for red and green ones. No kidding,” she said.
Abbey and 5-year-old Bree love helping their parents decorate for all the holidays. “What makes Halloween special to them is having so many people at our house. It’s just a big party,” Knight said.
It has gotten so big over the years that the Newnan City Council voted to close the section of College Street in front of their home on Halloween to keep everything safe for little goblins.
“Actually, it’s turned into a street block party because there’s thousands of people,” Knight said. “People who do not live here have a hard time imagining that, but it’s true.”
Knight said she hopes her daughters will help more with the whole process as they get older. “Right now it’s just a big playground in the front yard. They have a blast,” she said.
Having ghouls and skeletons around so much means the Knight sisters “don’t fear much of anything, really,” their mother said.
“Right now, there’s a life-size zombie in a crawl position on my den floor, waiting to be put in the yard on Halloween. It’s been there for weeks, and we don’t even notice it anymore,” Knight said.
When Knight was a little girl, she spent a lot of time on her grandparents’ cattle ranch in Texas. She would ride with her grandfather in his pickup and became interested in “an old, dilapidated clapboard house that was starting to cave in next to his property,” she remembered.
Her grandfather told her “the witches” lived there. She drew pictures of the witches and would place them on her grandparents’ patio. In the morning, she would find a silver dollar where the picture had been.
“Those are great memories for me. I enjoy reliving my childhood and helping to create great memories for children, especially my own,” Knight reflected.
“My imagination soared when I was a child. We tend to lose this as we get older. It gets tougher and tougher to hold onto,” she said. “Imaginations are what make things possible.”
The hordes who will come to the Knights on Thursday hoping for a treat will not be imaginary.
Last year, 3,000 trick-or-treating children came to the Knights’ door. “Because of this contest, I have no idea this year — 3,500, probably more,” Carrie Knight said. “Anybody have any contacts at a candy company?”