This haunted house has been a Halloween staple in Listuguj for over a decade
Judy Ann Isaac may be slowing down, but her passion for spooky decor isn't
What started with an idea to repurpose a discarded wedding decoration on which to hang a few spooky masks has evolved into an annual hair-raising, Halloween extravaganza at one home in the Mi'kmaq First Nation of Listuguj.
Judy Ann Isaac, 71, has spent the past few weeks hanging up creepy, crawly decorations — most of which she made or enhanced by hand — in order to deliver the kind of haunted house the community has come to expect every October.
"It makes people anxious, they want to see what's going on. It's something for them to look forward to … and I like to see what I can do every year," said Isaac, who noted that the house never looks the same.
"It got bigger and bigger every year," she said.
To get their Halloween goodies, children — often trailing anxiously alongside their parents — must make their way through Isaac's dimly lit mudroom, lined floor to ceiling with ghosts, goblins and ghouls amid a soundtrack featuring maniacal laughter, doors slamming and chains rattling.
WATCH | Judy Ann Issac's home is filled with decorations collected over the years:
Sometimes, Isaac says, she needs to customize the decorations she buys because the faces aren't scary enough or they're smiling.
"I put evil eyebrows and change the mouth or [add] some black teeth showing," she said. "It's gotta look scary for a haunted house, it's not supposed to be smiling!"
Some chilling displays move and even jump out at you for that extra thrill.
"There's some [trick-or-treaters] I have to run after and give them their bag of candy," Isaac laughed, saying she feels bad when kids cry, but it also "means I did my job."
Not only does the senior's job involve decorating the inside of her house, but passersby can also enjoy her lawn, which is haunted by skeletons, ghosts, witches and nearly 50 handmade gravestones, which Isaac made from repurposed wooden cabinet doors.
Isaac got the do-it-yourself idea after passing by a yard near a carpentry company where workers would throw wood and unused cupboards into a giant bin.
"I was looking at them one day [and] I said, 'wait a minute, I can use that,'" she said. So every week, she'd bring along a little stool and rummage through the bin to take as many cupboard doors home as she could.
She then painted them grey and used a marker to write funny epitaphs such as, "RIP: I told you I was sick" — a personal favourite of Isaac's.
She said the spookiest part about Halloween is the waste it can produce, so she goes out of her way to create decorations using recycled materials.
Isaac said she took up decorating after her mother — an avid Christmas decorator — died.
"She was really, really good," she said. "I always think of my mom, what she would do, so I have to go one step ahead," she laughed.
Describing herself as bossy by nature, Isaac said she has put together and hung her decorations all by herself every year. Except this one.
"This is the first year I had to have help from my granddaughter … because I can't walk," said Isaac, who uses a wheelchair and a walker.
"Every year it gets harder and harder because I'm getting older," she said. "But as long as I can — well, not walk — but crawl or whatever, I'll keep doing it."
'Decorated to the max'
That comes as a relief for Listuguj police officer Sharon Martin.
"It's not a lot of people who get involved in like the decorations like that," she said."When we got there and we walked in her hallway, we didn't expect it to be all blacked out and decorated to the max."
She said her kids screamed, and she told them to close their eyes and walk through with her.
"It's just so much fun to see somebody get that much into the spirit," she said.
Martin said the force is also taking part in the holiday, handing out goody bags to kids in the community to keep them safe as they trick-or-treat.
The bags include safety tips, colouring paper, a water bottle and reflective stickers that they can stick on their costume and on their bag to keep them visible to cars.
There will also be extra officers patrolling at night with their lights on, who will be giving out candy and extra reflective stickers.
"It makes running into the police a little less scary," she said.
with files from Nation Isaac