Greedy Ghouls Gobble Up Family's Halloween Display Thieves In The Night Kidnap Witch, Ghost

October 28, 1990|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff writer

Some people want to exorcise their ghosts, but Joann Julian of Bel Air is fighting hard to keep hers around.

Last October, vandals stole a life-sized witch and a ghost from the elaborate Halloween display she set up in her yard.

This year, a 5-foot Dracula was the first to go from the eerie Halloween collection, then the witch.

The display is a family tradition that has grown every year, the Julians say.

This year, spotlights at night glow over white ghosts luminously draped among trees, 6-foot witches and mummies, spirits and grinning pumpkins and a ghoulish Freddie Krueger, the slasher from the "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies.

"My family has always loved this holiday. My father is 76, and he never missed a year of getting dressed in costume," explains Julian, 39.

Several years ago, her two children, Giovanni, 8, and Jarrett, 5, begged to create a special display for the holiday. Neighborhood kids got in on the act, painting faces on pumpkins and tracing figures on plywood for Julian's father to cut out.

"The whole yard was just filled. Neighbors called us the Witch's House.

People stopped by for days, and after that it got to be a ritual. The kids love it," Julian recalls.

But last year, a witch mounted on a broom and attached by five guy wires to the dining room window, was stolen from their home on Leeswood Road.

Then another life-size wood figure disappeared. Police investigating a rash of small thefts later found the witch in a dump and a scavenger hunt list that included a witch.

Julian and her husband Douglas decided they weren't going to make the display again. But the children were so disappointed, the family decided to give the ghouls one more try.

In the first week of October this year, however, the Dracula figure was stolen. They rebuilt it and added a 6-foot mummy, a witch and Freddie Krueger. Then the witch disappeared -- for the second year in a row.

"We had expected the witch to be next. We had a few sleepless nights wondering if someone was going to come up and get the witch. We had the floodlights on and slept with the bedroom door open, listening for noises," Julian says.

County sheriff spokesman Jesse Bane says theft and vandalism incidents are frequent in the county every year around Halloween.

The department increases patrols around Halloween by a third to strengthen their visibility, but it's hard to stop vandalism and thefts, Bane says.

"There seems to be the attitude that it's acceptable. The kids act as if there's nothing wrong, that Halloween is the time you're supposed to steal eggs to throw or pumpkins to throw."

The department charges every offender they catch with the crime committed, even if they're stealing for a scavenger hunt, he says.

"The theft problem can be very serious for the scavenger hunts," Bane says.

"Lists we've confiscated include stop signs, lights from police cars, automobile tags. The bigger the item, the greater the number of points you receive."

Most scavenger hunts are organized underground at schools, unknown to school officials, he says.

For the Julians, trying to outsmart the vandals with extra caution and extra lighting has become too frustrating to be worth it.

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