The Iowan

Mix or Separate

Lots of Possibilities for Great Halloween Displays













By Leigh Gieringer

Love those sub-series. They provides new collectors with the ability to obtain all the pieces from the initial village introduction. Sometimes, the new villages ends up being small which is another benefit for a new collector: less space, less monetary commitment, and the ability to collect the complete series! Space commitment is in check unless you want to add non-series accent pieces to the settings. We all do that! However, staying small is not always the case. 

Remember North Pole? Many of us thought that the three cornerstone pieces and the North Pole buildings would be the extent of the entire village. Obviously, that was a wrong deduction! There are well over a hundred buildings in it now! And still growing with many new, great additions each year. 

Halloween was another village that some of us thought might be contained. Wrong again. With it’s popularity, it will undoubtedly continue to grow — quickly — in upcoming years.

Many Halloween village pieces are now retired. Thus, a dilemma may surface! Should the new collector be content with a small village of current pieces, make the decision to hunt for the retired pieces on the secondary market, or get creative? They are all correct decisions, but if you have an inquiring mind, the latter option may be one of the most rewarding. After all, anyone can obtain village pieces, it’s what you do with them that makes your village or display unique.

New England History

It wasn’t a good time in Massachusetts history, but it was certainly a notorious one. In 1689, English rulers, William and Mary, started a war with France in the American Colonies. Refugees from current day upstate New York, Quebec, and Novia Scotia fled into Essex County. Many ended up in Salem Village (modern day Danvers) and Salem Town (Salem) which intensified the rivally between the two neighboring communities. It appears that it made the infighting between the Hatfields and the McCoys look tame! With Puritan influences and a strong belief in the devil as the cause of evil and the unexplained, many thought the quarreling was the work of Satan. 

The background is much more involved, but in January of 1692, the young daughters of the new Salem Village Reverend became ill. It manifested itself with fits of rage, tantrums, strange utterances and contortions. Not knowing the cause, the local doctor diagnosed it as being influenced by the supernatural.* Others in the area also suffered from the same symtoms. Being more than isolated incidents, the assumptions were to blame those who were in contact with the afflicted as the cause of their behavior. Once named, the accused were deemed guilty of practicing witchcraft. Trials and hangings followed. 

Enter the 2012 Salem Willows sub-series in the New England Village.

The three Salem buildings and their accessories can make a simple, yet interesting mini-display for a fall setting. There are no snow patches on the buildings, making it easier to add fall foliage, hay bales or real pumpkins surrounding the trio for a quick and easy display. Or, an actual environment can be planned and developed creating a sandy/rocky display base matching the areas surrounding the porcelain buildings, then detailed. 

If you’ve collected New England between 1990-1993, there is a good chance you may also have the Sleepy Hollow series. These buildings are not as dark as the Salem buildings, and have snow patches, but if they are placed at a higher elevation in the display, the two sets can be worked into a single display. The headless horseman would love more territory to roam!

What about combining the Salem buildings into a Snow Village Halloween Village display? Yes, they are different. Although dark and rugged by New England standards, the Salem buildings are brighter than most of the Snow Village Halloween buildings. They are smaller in scale to fit with Heritage Villages. And, they have a matte finish. Being so different, why merge them? Call it a challenge, but it can work!

The Halloween emphasis can be cute with little trick or treaters roaming though the streets, or it can have a dark side. Those who collect everything will combine the two motifs with areas devoted to pumpkin patches and children begging; or ghostly cemeteries, open graves, and skeletons. Those who pick and choose their favorite Halloween buildings can select a theme, concentrating on developing their displays in that genre, or developing sections of each to their liking.

The three New England Salem buildings should be kept together into it’s own section within this merged display. A suggestion would be to place it toward the back toward one side of the display, but visible to the viewer so it can be detailed. The laws of perspective would blend the smaller size. It can be separated from the Snow Village buildings by tall stone or aged broken wood fences, blackened tree hedges or a rocky ridge. That way, the finish differences would not be so noticeable. Apparitions of ghostly figures can haunt the area in remembrance of those accused of witchcraft. The display builder could develop the site where the hangings took place. A little research can shed light on how to build it accurately, or make a tree with a noose hanging from a limb. Jute can be bought at a craft store in rolls. It can be aged with weathering powders. 

Most of the victims did not receive a proper burial unless their families took the bodies and put them into unmarked graves on their land. The church forbid it since they were sentenced by the Court of Oyer (to hear) and Terminer (to decide) and excommunicated. Most bodies were dumped into shallow graves at that time. Mound up some dirt periodically. Tiny bones can be laid near by to indicate it as a burial site. Today, there is a memorial to these victims, so a cemetery could be added containing numerous grave stones. 

Continuing your research on the Salem Witches can add other details to your display. It would be advisable to keep many of the landscaping techniques similar to those in the Snow Village section to unite the display for a continuous visual flow.

For those wanting to expand further, Dickens’ Village introduced the All Hallow’s Eve series in the early 2000s. Another section can be dedicated to it within a huge Halloween display, possibly near the other side of the display and at a different elevation for visual impact. It would still have to be placed higher than the main Snow Village display since these buildings are also smaller, plus they have a different finish than the traditional Halloween Village pieces. This section can also be separated with fencing, trees and ridges. Like North Pole, Halloween provides the opportunity to really let the imagination flow. 

If combining all these Halloween Villages into one village is not an option due to space limitations or a desire to accent each village individually, highlight the mini-series buildings into their own distinct vignettes. The stand alone villages provides the opportunity to plan and develop each village in its own technique style, as well. 

Some can be placed into village display settings, while others can be accented with fall decorative items. Place each series in rooms throughout the house. If possible, set one near the front door so trick or treaters can also enjoy them as they walk to the door. Halloween is a fun time. Make the most of it!

Only the new Salem series is available currently unless the secondary market is tapped to locate pieces of Sleepy Hollow and All Hallow’s Eve. There are also many accessory items available at craft stores, big box mega stores, and dollar stores. Incorporate these accents into a display, or create similar objects in a smaller scale and place them within your display. So many possibilities. The sky is the limit. Get busy and be creative! You’ll love the results! 

*One of the theories to this behavior is that the rye that was harvested for bread contained a particular fungus, which is now known as a natural substance from which LSD is derived; or a bird-borne virus could also be the culprit. Others believe it was not biologically derived, so no one really knows what caused the outbreak that started these events.

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