Every year, when the bewitching hour of October 31st rolls around, the young and the young at heart
meander nearby San Francisco neighborhoods, anticipating a few shivers up the spine and a treat or two.
This may be the year to pump up the volume and head to the north bay to Petaluma, California for a fright night like no other.
Petaluma, California is a bustling community with a touch of quirk approximately 40 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Surrounded by rolling Sonoma hills, scenic vineyards and eco-friendly farms, the unpretentious rivertown of 57,000 maintains a quaint yet quiet presence most of the year, taking pride in autumn harvest culture. Early in October, jack-o-lanterns and gourds quietly appear on porches of old Victorian homes and even black and orange lights brighten some neighborhoods, but gradually as the season comes to a peak, so do the locals, especially Halloween night. Historic Petaluma “D” street is where ghouls and ghouls alike strut their stuff, known as “ground zero” for Halloween thrills.
Petaluma’s “D” street covers approximately a mile extending from downtown’s 4th Street to Sunnyslope Avenue. Easily accessed, the street is right off the main downtown throughway, Petaluma Boulevard South.
Once dusk disappears on the frightful eve, adults, teens and children attired to the highest spook factor wander the Victorian-lined streets. Arriving cautiously with families, dogs and friends, hundreds of spirited trick-or-treaters brave their way up to decorated haunted porches to gather their sweets. “D” street residents are fully aware of the popular eve. Each home will hand out over 2000 pieces of candy to those romping the grounds. Homeowners transform their heritage abodes into creepy caverns with bone-chilling themes for the event, decorating front yards with blood-curdling coffins, haunted horse skeletons and mummies hanging from gables. Many “D” occupants are in awe when “Halloween Central” break their candy banks, but most thoroughly enjoy the fun-filled event.
Trick-or-treaters have been known to try and calm their inner jitters as they prowl from one creepy home to the next. One home is dubbed “Cavity Cove,” luring in the bravest to their pirate lair. Whether it be Abraham Lincoln inviting in gauntly guests, homes decked out as funeral parlors or a “Cirque du Soleil” theme with clowns and circus men, the masses of wannabe ghouls are drawn to the settings and crowd the street entirely, leaving no room for automobile traffic.
The night always has a bit of a chill, so it’s smart to layer the costume and dress warmly. Bring a small flashlight and leave the jitters at home. It’s a night to let inner heebe-jeebes run wild.
Petaluma360; Dan Johnson, Argus Courier Staff; 2008.
Argus Courier: “Haunted Halloween Tour of Vintage Homes;” Frances Rivetti; october 24, 2007.