Ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night are not always make-believe.
In Falls Church’s Sleepy Hollow Manor neighborhood, a witch’s flyover unearthed life-sized creatures at a normally quaint house.
This is the place where Frankenstein can be seen rising from his coffin, a ferocious three-faced dog named “Fluffy” barks, growls and emits smoke, and giant, creepy spiders with legs as long as broomsticks can almost reach out and touch someone found meandering through their spooky spider tunnel.
The “Sleepy Hollow Halloween Maze” is the ever-expanding creation of Cat Tallant who’s been working on her passion for constructing monsters with flashing red eyes, werewolves and other Halloween delights for neighborhood children of all ages in her eighth season of free entertainment for the community.
“I do it because I love it,” Tallant said while clicking a handheld device to ignite the howls of growling scarecrows and standing cadavers.
No knives, gore or chainsaws for her, please. That’s not Tallant’s talent.
She goes in for the traditional: the witches, pumpkins and zombies with fangsome teeth and bewitching grimaces.
All she needs to craft her scares are duct tape, zip ties and a prayer and away she goes, building the new and patching the old.
Though Tallant warns that the very young may still be too frightened.
“I love the season and have always loved Halloween,” Tallant gleams in her devilish play place. This real estate agent, nurse and a student builds her own props.
This year she’s added a lighted maze to the front yard where a tall burlap fence guides thrill seekers on a scary trail to the back yard.
There, sound effects greet guests who pay a visit to the gruesome cemetery with a skeleton swinging over a pond, ghosts flying in trees and bodies rising from tombs.
Surprises await at the turning of every back, including a special one for Tallant’s daughter, Ashlynne, 26, who doesn’t know it yet, but crawling up a ladder to her bedroom window are a zombie bride and groom, an early wedding present from her mom. (Ashlynne is getting married next year and is not quite as enthusiastic about her mom’s passion as are other family members.)
“When my daughters were little-little, I started collecting props and building a Halloween village” which has grown over the years, too, and now lies about 20 feet long in “Dracula’s Mansion.”
Tallant estimates she spent $10,000 last year on new items and equipment; annual expenditures normally range from $4,500 to $6,000. About 300 batteries are the norm, and she doesn’t have any idea what all this costs electricity-wise since her bill is averaged over 12 months.
“I never looked to see,” she said.
Her biggest concerns “are the cars and keeping everyone safe,” making sure no one trips or falls, or gets bitten by a vampire or spider. (Witch’s salve may help.)
With her other daughter, Abigail, 24, Tallant has been assembling, taping and repairing the presentation full-time since September. They’ll be working right up until show time which begins Saturday at 6 p.m., before they take it all down after Halloween.
Tallant invites everyone to come and take a prowl and join the 100 or so who visit nightly. Last Sunday evening she led neighborhood children on a scream advance.
Her neighbors don’t mind the spectacle, Tallant said: “They are great and are so supportive. We’ve got the greatest neighborhood!” Sometimes they help with the supplies, but a few have put their houses on the market. Perhaps they’re scared off by creepy, crawly things or thin red eyeballs which blink and glow in the dark.
The haunted trail is open at 6415 Carolyn Drive, Saturday through Tuesday nights, 6 – 9 p.m until it closes for the year at the end of Halloween night. Beware the jumping giant spider.