The night was dark and ominous. To the man walking the street carrying a small child in his arms, it felt as though anything could happen.
Then, a sound: metal dragging across the pavement. Looking up, the man saw the source of the noise: a greasy-haired girl with a tattered dress, dragging a shovel. Her face was pale and her eyes, recessed deep in their sockets, were dark. She looked as though she had spent the night in a cooler. As she dragged her burden across the street toward the pair, the man looked beyond her to see a creepy sign hanging above her head: “Churchill Kill-de-sac.”
Over the years, I’ve heard of many nice areas around town to live in if you want to be connected to your neighbors. In fact, there are several streets in our town that are nearly famous for their residents’ ability to connect in the community through events, dinner parties, and social outings. I’ve even heard about a few houses where, if the porch light is on, it’s an open invitation to stop in.
Then there’s Churchill Street. Most of the year, this single-block cul-de-sac is the perfect example of the type of area I described above: a social, friendly neighborhood community at its finest.
But for one night a year in late October, Churchill Street transforms. And for those of you who have not heard about or experienced the Churchill Halloween block party, let me assure you: it’s in a league of its own.
Most of the homeowners on the block participate in the now-legendary-themed Halloween block party, getting together weeks in advance to plan and vet ideas until they come up with the next theme. The first event in 2005 was called “The Car Crash,” and it was everything you would expect and more; car crash scenes littered the whole block — with real cars!
Thanks to the huge success of the first party, word quickly spread. Today, hundreds of people come to visit Churchill to see what they will come up with next. Some of the more memorable themes include the Churchill Cinema Scary Movie Night, Churchill Carnival, Churchill Kill-de-sac — and one of my favorites, the Churchill Correctional Compound. On this particularly spooky evening, all the residents were either inmates or corrections officers. And while the annual bash is open to all ages, many of the sets that year were definitely not kid-friendly!
Given the over-the-top nature of the parties, the children on this block have grown up in an almost theatrical environment, and it shows. They put a lot of time into building the props and acting out their parts — and they are trained not to break character!
By contrast, Halloween in the McCurry house is admittedly a much tamer tradition. My children have always selected non-scary costumes: bumblebees, football players, a racecar driver. An EMT, a recycled box, a pumpkin. Then we’ve seen the characters: Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ariel, Snow White, Dorothy, Cleopatra, Pink, and even a couple of Power Rangers.
This year, my sons and I will be wearing Minnesota Vikings jerseys. It’s nice to know that even in a Bears-loving town like ours, the boys will still side with their dad when it’s time to choose their uniforms!
Of course, before I had children, I always thought we would just skip over Halloween altogether. Or, barring that more sensible approach, I imagined my children displaying their childlike faith by dressing up as the saints in Christendom.
“Really?” an older and wiser me asks my past self. “Saints? Would anyone at a Halloween party recognize Paul and Barnabas' costumes?”
Though comical, the connection isn’t as unlikely as you might think. In fact, the roots of Halloween can be traced to the early Christian church, when All Saints’ Day — a Christian alternative to the pagan Samhain festival from Ireland — was set aside as a day to remember the martyrs. All Saints’ Day (and the night before it, All Hallows’ Eve) eventually dovetailed with the pagan celebration over the years, giving us the spooky, costumed holiday we enjoy today…
Or don’t enjoy, as my daughter experienced when the girl with the pale face locked eyes with us. Before we could escape, her shovel and deathly countenance were upon us, staring at us from mere inches away and mirroring our every step. Too young to understand that it was all an act, my daughter began to cry.
“Now would be a good time to offer a smile,” I told the girl, but she would have none of it! She was far too well-trained as a Churchill zombie to break character so easily. Thankfully, a caring Churchill neighbor handed Abigail a piece of candy, and the tears quickly disappeared.
Sadly, I’ve heard that the Churchill folks are taking a year off from their themed Halloween block party this year — maybe forever. But the spooky memories — or should I say, nightmares? — won’t fade anytime soon.
A Note From Churchill Residents:
“To our Clarendon Hills friends: We on Churchill Place had a difficult time coming to the decision that our traditional Halloween celebration has likely run its course. We’ve had so much fun planning it and putting it together over the past 9 years that it was hard to let it go. Finally, though, life’s changes made us realize that we wouldn't be able to continue with the same enthusiasm and commitment that we once brought to it. It’s best to let it go with the positive memories we all have. We thank all of you for coming to our cul-de-sac each Halloween to support us and express your appreciation.”
The Families of Churchill Place
Mike is a Clarendon Hills
resident; husband; Indian prince; Indian Guide Dad; a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker. Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around Clarendon Hills. It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlights a new business, or announces school happenings. He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting Clarendon Hills residents and even a little about Clarendon Hills history
. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”.