It's a thriller! Meet the Halloween 'yard haunters' of Fargo-Moorhead

Shoppers will spend an average of $100 this year on candy, decor, cards and costumes, but for the metro area's devotees of devilish decor, "Halloween, it's everything!"

Abby Haake and her family have gone with "Alien Invasion" as the theme for their yard "haunt" at 1723 6th St. S., Fargo, seen Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum
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FARGO — There are lots of spooktacular Halloween haunts in Fargo-Moorhead, but the Haake house is definitely out of this world.

Abby and Andy Haake have turned the front yard of their south Fargo home into an outer space “Alien Invasion” that includes a 12-foot tall “xenomorph,” and the “chest burster” and “face hugger” beasties from the movie “Alien.” There’s a spaceship hovering in a tree, a spider the size of a VW, skeletons, a werewolf “petting zoo,” E.T. biking away from two bright green aliens and a prized 12-foot “Skelly” the skeleton with arms open wide to greet trick or treaters.

It’s busy, not too bloody, and a whole lot of fun, Abby Haake said.

"Alien Invasion" is the theme for the Haake family's yard at 1723 6th St. S., Fargo, seen Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

Last year the yard had a “Carn-evil” spooky carnival theme; next year the chills at 1723 6th St. S. will have a Stephen King kick, she said.

“I change it up year after year. It’s never the same. It’s always something different. We come up with themes throughout the year, change it, and create new things,” Haake said Tuesday, Oct. 18.


There’s a lot of do-it-yourself, but the annual price tag for creative creepiness can be a bit scary — except, perhaps, for those bewitched by Halloween’s magic.

“It definitely goes over 1,000 bucks a year. It’s a lot of money. The stuff gets used year after year, but it adds up, $50 in zip ties, there’s lights, and skeletons,” Haake said.

Haake and the area’s other deliverers of devilish delights are not alone.

Consumers are expected to spend an average of $100 in 2022 on Halloween items.
Contributed / National Retail Federation

Consumers will scare up $10.6 billion for thrilling and chilling this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual Halloween Consumer survey. That tops last year’s record of $10.1 billion.

It works out to an average of $100 per Halloween shopper for candy, decor, cards and costumes, just shy of the record average of $103, the NRF reports.

Definitely an economic treat.

The Halloween display at Lee Krump's Wahpeton home now includes a 12-foot-tall skeleton. The display may grow before the holiday, he said Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022.
Contributed / Lee Krump

In the NRF survey, conducted in early September by Prosper Insights & Analytics, 69% of consumers said they’d be celebrating this year, up from 65% in 2021, 58% in 2020, and 68% in 2019.

Lee Krump of Wahpeton, N.D., has been building his decorating cred for the last five years.


“I was finally able to afford some of the bigger decorations after I got along in my career,” he said Tuesday. “It’s the kids’ favorite holiday.”

This year, he went big at 1436 4th St. N.

“Home Depot had one of those (12-foot-tall) skeletons in stock so I bought one of those. It was the last one they had in stock and those are hard to find,” Krump said.

Halloween figures line the shelves of Menards in West Fargo on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

This year will be the biggest display he’s done. He started putting things out in late August “and it will stay up until probably Thanksgiving.”

His kids love it, even nicknaming some of the decorations.

“It will get a little bigger by the time we get to Halloween,” Krump vowed.

Sales have been brisk for Halloween decorations this year, West Fargo Menards store manager Chris Yerkes said Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

At Menards in West Fargo, store manager Chris Yerkes said bargain hunters might not find much left in this year's clearance sales.

The Halloween aisles have been busy since they first went up in August, he said.


Two aisles have already been emptied. Some of the inflatable figures sold out immediately, and he’s on his second shipment of pumpkins.

“What you see here is what we have left for the year,” Yerkes said.

Decorators have been going with bigger is better, Yerkes said.

A 12-foot animated grim reaper skeleton has been selling, even at $400 a pop, he said.

The aisles also attract a lot of people who want to look at what is new.

“Phones are out. People are taking selfies. It’s a popular area in the store,” Yerkes said.

