Elaborate Halloween displays bring spirit of the season to Preston Street


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These life-sized dioramas, which change daily, are the creations of Alain Nantel and his eight-year-old son, Alexandre Nantel, their outsized and fantastic response to the youngster’s summertime question to his father as a pandemic threw a layer of uncertainty over the future: “What’s going to happen to Halloween during COVID?”

Alexandre loves Halloween, perhaps even more than Christmas, and the idea that it might be cancelled was almost unthinkable. But instead of letting his son wallow in the despair of a potentially spiritless Oct. 31, Alain steered him towards a solution.

“I told him, ‘When you’re faced with an obstacle or a challenge, you have to define your objective. Is your objective the candy, or is Halloween about an atmosphere? Because we can still decorate, we can still create an atmosphere.’

“The spotlight is on COVID and trick-or-treating, but how can we turn that around and make it even more memorable? We can decorate, and we can decorate big time.”

The constraints they considered included a small front yard, possible inclement weather, and theft. To counter at least two of those, they decided to bring their outdoor decorations inside each evening, which led to the idea of changing the setup each day, beginning on Monday the 19.

“We get up around 6:30 and set up shop, and kids walking by on their way to school have something new to see each morning. Each scene tells a story.”

So for the time being, at least, the living room behind the Nantels’ front porch scenes resembles Hell’s green room, with animatronic characters and others waiting their turn, each standing or lying idly alongside various rubber rats, torn HAZMAT suits, chainsaws, body parts, spikes and enough theatrical blood to keep John Carpenter flush.

Alain Nantel, and his eight-year-old son Alexandre Nantel have been putting daily terrifying Halloween decorations outside their home at 52 Preston in Ottawa.

Alain, who estimates he’s spent close to $4,000 to create his tableaux, posts photos and videos on his Facebook page, while passersby have spread the word on Reddit and other social media sites, encouraging people from all over to visit.

“What started out as something just for the school kids in the neighbourhood has really spread. It’s a way to give something to the community. I told my kid that we’re not in as bad a situation as other people and this is a way to give back.”

Alexandre’s assessment of the pandemic-inspired all saints’ season, meanwhile, is unequivocal: “This is the greatest Halloween.”

And it won’t all stop at the end of this month, either, with Alain planning on visiting the Halloween stores afterwards, hunting for 50 per cent off sales in anticipation of future Halloweens.

“We’ve created a monster,” he admits. “We’ve started this and now we can’t go back. You can’t let people down.”

bdeachman@postmedia.com