Everyone who’s spent time doing grassroots activism has at least one story of the house that was a little “off.” This Halloween, we present for your fears and frights two terrifying tales from our GLA trainers. Read at your own risk!
The Terrifying Tale of Tucson’s Mannequin Madness
I was out canvassing in August a few years ago and was walking down a normal street in a normal suburb in Arizona. I was studying the list of houses I needed to visit, so I wasn’t paying much attention to where I was going.
When I looked up, I froze in my tracks. I had started up the driveway of a simple two-story house. But it wasn’t the house that caught my attention—it was the yard. Strewn across the lawn were the dismembered body parts of life-sized Halloween monsters.
Zombie-esque mannequins dressed in clown costumes sat in plastic chairs. Skeletons hung from the eaves. What were clearly pieces of Frankenstein’s monster were piled up near a tree. This was nowhere near Halloween, and it was clear the yard had been this way for quite some time.
I turned to leave and nearly panicked when I saw the metal fence around the yard. Each bar was topped with a plastic doll head.
When I turned around again in a panic, I realized a woman had been watching me from a second-story window. It was too late to run away. I summoned every last ounce of courage I had and knocked on her door.
Her yard may have been terrifying, but at least she took my survey!
The Horrifying Story of Willard’s Haunted Homestead
In 2014 I was doing “Get Out The Vote” canvassing in Tallahassee, Florida. We were canvassing in late October to remind as many people as possible to make their voice heard at the ballot box.
The day had already started off strangely as my brand-new rental car blew a tire at one of the first houses we visited that morning. I threw on the spare and rushed to the nearest rental car location to trade the car in for the only available vehicle they had in stock: a large pickup truck.
Our leadership team emphasized the importance of every vote counting, so we were sure not to skip a single door, no matter how off the beaten path the home may be. Behind schedule due to the flat tire, it didn’t take long before it was nearing dusk and my team was on our last walk book of the evening.
We had been canvassing in pairs, but with the sun setting, we decided to split up to finish reaching out to everyone we were assigned to talk to that day. Being the senior staffer on our team, I took the “outlier”—the house furthest away from the rest of the list.
The home I was supposed to visit was about as rural as it gets, and I drove out down an old, private dirt road.
Seeing as this late October day was close to Halloween, I was already a little on edge. The landscape of this farm was eerily similar to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre film that had been playing on television a few nights earlier.
I made a right hand turn down the pothole-covered gravel driveway of “Willard’s Homestead” and slowly drove up to the early-20th century farmhouse. The couple I needed to talk to was in their early 80s and probably wouldn’t be expecting any visitors. In the evening light everything was hard to see. When I pulled up, I could see two figures staring down at me from an upstairs window.
As I got out of the truck and made my way toward the front door, I noticed the curtains were drawn. The house was dark, as if no one had been living there for years. As I stepped onto the old, rickety front porch, a blood-curdling howl filled the evening air. I frantically looked around, trying to find where the sound had come from.
Then, out of the dusk, a full-grown bloodhound came charging at me. I sprinted to the truck and leaped into bed as the dog scratched and clawed at the tire, howling like I had never heard before.
Just when I thought I would be stuck in that truck bed forever, the front porch light came on. “Oh, don’t be afraid of that old fella,” an elderly man in suspenders said as he pushed open the screen door. “He keeps an eye on the place.”
I explained why I was there, and the old man took my survey while I stayed in the back of the truck, refusing to hop down.
“You know,” he said as a prepared to leave, “at first I thought you were one of those kids coming to take pictures of my place, hoping to see a ghost.”
A chill crawled up my spine.
“Yep,” he chuckled, “seems like every year around this time we get local college kids wantin’ to explore the grounds of a real haunted house!”
As the moon rose, I drove my pickup truck as quickly as I could, hoping I would never again hear the words “Willard’s Homestead.”