Lottie Banner’s house has eyes, for the second year in a row.
When the big shiny, yellow eyes with black construction-paper pupils appeared in the second-floor attic windows this month, Banner’s across-the-street neighbor messaged her within minutes to share the excitement.
“It’s so freaky,” Banner said, smiling.
Banner lights the giant eyes at night to heighten the spooky effect.
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Shocking passers-by with their unexpected Halloween decorations has become a trademark of Banner, 42, and her best friend Angela Campbell, 43, interior designers who have made Halloween their creative outlet.
For 13 years, Banner and Campbell have thrown elaborately decorated Halloween parties in their SouthPark homes. When a friend wanted to set her wedding date for Oct. 31, 2015, she first asked Banner and Campbell if it was OK.
“I love Lottie and Angela’s parties, because they go all-out every year,” wrote Misty Winn, who has attended 11 of the annual parties, in an email. “Whether they paint the walls black or have a fog machine or a candy piñata for the kids, it is always a good time.”
Banner and Campbell often alternate the party sites between their houses; this year, Banner will host the party in her home.
The two began decorating in September. They are picky about details, from lighting to music to knickknacks. They drape the furniture with fabric, hang cheesecloth from the dining-room chandelier and suspend scary figures from the trees in the backyard.
Banner has put away the books regularly on her display case, replacing them with “Helter Skelter,” “The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology” and similarly themed volumes.
They also have displayed 6-foot tall ghosts, a skeleton in a hanging cage that occasionally calls out “I’m coming to get you!” and a table introduced last year that is dedicated to the horror movie “Carrie.”
Banner said she was inspired when a former boyfriend’s children had birthdays on Halloween and Valentine’s Day.
“Decorating for Halloween was so much fun,” Banner said. “Nothing has to be perfect, and everybody gets to dress up. It’s just become an obsession.”
Banner and Campbell met while studying interior design at Central Piedmeont Community College, but they became friends when Campbell began work at Eeek Designs, Banner’s decorative paint-finishes company.
Most of their Halloween decorations are homemade. One of Banner’s favorites is an automated Christmas-caroler statue, which she wrapped in cheesecloth and turned into a movable mummy.
Campbell’s children, Will, 12, and Julia, 10, have been around the decorations so long they don’t flinch even at some of the more gruesome displays, Campbell said.
Banner and Campbell say they like to create a few new surprise decorations for their guests each year.
In 2013, they painted blood dripping down the dining room walls. This year, one of the new decorations will be in the guest bathroom.
“Let’s just say it will give someone with arachnophobia a heart attack,” Campbell said.
Their 2014 theme is “Mummy Manor,” and this week. the friends are creating life-size mummies using papier mache and inflatable dolls.
Living in a house filled with Halloween decorations can be creepy; Banner said she had a few nightmares last year, but the two always look forward to planning the party.
Next year, however, they will take the year off to attend their friend’s Halloween wedding, but they have no plans to end the annual event, or stop making new decorations.