Fetterolf Halloween Display | Paula Fetterolf (1971-2021)Cranesville, Pennsylvania


A slideshow containing images by photographer Fred Scruton.

Mid Atlantic Region

Mid Atlantic

Fetterolf Halloween Display

Paula Fetterolf (1971-2021)

Halloween provided Paula Fetterolf with an annual excuse to fill her front yard with a newly-themed display of her fancy. 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 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 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 towards 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 East. In front near the yellow brick sidewalk leading to Fetterolf’s door, the Wicked Witch’s black-striped leggings protruded out from under a fallen chunk of wooden house while the Lion cowered in the rear.

The Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz theme made a rare, much altered reappearance as a black-bodied, golden-amoured “Egyptian Knight” the following year (and now serves as a cannoneer in Fred Scruton’s nearby front yard), but usually the components of each new display are seen only once. Fetterolf begins the following year’s planning / acquiring process at least one, but typically several years in advance. Paula said decorating for Halloween was her “only creative outlet.”

Born in 1971, 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 worked as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), and served four years as the mayor of Cranesville (an unpaid position). While growing-up, she didn’t recall seeing any outsized Halloween displays in the area, and 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 her widower Joe had a Halloween-themed wedding, guests to their five-year anniversary parties were requested to arrive in costume, and although he’s not a Halloween enthusiast, Joe cheerfully helped with fabrication and construction of the displays. Their front entrance room is lined with traditional Halloween props, the lighted decorations visible in the window help loosely tie the yearly themes back to the Halloween season.

With no particular taste for the macabre, Fetterolf liked to keep her displays “kid-friendly,” and on Halloween night, dressed in a theme-inspired costume, she gave 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 kept an eye out for possible display props: a neighbor had given her a “made for parties” fiberglass coffin, and In 2002 she passed an Amish buggy for sale which became the “Boneville Hearse.” She would start painting the sidewalk to her front door in theme-related colors in July— setting off local speculation over what was about to pop-up this Halloween (everyone got the yellow brick road!).

For Halloween 2021, Joe carried-out Paula’s plans for 1950’s retro display featuring a large billboard for “Paula ’N Joe’s Diner.”

The first display I photographed in 2006:

Paula Fetterolf Halloween dispaly; Cranesville, PA 2006
Paula Fetterolf Halloween display; Cranesville, PA 2006

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