Halloween at Dick Van Dyke’s House

For the past three Halloweens, we’ve had the honor of helping Dick Van Dyke decorate his house for the holiday. The story of how we started doing this is not very interesting: Patrick worked on a puppet project with a costumer who casually mentioned that she helped her pal Dick decorate his house every Halloween, and Patrick asked if they needed any extra hands. They did! Each year, a slightly different group of about 6–10 of us shows up, and Dick Van Dyke graciously welcomes us into his home, feeds us lunch and dinner, and pretty much lets us design the whole display ourselves.

As it turns out, he is a HUGE Halloween fan—it’s like Christmas for him! Each year he acquires a new animatronic figure or scene to add to the gruesome tableau (because Dick Van Dyke doesn’t go in for cutesy Martha Stewart-style Halloween—his motto seems to be “The gorier the better”!). He started out creating homemade props when his kids were young, but over the years as more merchandise has been produced, he’s shifted to buying elaborate set pieces online and renting from Hollywood prop shops. He loves tinkering with the complicated setups, but the payoff is when the trick-or-treaters start to arrive. He sets up directors chairs across the street and watches with good-natured glee as passing children shriek at the grisly effects. Meanwhile, neighbors like Kelsey Grammar and Paul Hogan roll up in golf carts teeming with family members and hop out for a photo op with Dick Van Dyke.

This year we decided to reintroduce the homemade element by creating a graveyard scene of cardboard headstones with silly sayings.

Meanwhile, store-bought spooks haunted the main yard.

This guy isn’t store-bought, he’s an authentic prop from the movie Predator donated by Stan Winston. He and Dick had been planning to do Halloween together the year he moved into the house across the street, but sadly he died just a few days after moving. Can you imagine what that display would have looked like?

As if that weren’t scary enough, check out the harsh lighting in this shot!

Patrick wanted to be part of the show this year, so he brought his Harrison Hightower costume.

“Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. I’m just relaxing on the set of my TV show, Diagnosis Murder…”

This year there were four new effects: The Reanimator, a Frankenstein’s Monster-type effect that rotated an animatronic dummy out of sight to be replaced by a human who jumps off the platform; two crazy guys, one who stabs himself in the eye with a screwdriver and the other who bashes his head into a wall (both inexplicably wearing suits…); and an electric chair execution complete with twitching, shrieking and smoke effects. The electric chair was the hit of the night, and Dick would throw the switch anytime a new group came by.

(Check out the wall Patrick painted!)

Here are videos that show some of the effects, graciously contributed by Dick’s neighbor, Jessica Steinberg.

For our ragtag crew, the highlight of the night came when we were eating dinner and Dick brought neighbor James Cameron into the house to meet us, explaining that we were the ones responsible for the Halloween decorations. Our jaws dropped as Hollywood special effects master James Cameron—James Cameron!—told us the display looked fantastic. It was hilarious!

James Cameron-Approved Halloween Display

All agreed that this Halloween was the best one yet!

27 Responses
  • mrsksomeday - Tracy
    November 1, 2010

    Fantastic stuff Carrie, I love the fact that Dick sits across the street and scares people. So funny. How amazing that you met James Cameron. Patrick is so talented, that wall is amazing. What a great way to spend the days around Halloween.

    • lurkyloo
      November 1, 2010

      Definitely! It’s becoming a wonderful tradition for us too!

  • mrsksomeday - Tracy
    November 1, 2010

    Oops I forgot to add the only thing that could have made the time better is if the Roots were there to share the experience with you and photograph it!

    • lurkyloo
      November 1, 2010

      Totally. In fact, our entire lives could be made better by having the Roots with us all the time to document them!

  • Cait
    November 1, 2010

    OMG….I love him….and Awesome job on getting him ready for Halloween. You rock!!! Next year I am going to mail myself to you so I can help too!!

    • lurkyloo
      November 1, 2010

      Hilarious!

  • Chilly
    November 1, 2010

    O M G

    I love Dick Van Dyke! You have the coolest life Carrie!

    • lurkyloo
      November 1, 2010

      I do too! He’s my (and everybody else’s) Fantasy Grandpa!

  • Jessica Steinberg
    November 1, 2010

    I’m one of Dick’s neighbors and I was seriously so impressed with everything! WOW!!!! I took some videos of everything from Halloween and posted them on my blog, so please feel free to copy and paste the links!
    Take Care

    • lurkyloo
      November 1, 2010

      Thanks for sharing! The videos are a great addition to the story!

  • Carolym Barnes
    December 19, 2010

    My son, who is 53 and lives in Japan, emailed me that Dick Van Dyke still decorates for Halloween When he and his sister were children we took them out to the Valley to see Dick Van Dyke’s front yard. What is treat it is to know Dick still is excited on the best day of the year.

    • lurkyloo
      December 19, 2010

      Wow – how cool that you got to see his early Halloween displays. I would love to have seen all the ghouls and goblins he made himself!

  • Jensey
    November 1, 2011

    As we do every year, we’ll gladly volunteer our photographic services for some quality time with Dick! 😉

  • Carla
    November 2, 2011

    Amazing! I couldn’t help but wonder where in the world he stores all of that stuff. But hey, if you are Dick Van Dyke, you probably have a big enough house to have your own “Halloween” room! My mom always said that in her fantasy house she would have a “Christmas Tree Closet” built to the exact size of the (fake) tree, so that every year she could just slide the fully decorated tree into the closet, ready to pull out again the next year.

    The look on Dick’s face (in the picture with Patrick) is priceless! You should frame that one.

    • lurkyloo
      November 2, 2011

      I LOVE the Christmas tree closet idea! As it turns out, he stores the Halloween decorations in two of the giant shipping containers that have been converted to storage units for the community where he lives. Plus he’s always swapping decorations and borrowing them from prop houses, so not all of it has to be stored.

  • Linda
    November 3, 2011

    Love Dick Van Dyke! God bless.

    • lurkyloo
      November 3, 2011

      He’s the bee’s knees!

  • Alicia aka Baloo =0)
    November 3, 2011

    OMG this is so awesome!!! I mean WOW….there you are with a living legend!!! I have loved Dick Van Dyke forever…you and Patrick are so lucky! Love the picture of Patrick and Dick and you in the directors chair!

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    • lurkyloo
      November 3, 2011

      So glad you enjoyed reading!

  • Steven L.
    September 5, 2013

    I would be interested in helping with your decorating. Let me know what type of help you need, if any. Thanks.

    • Carrie
      September 5, 2013

      Thanks for the offer!

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