Every October for the last decade or so, strange happenings descend upon Lambertville, a sleepy New Jersey town located 40 miles north of Philadelphia.
The epicenter of the weirdness is a tidy Victorian house, where it looks as if all the props and characters from a Tim Burton epic were air dropped onto the front lawn.
But this is no Hollywood set, it’s the home—and vision—of artist Dolores Dragan, whose fantastical Halloween display draws thousands of viewers from all over.
Though now retired, Dragan was an art teacher at the local school when she first had the idea for her ghoulish (but intentionally not scary or gory) tableau, which was inspired by a blacklight theater production she had a hand in creating.
What started as a modest array of elaborately decorated plaster-and-gauze figures blossomed into a cast of more than 80 characters. Soon neighbors began “hosting” some of her work on their properties and even adding their own creatures to the mix. Today, this little stretch of North Union Street is regularly rated as one of the best places to go trick or treating on the East Coast and has been featured on the TLC channel.
Why does Dragan do it? “I would like to donate memories every year to children who come by here,” she says. “Something they’ve never seen before, or will ever see again, but will talk about for the rest of their lives.”