It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!

Welcome to Hyde Park: expect long lines, political satire and serious candy.

Is there a neighborhood in your area that is known for spectacular Christmas lights? You know, the one where neighbors get competitive trying to out-do each other until one day someone ends up with a live alpaca* and a Santa sleigh on the roof?

You know, THAT neighborhood.  Well, imagine THAT neighborhood, but swap Christmas for Halloween, then throw in ten thousand children, 25 metric tons of candy, blaring music, a few fog machines, then shake and stir: welcome to Hyde Park!

Would you like to be known as “the house with the headless mummies”?

If you are ever in Chicago this time of year, you need to get your butt down to Hyde Park. No one does Halloween quite like Hyde Parkers. It’s a point of pride. Everyone participants. Everyone. Even those of us who have been over-scheduled slackers who couldn’t do more than make some luminaries and buy candy and feel bad because we got hungry and ate half the candy before the first kid rang the bell it lead to bellyaching on the couch for hours.


My friends who live in the suburbs tell me they most often recognize their neighbors by their car. Hyde Park folks most often recognize each other by their Halloween decor.

Real conversation:

“You know the Hirshes? The ones with headless mummies on the porch?”
“Oh yeah, the ones that dress their Labrador like a dragon, right?”
“No, no, that’s the Calvin’s house. The Calvins have the dragon dog and the Hirshes have the graveyard driveway.”
“Oh yeah, of course, the graveyard driveway. Now I know.”

One year my friend Josh sat on the steps of his apartment building and handed out candy dressed as a dead bride. Five years later, neighbors see him at the corner store and say  “Hey man, where is your veil?”

Harper Street traffic is shut down to make way for thousands of pedestrians and a 20′ scarecrow  

The crossroads to all the Hyde Park Halloween hoopla is 57th and Harper. It’s almost like a block party, but hardly anyone at the party lives on the block. See, trick-or-treating isn’t exactly safe in every neighborhood in Chicago, so the Harper Street folks put on a show and welcome children from all over the city. It’s a wonderful tradition, not to mention, Serious Business. Sometimes I think I would love to live on Harper so I could join in the spectacle, but then I think of all the time and expense that goes into the Halloween season and thank my lucky stars I don’t live anywhere near Harper Street. Folks on Harper prepare for months. My friend Jeanna’s parents rented a house on Harper a few years ago and reported purchasing 2,000 mini boxes of Milk Duds, only to run out of goodies by 7pm.


Lots of University of Chicago folks live on Harper Street, including the skeleton of a law student who died of boredom reading “Criminal Procedure and the Constitution”….and down the block, the Ghost of Davy Crockett who hands out candy alongside anecdotes of American history.

Election years are the best. Every two years, Halloween is guaranteed to fall within a few days of the election and it makes for great fun. In addition to its most famous **resident, Hyde Park is home to the University of Chicago, and like most college towns folks tend to be pretty politically active/aware. On any given day of the year, it’s not unusual to find neighbors engaging in a friendly argument over foreign trade policy or health care legislation or religious convictions, etc.. Hyde Parkers don’t shy away from confrontation, even when it comes to infusing political ideologies into their Halloween decorations. For a number of reasons I’m not going to show you pictures of any overtly political Halloween themed decorations this year, sufficient to say, there was and ample supply of zombie tea parties and references to a certain “witch” in Delaware.

Never a dull moment in Hyde Park.

* That alpaca on the roof story is totally true.
** President Obama officially resides in Hyde Park, although I have never tried trick-or-treating the Secret Service. Next year 😉


  1. Jills says

    I love taking the munchkins to Hyde Park! It’s so diverse and friendly and no gross/scary stuff to worry about. Wish more places were like that!

  2. says

    I loved reading your story about Hyde Park. And I thought WE lived in “the” Halloween neighborhood. Hyde Park sounds like an incredible spot for community pride.

  3. says

    Although not as serious as Hyde Park my neighborhood growing up got into the Halloween spirit more than most. My dad always had a graveyard going on in the front yard and one year someone rented a cotton candy machine and another neighbor made a cardbox maze for all the kids to crawl through and a third had a haunted house in the garage. To this day Halloween is still my favorite holiday based on my great memories.

  4. says

    My husband went to school there. HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS about Hyde Park. May have to see this.

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