Wirth Watching: It started with a pumpkin, turning into a history of Halloween

Wirth

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4)- In the last days of October, people have seen their share of pumpkins, skeletons, and a few dozen strange high-tech animated goulash characters. However, it’s not often that people find all of that in one yard. 

ABC4’s Craig Wirth recently came across what appeared to be the whole history of Halloween decorations in one Sugarhouse home.

About 30 years ago, LeAnne Bollschweiler put out a pumpkin in her front yard. 

“I just had some pumpkins, just some store-bought pumpkins, and a few little real pumpkins,” she said.

Then something happened. She got another pumpkin, and then another, and another…

“Oh, I don’t know. It just possessed me. It’s overtaken me,” Bollschweiler said. “And now it’s just like, you know, I just, I don’t know. I just love it. And all my neighbors love it. They get really excited when I start decorating.”

Soon enough, spooky spiders carved onto pumpkins started appearing at her house. Next, it was Dracula who appeared. And then it was the ghostly and the ghastly that appeared, all of them serenaded by a skeleton cowboy band that plays the William Tell overture.

But above all, there is a plentiful and delightful pumpkin patch greeting everyone who passes by. It’s something that Bollschweiler looks forward to every year. 

“Halloween’s my favorite and I’ve just been adding and adding a lot of these pumpkins,” she says. “I’ve carved them all. And I started carving them in 2003, so some of them are pretty old.”

Pumpkins are always at the ready, especially during Halloween time. Back in the 1950s, you could get a “garden fresh for the Jack O’ Lantern” pumpkin for just four cents a pound (that would be 46 cents a pound today, adjusted for inflation). 

In the 1930s, a person could get a whole Jack O’ Lantern for just five cents- the same price as a Halloween mask.

Nowadays, Jack O’ Lanterns are just spooky faces. They’ve evolved into carved-out pirate ships, spiders,  goblins, and even Shrek. But these are tame compared to the pumpkins of yesteryear when they would be placed on the window sill. 

News clippings of the times said older boys made a habit of stealing people’s front gates and hiding them. Because of that, homeowners would take their own gates off during Halloween and put them away so that they wouldn’t get stolen.

Now, that wasn’t a cool thing to do and it certainly wasn’t as high-tech like the modern banjo banger you can find at Bollschweiler home. 

“Over time people just decided to do more stuff and more things come out on the market,” she said. “And, you know, everybody just kind of got involved. I guess Halloween’s a pretty big time.”

Ultimately, the decorations are for the neighbors to see. Interestingly enough, the adults are just as much into it as the kids are. 

“My kids and I came here for years and they’re all grown up, but I still love to come,” one neighbor said. “It’s just fun to get in the spirit of the holidays.”

Kids are equally intrigued by the decorations in Bollschweiler’s yard. 

“I think other kids could come here because maybe they like pumpkins or they like to get, like, kind of scared, but laugh at the same time.” said one of the kids who stopped by to see Bollschweiler’s decorations. 

“I hope they get a lot of enjoyment and wow. Yeah. And there’s like I say, there are 98 of these pumpkins.” Bollschweiler said.

In her yard, you see the evolution of Halloween decorations, from basic Jack O’ Lantern carving to high-tech monsters. Bollschweiler has to start all the way back in September to get everything set up for Halloween. And as soon as it’s over, she will start bright and early to take it all down. But just wait until the next holiday season.

And by the way, Craig is still partial to pumpkins. And why is that? Well, because every year somebody always calls him up and says, “Hey. I got a pumpkin that looks just like you!”

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