By Stacia Glenn, The News Tribune
Deck the halls with skulls and pumpkins, and orange lights if you have them.
Halloween is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, except the lights strung around the houses glow eerily orange instead of cheery red.
Halloween has become the second-most-popular holiday, with about 70 percent of Americans celebrating and nearly half of them hanging spooky lights and decorations, according to the National Retail Foundation.
Jeffrey Brinker said hunting season usually keeps him too busy to mess with ghouls and goblins, but last year he went all-out at his house in Tacoma, Wash.
He has strategically placed nearly 700 orange and red lights around his house, terrace and shrubs. Red floodlights cast shadows on the garage and lighted pumpkins and ghosts dangle from the trees and windows.
"This started off when I had kids and now that they're all grown up, it gives me some time to be creative," said Brinker, 50. "It's nice to see the little kids' faces on Halloween, too."
He estimated he burned close to 30,000 watts of power every night when he lit up the neighborhood and said his electricity bill spiked "drastically."
The planning began a month before the holiday. Brinker spent several hours after work each night decorating and figuring out how to keep fuses from blowing, how to cover bulbs so they don't explode in the rain and how to child-proof his yard in case kids creep where they aren't supposed to play.
"I'm always pressed for time," he said.
Those who like to light up Halloween said they rarely buy bulbs and strands in October. Instead, they wait for the after-holiday sales and stock up.
Representatives for Target and Home Depot said light sales were up in 2011, from the previous year, but they don't track sale numbers by month so they couldn't provide specifics.
Theresa and Craig Hamilton look forward to scooping up cheap lights for Halloween, but this year they used lights in a different way at their home.
After researching colored lights online, the Hamiltons learned green lights cast the best shadows, so they installed several green floodlights in their front yard to highlight their simulated graveyard dubbed "Hamilton Hollow."
"Every year, we keep adding more lights," said Theresa Hamilton.
The couple got into Halloween when they moved into their home, and their real estate agent encouraged them to continue the tradition of dressing up a wood-carved bear.
Last year, they placed a giant pumpkin over the bear's head and put a sickle and lamp in his hand to make it look like the Headless Horseman.
Traditional jack-o-lanterns light up Henry Heritage's porch.
The 56-year-old man has spent two decades collecting pumpkins and last year arranged 76 of them in front of his house, some stacked three high.
The flickering light from inside the jack-o-lanterns – some fake, some real – often attract passersby who stop to take photographs or talk to Heritage's great-nieces and great-nephews who help him carve them.
"It started off with just a couple, then we added more and more," Heritage said. "Now it's like an addiction."
©2012 The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)
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