In most neighborhoods, one house is known for going all out with Halloween decorations. On her block in the South End, Manera Smith is that resident.
She’s been decking out her brownstone in cobwebs, colored lights, and the like since 2010. But starting in 2016, her decorations have taken a political turn.
“It’s from Trump. He’s so inspiring,” she said. “I wish he weren’t in that way.”
This year, a figure in a hospital gown and a mask of President Donald Trump’s face stands at the center of what Smith has dubbed her “Capitol Hill Lunatic Asylum” setup. That figure is joined by representations of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Russian President Vladimir Putin, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Between the figures of Sanders, which is wearing scrubs, and Conway, which dons a nurse’s cap, a figure dressed as the Statue of Liberty lies on a table, holding a sign that reads, “Help me / Vote.”
Smith began planning in the summertime. She already had an asylum theme in mind, and started looking online and in stores for potential props.
“At the end of August, I happened to be near a Christmas tree shop and saw [the figure that became] Kellyanne [Conway],” Smith explained. “Then I said, ‘Am I crazy?’ I went back and bought four more different figures.”
About three weeks ago, she put it all together.
“Every year I get a big response. But this year, it’s insane. Everybody stops; they’re taking pictures,” she said.
This is Smith’s largest politically-charged project to date. Two Halloweens ago, after hearing that then-candidate Trump had reportedly called former Miss Universe Alicia Machado “Miss Piggy,” Smith put a blond wig on a skeleton prop, adorned it with a sash that read, “Make America Fear Again,” and placed the bony figure directly in front of an orange light. In 2017, she again featured the skeleton in the same wig, this time accessorizing it with a long red tie.
“[The tie] said ‘high IQ’ because he was talking about how smart he was,” Smith said.
Smith, a former actress, said decorating for Halloween is a way for her to utilize her creative energy. A principle she said she remembers from her theater training is that if someone puts his or herself “in service to an idea, then ego, fear, everything goes away.”
“In this sense, I’m in service to this idea,” she said of decorating. “It’s to communicate an idea. It’s bigger than me. … You bring joy to people.”
Although adults are more likely to understand her design, Smith said children are the reason she decorates.
“Every year since I started doing this, we’ve gotten more and more kids,” she said.
Smith has handed out six-packs of Oreos on Halloween night in the past, but said that the increasing number of trick-or-treaters has made it too expensive. This year, she’ll give out Goldfish crackers instead.
“And I give a pencil out,” she added, “and I tell the kids to be good in school.”