The Place To Go On Halloween

Posted on Oct 30, 2013

halloween gargoyle on fence


Does your town have a place where everyone goes on Halloween?  You know the place, that no one wants to miss because it is just that special.

In San Clemente, California, and for a lot of Orange County, there is a place to go on Halloween.  The Place to go trick or treating. It is an unexpected cute little beach town block of Barcelona street.  The appeal isn’t because giant-sized candy bars are handed out or that there are commercialized haunted houses.   Nope.  It’s because a guy named Jim put out a few pumpkins 30 years ago.

Back then Jim had a young family on a street of aging neighbors.  He started with a few humble pumpkins, and, as his kids got older the decorations got a little bigger.  The neighborhood changed and more families with kids moved in.  More and more people started putting a festive touch to their houses and the trick-or-treaters took notice. Jim added purple and orange lights, then some Halloween garlands, a  lamppost with spiderwebs…

About ten years ago the decorations got really BIG.


Halloween  decorations house


The charming white picket fence was covered to look like  a creepy wrought iron one with gold skull and gargoyle finials. He added a huge life-size frame with a “Halloween” themed version of a famous painting which he changes each year.


Halloween decorations mausoleum


There’s a giant mausoleum and a skeleton occupied crypt.  A life-sized skeleton sits at an upright piano playing tunes in the driveway being loomed over by The Grim Reaper.  He even built a 3/4 scale replica of a beautifully detailed headstone. Jim will tell you a man in Alabama made the headstone for his Native American wife, never getting over his loss, he passed away soon after. Jim thought the stone and the story were so beautiful he painstakingly used calipers to get each and every measurement precise!


Halloween Headstone


Not one to rest on his laurels, this year Jim painted his charming white picket fence black (holy cow!) and he’s adding another full sized “painting”  to be unveiled on Halloween, the title declared on a sign born by a skeleton over the top of the whole piece.   The effect is magical and draws hundreds of people on the small block Halloween night every year. Yes, hundreds. 

And Jim isn’t alone.  The crowds have gotten so big nearly everyone on the street decorates for the holiday. Even folks who are selling their house in October take advantage of one last chance to participate.

At the end of the block and just around the corner on Ola Vista street, his neighbor Jim#2 (yes, they are both named Jim) heard about the decorations on Barcelona and, for fear of being a party-pooper, has been giving him a run for his money.

Every-other year Jim #2, with help from some neighbors, transforms his quaint yellow Victorian into a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean.


halloween pirate house


A pirate flag flies out the end of a mast which juts from the upstairs balcony and beside it stand two life-sized pirates manning the cannons bursting from the gun hatches as they would on the side of a ship.


pirate crew Halloween decor


The pirates are in their “cursed” skeletal form and have clearly taken over,  steering a giant ship’s wheel, partying it up on the balcony and on the roof, their booty stacked and scattered and draped in heaping piles across the yard as Davy Jones watches from behind bars.


pirate booty collage halloween decorations


Ropes, anchors, pulleys, rats, limbs, suspended cargo boxes, skulls, bones, heads mounted on sticks, it’s all there life size.


Halloween Jolly roger


It gets even better at night with fog machines,  flashes of lightning and a bellowing thunder sound track. It makes me need to say ARRRRRRGH!

Both Jims set up a week or so in advance and people pull over to look all day long every day before Halloween.  One family drove up as I was taking pictures.  Those kids were beaming!  Yo, ho! Yo, ho! came warbling out of the car window as they drove away…

Before we even saw anyone, the first time we went to Barcelona street for Halloween, there were so many kids and parents and teenagers and just people, we could hear the noise from a block away.  I was sure everyone who lived within a 50 mile radius was there.  People wait in lines to get a piece of candy. Long lines! Everyone dresses up, including the parents, in fairly elaborate costumes, almost as if they’re trying to keep up with the Jims.   It is the place to see and be seen.

So if you’re ever in San Clemente for Halloween, you now know the place to go. Visit the Pirate House (odd years), then head by Jim’s place on Barcelona.  I guarantee you will never forget it!

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