"Opening night for the Halloween Display is this Friday at 6:30 p.m. We will once again be raising funds for the Gianna Cirella Memorial Fund," read the text. I knew immediately that Danny Hall and his wife, Bethany, weren't just putting a few pumpkins
“Opening night for the Halloween Display is this Friday at 6:30 p.m. We will once again be raising funds for the Gianna Cirella Memorial Fund,” read the text.
I knew immediately that Danny Hall and his wife, Bethany, weren’t just putting a few pumpkins on their doorstep and strands of cotton in the bushes with a giant plastic spider. Danny has had a thing for Halloween for years. He’d send me photographs of holograms across the front of his house on Warwick Neck, which at the time were a step above most home Halloween displays.
He’s way beyond the holograms. If there’s a comparison, I’d pick Mayor Frank Picozzi, who is far beyond outlining his home with strands of Christmas lights. Whether it’s Halloween or Christmas, Hall and Picozzi are in a class of a few possessed by ratcheting it up their displays every year with a new wow.
You probably have a Danny or Frank in your neighborhood. The Halloween and Christmas displays get bigger and more elaborate every year. There was a time when I attributed such manifestations to simply seeking attention, as I’d get the calls to get pictures for the paper. I don’t think that’s the case anymore when it comes to the diehard decorators.
I texted Danny back inquiring whether he would be home Saturday afternoon to give me a daylight walk-through of his carnival-themed display on his front lawn. A message bounced back that he’d be home from work (he is an officer at the Department of Corrections) about 3:15. As it turned out, I followed his Jeep up Warwick Neck Avenue and pulled in right behind him.
Danny was happy with opening night. It raised $100 for the Gianna Cirella Memorial Fund. He met Tara Cirella, Gianna's mom at a fitness gym and wanted to do something in memory of the Tol Gate soccer player who died from sepsis. Ever since, donations from those visiting the “Hall Asylum” go to the fund. Last year’s donations topped $2,500.
Danny figures the carnival theme is fitting, as his home is just up the road from the turnoff to Rocky Point. And, indeed, the walk-through display, with its music and chatter from animated characters, has the feel of an amusement park and then some. I returned that night and the experience was all the more pronounced with the addition of excited voices, genuine screams and laughs and fog from machines Danny has strategically located. The fog has an eerie effect on light. That and the figures springing from the darkness rival the Rocky Point House of Horrors.
Putting it all together is no easy task. In just the last week, Danny spent 40 hours in addition to his full-time job at the ACI building and painting the carnival entrance, wiring the animated characters, chasing down faulty circuits and ensuring a safe walk for visitors. With the cost of lumber being so high, Danny re-purposed his campaign signs from his unsuccessful bids for the City Council and School Committee.
And now that the display is running – 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Sunday and 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Halloween – the work doesn’t end. Rain is his nemesis. He bags all the characters and shuts down the electricity.
Picozzi discovered he was not alone in his passion to develop digital light shows. There were others he learned from and those he helped. Danny has become friends with others staging elaborate Halloween displays, including Bob Rayhall, 47 Cavalcade Blvd., who has a walk-through display, and Mike Daniels of 69 Darrow Drive, who has built a 40-foot-long pirate ship as part of his display.
Is there a common denominator to those who invest so much of their time and resources to providing an entertaining diversion for others?
I asked Danny what he gets out of the carnival.
He said his personal reward is watching the visitors, seeing their surprised faces and hearing their screams – incidentally more from adults than kids – and their laughs. Most telling, however, was that he wants to keep the story of Gianna alive.
There are parallels to why Picozzi keeps decorating his home even though he is now mayor. He enjoys people watching his show, kids placing their letters in the Santa mailbox and the community that comes together at Christmas. Donations at his display go to the Tomorrow Fund.
If there’s a common denominator, it’s giving others pleasure, and that is a gift.