A Halloween tradition grows in Black Mountain

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News
Guydana Taylor and her dog Wendell prepare to welcome hundreds of trick-or-treaters to their Black Mountain home on Halloween.

For many, Halloween is a night where spirits roam among the costume-clad children and adults walking the streets as they go door-to-door. In one Black Mountain neighborhood, those ghosts and ghouls won’t have an easy time finding room. 

An informal, but increasingly popular tradition will return, Thursday, Oct. 31, when a mass of people will descend on a few festive blocks near the center of town in search of sweet treats.

Estimates vary on the number of people who flocked the streets between East Connally Street and New Bern Avenue last year, but everyone who participates in the holiday agrees that it’s grown significantly in recent years. 

“I have a good idea how many trick-or-treaters we got last year,” said Jack Taylor, whose Church Street home has become widely recognized for its elaborate decorations based on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie series. “It was over 1,800, and I know this because we buy our candy and it’s gotten to the point where we can only give one piece of candy to each kid. We had 1,800 pieces of candy and we ran out.”

Black Mountain police started closing Church and Connally Streets in recent years to accommodate the growing number of people coming to the neighborhood on Halloween, but Laurel Circle and North Dougherty are all heavily impacted by the crowds. 

“This year will be my third Halloween here,” said police chief Shawn Freeman. “The first one, there were a lot of people, but last year there were so many more.”

The department begins closing the streets to non-residents around 5:15 p.m., the chief said, and officers set up in the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Black Mountain to allow pedestrians to safely cross Montreat Road. Officers counted 1,200 - 1,500 pedestrians crossing there over a four-and-a-half-hour span in 2018. 

“We talk to the people who come through and they come from all over,” Freeman said. “People come from McDowell County, Burke County, Haywood County and other parts of Buncombe County. A lot of them told us they’d heard about trick-or-treating in Black Mountain, but didn’t realize it was so popular.”

Jack Taylor, one of several residents on Church Street who decorates his home for Halloween, gave away 1,800 pieces of candy last year before running out.

Halloween has long been a popular holiday in the neighborhood, according to long-time resident Carol Tyson. 

“We all love Halloween, so we’ve always kind of fed off of each other over the years,” she said. “Several of us started decorating our houses, putting displays up in our yards and dressing up around 30 years ago. We really enjoyed it from the beginning.”

Tyson and her neighbors started to notice a steady increase in trick-or-treaters a little over 15 years ago, she said. 

“Most of the neighbors really enjoy Halloween night,” she said. “I do believe that we have people who want to live in the neighborhood just so they can be part of the festivities. Most of them are so excited for their first Halloween.”

While the epicenter of the activity tends to be Church Street, few are more excited about the arrival of the holiday than Guydana Taylor, her basset hound Wendell and the rest of her family. 

“I used to live on Connally, and I always loved being part of Halloween there,” said Guydana, who lives just outside of the area closed to traffic. “When my husband passed, I moved into this house, but I wanted to keep being a part of it. My children make a lot of my decorations and my grandchildren enjoy being part of it, too.”

Guydana’s yard features faux headstones featuring names like “Izzy Gone” and “Ben Better.” 

Wendell’s gravely bark greets people as they arrive, but many are in for a trick, as well as a treat. 

“My son is making a coffin right now,” Guydana said smiling. “My grandson pops out and scares the trick-or-treaters. It’s always so much fun.”

The family adds to the decoration every year, she continued. 

“We all have such a great time with it and the kids that come are so cute in their little costumes,” added Guydana, who gave away just over 400 pieces of candy last year. 

Family is a common thread for many of the people who join in the Halloween festivities in the neighborhood every year. 

“My daughter Olivia is now 28, and when she was in preschool we invited a lot of her friends to our house to trick-or-treat,” Tyson said. “It’s so much fun now to see all of them come back with their children. We’ve been around long enough to see several generations coming through, and that’s wonderful.”

For Jack, who also decorates his mother’s house next door every year, the annual event provides an opportunity for family bonding.

Halloween decorations at the home of Jack Taylor are inspired by the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie series. The Church Street home is a popular destination for trick-or-treaters every year.

“We grew up trick-or-treating,” he said. “When our youngest daughter was little, we wanted to start decorating, but we didn’t want it to be scary or bloody.”

One day the family was driving home and a funny request from their 4-year-old daughter turned into a Halloween tradition that continues to live on. 

“She asked if she could watch the movie ‘Pirates of the Carrot and Bean,’” Jack said. “My wife and I realized what she meant, and once my daughter saw the movie she wanted to know if we could decorate with pirates.”

The home has become popular for its pirate theme over the years, as Jack and his family continues to watch the “Pirates of the Carribean” movies in search of details that can be incorporated into the decorations. 

It’s been surprising to see the neighborhood become a destination for so many trick-or-treaters over the years, he said. 

“I don’t know what happened, it just got so popular,” Jack said. “We actually started having people come up to our porch through the front and exit down the side, as a form of crowd control. I’m really surprised how much it’s grown, but it’s nice to see people have a safe, fun environment for Halloween.”

While Halloween in the Black Mountain neighborhood is not an official event, the crowds it’s beginning to draw rival those of other popular traditions like the chamber of commerce’s Holly Jolly and Christmas Parade. 

“It sure has become a big thing here,” said Town Manager Josh Harrold. “From the town’s end, we just work to make sure that everyone who participates is safe. We keep the police out there and the fire department, so we’re accessible and can be there to assist if we’re needed.”

Harrold and his family are typically among the people taking part in the occasion. 

“I think it’s great,” he said. “From a personal perspective, it’s a big draw because I get to take my daughter to an area that has become kind of a hub for trick-or-treating in Buncombe County. It’s an environment where everyone seems to have a lot of fun while feeling safe.”

Halloween decorations at the home of Jack Taylor are inspired by the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie series. The Church Street home is a popular destination for trick-or-treaters every year.

The family-friendly atmosphere is referenced by many of the people the police speak to, Freeman said. 

“A lot of folks are looking for something fun to do with their families on Halloween, and they see this as an ideal option,” he said. “Even as the crowd has grown over the years, we haven’t had any incidents reported during this event. I think it says a lot about Black Mountain as a whole, that it’s a safe community where people from all over feel like they can bring their children and enjoy Halloween.” 

This year, the Black Mountain Library, on North Dougherty, will extend its hours to 8 p.m. to serve the crowd. The building will remain open for trick-or-treaters looking to take a break from the festivities. 

“Halloween has always been my favorite time of the year,” Tyson said. “I think it’s great to live in a community that celebrates it in such a special way.”