Come into the ‘Bright Side’ of Halloween

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter A few of Judy Paul’s Halloween collectibles at her home on Mercer Island. -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter A few of Judy Paul’s Halloween collectibles at her home on Mercer Island.
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It’s all treats and no tricks at one Mercer Island home today.

If you’re one of the lucky 35 to receive a glow-in-the-dark invitation to Halloween Coffee at Judy Paul’s, you’re in for some magic, all right.

But it won’t be the dark side, with squeaking doors, boiling cauldrons or spooky cackles. Rather, Paul will greet you cheerily at the door with a “Happy Halloween,” flashing pumpkins dangling from her ears and the aroma of apple crisp and pumpkin bread wafting from the kitchen.

Inside, you’ll be enveloped in seasonal folk art that has taken her 30 years to collect and a full week to unpack from 20 boxes. Fashionable witch hats perch in the rafters. A crow roosts atop the clock. And legs of a “squished witch” dangle from under the DVD player.

Garlands of sparkly pumpkins, black cats and spiders festoon the mirrors, and grandkids’ art is mixed with early 1900s trinkets and favors. Most have come from flea markets, garage sales or are gifts from friends, says Paul. Of course, not the Rie Munoz “Trick-or-Treat” wall hanging or the witch nutcrackers, or the 1916 framed crepe paper scene or the primitive picture of “Halloween Serenaders.”

If you visit the “ladies’ room,” you will find Paul’s whimsical effigy of her husband, Dave, sitting in a toy fire engine in the bathtub, perhaps wearing a Halloween hat.

There won’t be fortune-telling, although there are fortune telling cards on the table. There won’t be apple-bobbing or ghoulish costumes.

“Just non-stop chatting, eating and enjoying each others’ company,” says the hostess, who dressed up as a gypsy every year of her childhood. Now, Witch Way, Cat’s Meow, Mask Alley and lamps filled with candy corn help re-create her childhood in her Island home.

Her “Witch’s To-do List” hangs in the kitchen:

  • Put the cat out

  • Clean the broom

  • Boil the newt

  • Cast the spells

  • Carve the pumpkin

  • Scare the scarecrow

  • Spook the ghost

    The traditional Oct. 31 coffee klatch began 11 years ago, when Paul looked at her two Halloween mugs and decided to invite a couple of friends over to drink from them. Now, Dave valets cars for the guests as they drop in from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    Remarkably, this extensive collection of Halloween memorabilia is just the tip of the iceberg. When the page turns on the calendar, down comes the Halloween kitsch and up go Thanksgiving decorations. The home transforms into Santa’s Workshop and a Mexican Village in December.

    You may also recall five years ago when Paul brought her Nov.1-2 “Day of the Dead” display to the MI Library.

    “It represents altars of loved ones’ favorite things, where you feast and celebrate and listen to mariachi music,” said Paul. “It takes the scare out of death, and turns it into a festive celebration.”

    The ground level of Judy and Dave Paul’s home, as you can imagine, is a storehouse of their extensive collections. Dave collects vintage toys — tin noise-makers, board games, tops, windups, kazoos — everything he ever wanted in his childhood that he didn’t have as a foster kid. Judy loves Raggedy Ann and Andy, Little Lulu, baskets, tin pails and quilt-making. Dave built a small extension downstairs to help store it all.

    The Pauls, as you see, are celebrators.

    Let their seasonal magic begin.

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