Terri Lacey and Bill Shelton go all out for Halloween. One year, they turned their home into an insane asylum.
When aiming to bring a community closer together, building a giant demonic clown face with sharp teeth around the frame of your front door might not be conventional, but for two Soulard residents, it's working splendidly.
Bill Shelton and Terri Lacey are a married couple who run the marketing agency Left Field Creative together. Both grew up in small towns prior to moving to St. Louis, leaving them nostalgic for the sense of community in places where everyone knows each other. And Halloween, they say, provides the perfect opportunity to facilitate that in the big city.
Ever since they purchased their home on South 13th Street in 1997, the couple has been providing over-the-top experiences for trick-or-treaters brave enough to set foot inside. (Yes, when it comes to this house, you have to go in to get your candy.) They brag that they made no less than 23 kids cry last year.
But that terror comes with a big payoff. The reward for braving the home's hellish landscape? King-sized candy bars.
The couple has committed to a different theme each year. One year was a funeral, with Shelton and Lacey clearing out their living room to make space for a rented casket. On Halloween night, kids were greeted at the front door by someone dressed as a pastor offering condolences. The kids had to reach into the actual casket in order to receive their candy. Another year they went full zombie, with a costumed Shelton literally chasing down a trick-or-treater all the way back to his parent's car. (The kid's dad was a good sport; as Shelton "chased" the car down the street, the trick-or-treater's father killed the engine and pretended it wouldn't start up again.)
But this year might take the cake. “This is Year One for the psycho killer clown theme,” Shelton says — a freakish design that caught the RFT's attention last week
. Lacey handpainted the giant clown face around their front door, a task that took eight hours.
It took Terri Lacey eight hours to paint the creepy clown mouth at the center of this year's theme.
Shelton and Lacey typically keep their theme a secret until Halloween night — the better to surprise trick-or-treaters. This year was an exception, with the giant clown head making their theme a bit more obvious than previous ones. But a house with a giant clown head has a lot going for it without the element of surprise, anyways.
The couple says their house is itself an element to the madness; they claim to hear footsteps, see shadows poke around corners and experience their TVs turning on without their input. “There are lots of souls moving through the house,” Shelton says.
As for Lacey, at one point she refused to go into the basement alone for six months because of an otherworldly encounter where she felt a strange presence and pressure in her head as the darkness of the basement seemed to rush towards her. At a later point, Shelton decided to charge in and confront the spirit — only to have the same experience. In order to avoid upsetting the spirits, they now visit the basement with lighted candles in hand to speak to the ghosts and warn them about any future renovation plans. (Friends visiting from out of town, they note, typically opt to stay in a hotel.)
Bill Shelton, left, and Terri Lacey.
But this year, they're not just going all out for Halloween. They're attempting to bring the whole neighborhood in on it.
Shelton and Lacey have formed a "grassroots movement" called Trick or Treat Soulard, which they describe as a way to provide a safe place to bring the community closer together through Halloween festivities. More than 60 homes in Soulard have confirmed they will be handing out candy on Halloween night. The couple is providing maps and directions for the houses involved on the Trick or Treat Soulard Facebook page
as well as NextDoor.
“Soulard is more than just bars, restaurants and Mardi Gras,” Shelton says. “We are trying to create a place for kids to be kids and have a safe Halloween.”
“Some people in the neighborhood used to think we were sadistic,” Lacey adds. But these days, their DIY haunted living room has become a tradition — and people who visited as children are now adults bringing their children by for a candy bar.
Still, Halloween on South 13th Street is not all warm and fuzzy. They're happy to make kids smile and to scare the crap out of them in equal measure. Shelton recalls a child once shouting from the window of a passing school bus, “There’s the crazy motherf***er with the zombie house!” For a guy who's spent more than two decades celebrating Halloween, there could be no greater compliment.
Halloween is spooky at the Lacey/Shelton house ... down to the last detail.