Possessed with design talents and DIY know-how as a homeowner who tackles her own repairs and projects, Peterson also is an accomplished party-cuisine chef, web designer and is very well organized. Which may be why her Halloween parties are a monstrous hit!
Frightfully Fun Facts
Haunt is Where the Home is: Santa Clara, California, home to another world-renowned haunted house, The Winchester Mystery House.
Author of: Eerie Elegance: How to Host a Haunt and Other Fabulous Frights (Compare Prices).
Maybe You've Seen Her: Interviewed on the San Jose, California, area TV news for the release of the last Harry Potter book. Her Halloween and Harry Potter -themed recipes and parties have been featured in local newspapers.
Day Job: Product implementation manager in the marketing department for a Silicon Valley-based company.
Also Dabbles in: Elaborate cake decorating, party cuisine.
Q: How did your home haunt / yard haunt get started?My parents never hosted Halloween parties while I was growing up, but I started having Halloween parties in college, then regularly after I graduated and got my own apartment. Since I've been collecting and creating decor ever since -- for about 15 years now. My annual party is quite an eerie environment!
Q: Do you have a background in art?I have alway been artistic and crafty, but had no school training for art. I won an art contest in high school and the art department was upset that I wasn't taking their classes, but my schedule was much too full. My self-taught grandfather taught me how to sketch and gave me lessons on perspective when I was very young. I just figure things out when it comes to crafting. I've been learning more actual building techniques and collecting tools from recent home remodeling projects, so that just adds to my skill set.
Do you have a special interest in horror films?Definitely, but I like spooky rather than gore. I'd rather get chills down my spine than look at blood and guts.
Growing up, was there a house on your street that inspired you to do this?Actually, I recall seeing more elaborate home haunts on (certain episodes of) TV series like Rosanne and Home Improvement. My parents were creative costume-party people but not as hosts, and I insisted on a new costume every year for Halloween -- the more creative and unique the better.
I've been fascinated by supernatural and spooky lore since my early teens, and when I finally got to visit Disneyland again in college, I absolutely loved the Haunted Mansion, which is my most influential inspiration. I wasn't able to have my own Halloween party until college, then by 1994 I had my own apartment, so could finally start decorating.
Do you have a budget for your home / yard haunts and parties?I consider my party preparations - my costume, food, and decor - to be my entertainment budget for Halloween season, so as long as I can still pay off my credit cards in full each month, I'm doing fine and don't worry about it.
The 'Frugal Festivities' chapter in my book with tips on buying early throughout the year to take advantage of sales and to spread out your decoration costs instead of one big hit to your budget at Halloween.
Do you buy or make your own props, or a combination of both?I try to make my own props because, not only is it usually cheaper, but I find it more fun to customize everything. Shopping at thrift stores with a creative eye is usually a big score for little money. Looking at a pile of junk and thinking, 'What can I make out of this?' can result in some cool stuff! Recycling cast-off parts into Halloween decor is fantastic. My water heater had to be replaced recently, so I asked to keep the leftover copper pipe and other industrial-looking bits for this year's [mad scientist] laboratory display.
What inexpensive tips can you offer for the average home yard-haunter?Decorations you can roll up or take apart to pack away smaller are always good to maximize your storage space, which is why I came up with the fabric stained-glass idea and the gossamer stone walls, since those roll up nice and compact. As long as the weather stays nice and you anchor it well against breezes, the fabric decor holds up fine outside.
My 'Spooky Spectres' in the book are easy, inexpensive and effective ghosts made from loose-weave muslin, latex gloves, a plastic skull and fishing line [monofilament], and you can hang them inside or outside. I like them hanging in trees outside since they stand out well in the background even without a lot of extra lighting. They flutter nicely in the breeze.