A decorated hearse and three other inflatable Halloween decorations have been swiped from longtime College Hill decorators D.J. and Dale Spaeth.
It’s nearly Halloween in College Hill, known as Wichita’s trick-or-treat central, to the chagrin of some residents.
It’s longstanding tradition for people who live in the area to go all-out in decorating for Halloween – and Christmas, for that matter. Residents say they typically expect 5,000 trick-or-treaters every year.
Houses along Wichita’s “trick-or-treat streets” are decked out with cobwebs on the exterior, light-up pumpkin patches, inflatables and other decorations for Halloween.
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That leaves the door open to vandalism and theft, however – a concern College Hill residents say they are familiar with.
In the latest incident, the Spaeths’ inflatable hearse and other decorations were stolen in broad daylight on Saturday. The inflatables cost about $50 to $60 apiece, and the hearse was bought for about $200, D.J. Spaeth said.
“I was sick Saturday, just sick over it,” she said. “This gives so many people enjoyment, which is why we take the time to do it. It’s not so much about us – it’s that so many other people enjoy it.”
Since the Spaeths moved in to their house at Second and Fountain 28 years ago, this is only the second time they’ve had a theft. They have been putting out the large inflatables for the past 10 years.
D.J. Spaeth said she thinks people generally respect the decorations.
“The Robinson (Middle School) kids are so respectful,” she said of the students who walk past her decorations daily. “It’d be nice to do a profile of the person who took (the decorations). What motivates someone to do that?”
The same cannot be said at the Blyn house, just one block east on Second Street.
Sonny and Therese Blyn, who have decorated their house on Broadview since 1999, said they have had vandalism nearly every year since.
“I don’t understand, but I guess it is what it is,” Sonny Blyn said. “You just live with it.”
Sonny Blyn said the vandalism generally occurs in their large, lighted, carved pumpkin patch that faces Second Street.
“I’m sad to say, every year it’s kind of a usual thing,” Therese Blyn said. “You know, it’s a ‘very few spoil it for the many’ kind of thing, I think.”
On Saturday, a College Hill church also reported some pumpkins in its patch were smashed.
Some residents say they have just stopped putting excessive effort into decorating for Halloween.
There aren’t as many houses decorating as there were years ago because of turnover in the neighborhood and a lingering sense of decoration burnout, said Steve Linck, who has lived and decorated on Broadview since 1995.
“We get so many kids come through that it’s kind of like ‘Oh, my God, it’s Halloween again,’ ” Linck said. “Some people have gone to the extreme to go out of town for the weekend because the crush is just too much.”
It can also be costly to put up elaborate decorations for Halloween. The Blyns had to put in a new electrical circuit solely dedicated to handling their yard decorations.
“That kind of is the determining factor – how much you’re burned out on Halloween,” Linck said. “I think a lot of people are getting to that point.”
Though the threat of vandalism and theft looms, those who do decorate say it’s tradition, and they don’t intend to stop now.
“Our whole family gets involved – we have our grandkids here, we have a son from Texas who travels all the way up here for it,” Therese Blyn said. “I don’t think we could not do it.”
For the Spaeths, who are hoping their pilfered decorations are returned promptly, the opportunity to provide something special for the kids at Halloween makes it worth it.
D.J. Spaeth said they’ve even had their share of engagement photos taken there, as well as a few Christmas card photos, for humor’s sake.
“It brings so much joy to people,” she said. “Mine and Dale’s theory is this is a safe neighborhood. Bring on the kids.”