Residents are no longer satisfied with putting up scarecrows or carving pumpkins to decorate for Halloween.
Decorating has been taken to a new level with orange lights, large spiders in spider webs that cover entire rows of bushes, and ghoulish figures that hang out on porches.
It took Jean Pena of Gloucester a week and almost $300 to decorate her studio window at 186 E. Main St. for Halloween.
"I had so much fun making this window," Pena said. "I think people are getting into Halloween these days because it lets them be imaginative. Halloween is about being something you're not and I think everyone is enjoying that more and more."
The display, a team effort with help from family and friends - including her daughter Kristian McCarthy, 35, is a colorful medley of ghosts, scarecrows, jack-o-lanterns, witches and detached hands. Framed by a black, glittery background and an array of orange lights, it often attracts neighbors and other residents who are driving past, Pena said.
Pena, a gallery assistant for the North Shore Arts Association and the owner of Peanut Bunkers art studio, is known locally for her work with stained glass and watercolors.
"I moved here to become an artist and this is just another area I can apply my skill and creativity to," Pena said.
For Sally Santos, 53, of Washington Street, the time and money spent on her decorations is done for the children.
"I love how the kids walk by and point," she said. "It makes Halloween fun and that's what the holiday is all about."
Santos and her husband, Ronald, 48, have lived in their home for seven years and just began decorating the front porch two years ago. As the youngest of nine, Santos said she grew up making decorations and dressing up for Halloween. She remembers her mother dressing up as a witch every year.
Their home near Grant Circle is covered with spider webs and surrounded by ghosts, gravestones and pumpkins. A large 6-foot mummy hangs on the front door.
The Santos said they spent more than $100 on the decorations this year but that next year they intend to go bigger and better, with a witch and casket display on the porch.
"So many people, from Gloucester and out of town, have called and told us how much they enjoy our decorations," Santos said. "And ever since we started decorating, we actually got trick-or-treaters. Last year, the first year we decorated, we got almost 50 kids."
For the Boltons, decorating started as a family craft project. Martha Bolton, 56, said her two sons, now both in their 20s, decorate for Halloween every year. Their blue house on Washington Street is covered with ghosts, gravestones and scarecrows, many of which are homemade.
"This has always been one of my favorite holidays," Bolton said. "And it's great to see more and more people get involved."
Bolton said that she and her husband, Lee, 54, have worked over the years to make a majority of the decorations.
"It's a great family activity and even though my sons are too old now, I still really enjoy it," she said.
Myles Eason said if he and his wife, Sandy, don't put out their Halloween decorations, the neighbors start calling. The Easons, who live on Main Street in Rockport, have been improving their decorations each year since they began decorating for Halloween a few years ago.
"We retired and began to work around the house and about three years ago, we decided to add more to the house between our summer flowers and Christmas decorations," Eason said.
The Halloween improvements included several ghosts hung over the lawn and pumpkins nestled near the walkway. A scarecrow display on top of bales of hay is the largest attraction on the couple's front lawn.
The Easons estimate they spend only $50 a year, well under the expense of their Christmas decorations.
"I think everyone is used to looking up and seeing something fun," said Sandy Eason. "I really enjoy it, so we keep doing it every year."
The $300 Studio Window
Where: 186 E. Main St. at Peanut Bunkers Studio
What: A colorful medley of ghosts, scarecrows, jack-o-lanterns, witches and detached hands with a black, glittery background and an array of orange lights. The words "Halloween" and "Boo" are strung across the top of the display.
Who: Jean Pena, a local artist and a gallery assistant for the North Shore Arts Association
Time Involved: Seven days
Cost: $300 for some of the statues, lights and the black, glittery background.