One of the best parts about the spooky season is that it brings out our collective inner child, whether you prefer being scared witless or just want to dress up in your goofiest, finest regalia.
Nationwide, Halloween is a cultural and economic juggernaut. We Americans spent an estimated $10 billion or so last year on decorations, candy, and costumes, for both humans and pets.
Portland is no exception to the creepy extravagance, but there are some neighborhoods that truly go batty this time of year.
Kenny Tomizawa is a resident of Northeast Portland’s Alameda neighborhood where he says his home regularly sees more than 200 trick-or-treaters. That may have something to do with the high number of homeowners who, like Tomizawa, pour their heart and soul into decorating.
Tomizawa said his fascination with witchy festivities began as a kid when he and his neighborhood friends growing up in Oakland, California would set up makeshift haunted houses in their garages.
Tomizawa is now the father of adult children, but for many years he and his family would decorate their home with handmade gravestones carved out of foam insulation board. Each gravestone represents a character from a popular musical theater production (his kids were involved in theater throughout their childhood, and one of them is now pursuing a film degree at New York University). The family spends time each year picking out a new character and coming up with witty epitaphs.
“We’ll introduce two or three new gravestones each year,” he says. “People like to come by and see if they can spot them. It’s like an Easter egg.”
Each year, Tomizawa dresses up as a gravedigger while passing out candy and asking the names of trick-or-treaters so he can get "started" on their own headstones. He also employs the help of neighbors to create jump scares for the older kids as they approach the house.
Just south of Alameda is Portland’s Irvington neighborhood, also well-known as one of the city’s best for Halloween sightseeing and a treasure trove for trick-or-treaters looking to score big.
Caroline Brezing-Richards lives smack dab in a zone where very few homes aren’t sporting at least a skeleton or two in their yards.
“Everyone loves to put on scary makeup, dress up and decorate, whether that’s a little ghost in the window or just carving a pumpkin,” she says. “Halloween really brings people together.”
Brezing-Richards estimates her home sees between 200 and 300 visitors on Halloween night. And although her kids now profess to be too old for trick-or-treating, she says, they still scramble once 8 p.m. hits on All Hallows Eve to find a mask and get out into the streets for some candy.
Plenty of other areas across the city take pride in getting their ghoul on. Here are a few more to check out:
Big houses and big trees highlight this east-side neighborhood set in the shadow of Portland’s only volcano. Plenty of neighbors here are doing their part to make a somewhat already spooky neighborhood even spookier. We suggest a jaunt down Lincoln Street between 50th and 60th. Selfie seekers should not miss the house at the corner of SE Lincoln and 60th, which has a Frida Kahlo-inspired Dia de los Muertos theme going on, complete with a community ofrenda, plus a giant paper-mâché replica of Seymour, the human plant-eater of Little Shop of Horrors fame. (Follow along at @mt_tabor_creations on IG).
There’s just something about a historic neighborhood just screams Halloween. It could be the fact that several houses along Reed College Place look as though they were plucked straight out of Salem, Massachusetts and dropped into the middle of Portland. This is the kind of neighborhood where you might score a couple full-sized candy bars, too.
The circular streets of this inner eastside neighborhood are lined with homes absolutely itching to piss off your child’s dentist. A bit hillier than most, so bring your good walking shoes.
This neighborhood takes some keen awareness, or you might end up hitting the same street twice by accident (come on, they all look the same and streets go all which ways). But for what you lose in sense of direction, you’ll certainly gain in a full sack of candy. (Ask an in-the-know resident to point you towards a certain SE Elliot Avenue house whose owner is known to work at a Spirit Halloween store, and brings home all the remainders for decorations.)
If you love a good lawn inflatable, this is the spot for you. Lots of houses sporting fun, family-friendly decorations in this easily navigable neighborhood bookended by the University of Portland on the south end and Lombard Street to the north. Just don’t stay out too late or you’ll get trampled by costumed college students heading out to party.