About $2.9 billion will be spent on Halloween costumes for adults and children in 2022, the National Retail Federation predicts.
Contributed / National Retail Federation

Nearly half of consumers (47%) started their Halloween shopping in September or earlier, the NRF reports. About 40% planned to purchase their items at discount stores, 36% at specialty Halloween or costume stores, and 31% will shop online.

Spending on kids and adult costumes is expected to total $2.9 billion, the highest amount since 2017. Pet spending is expected to reach last year’s record high of $710 million — a lot of scratch — the NRF reports. One in five people will dress their pet in a costume for the holiday.
About 67% of people surveyed in the NRF poll said they will hand out candy, 51% will decorate their home or yard. About 47% will dress up in a costume, while 28% will throw or attend a Halloween party.

Sommer Solwold and her partner have been preparing their south Fargo home inside and out for Halloween, she said Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

Sommer Solwold and her partner, Brady Rapske are turning their new Fargo home into a Halloween hangout, inside and out.

Their small front yard at 1514 68th Ave. S. is now a graveyard, with plenty of skeletons and tombstones.

“As you know, it’s a windy city here, so we had our tombstones blow away twice. We had to figure out how to keep them in the ground. They’re spendy little buggers,” Solwold said Tuesday, Oct. 18.

For Halloweens pre-homeownership, she focused on make-up and costumes. Now she’s planning a Halloween bash she’d like to make a tradition.

The living room of the south Fargo home of Sommer Solwold, seen Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, is ready for Halloween.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

Inside, there are lacy black curtains and tablecloths, skeletons and a macabre mantle. A skeleton lounges at the dining room table, too.

A lot of the decorating the couple has done is DIY, garage sale and thrift store purchases, and theater props. She also prowls Facebook Marketplace and Dollar Tree. Despite that, she’s topped her budget “as the vision just gets bigger and bigger.”

But her nightmare before Christmas won’t overshadow Santa season, she said.

Christmas and Halloween are “a tie” in her mind for big decorating holidays.

“I like my Christmas tree, too,” she said.

A grim reaper figure towers over the graveyard scene Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, at the south Fargo home of Wayne Petersen and Cheryl Sully.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

A bigger graveyard haunt awaits trick or treaters at 1761 8th St. S., Fargo.

Wayne Petersen and Cheryl Sully have filled their yard with more than 30 tombstones, with a nod to horror movies over the years. Towering over it all is a 20-foot-tall grim reaper.

Many of the props are DIY, Peterson noted. “It is definitely cheaper to make them yourself,” he said.

More creepy figures are staged in the garage, if you don’t already fear the reaper.

“I just want to have fun on Halloween,” Petersen said. “The wife and I both enjoy Halloween and Christmas decorating. We just want to keep adding to it.”

"Halloween, it's everything!" Betty Rettig says Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. The West Fargo woman has turned her front yard into a hauntingly fun hangout.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

Meanwhile, in West Fargo, Becky Rettig is all in on Halloween

“Halloween, it’s everything,” Becky Rettig says, looking out over the creepy characters haunting the yard at 109 9½ Ave. E.

Becky Rettig's yard at 109 9½ Ave. E., West Fargo, offers up some spooky color on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.
Contributed / Becky Rettig

She beams when talking about the crowds who walk or drive buy to get an eerie eyeful of her tribute to terror, which includes a “raven lord,” a headless horseman, and a witch that she can use to talk to trick-or-treaters.

“There’s people here all day, every day,” she said.

She’s been collecting her mass of macabre for years. “I can tell you where everything came from,” Rettig said. She figures through frugality and the kindness of handy neighbors, she’s only shelled out about $1,000 for her front yard graveyard. A boo-tiful bargain.

A woman from Horace who was moving gave her “a big chunk of what’s in my front yard for literally pennies on the dollar,” she said.

Becky Rettig's yard at 109 9½ Ave. E., West Fargo, offers up a spooky glow Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022.
Contributed / Becky Rettig

“It’s fun. I really enjoy it,” she said.

The neighbors do, too. She said more than 350 children typically stop by her house Halloween nights to be bewitched — and for some candy, too.

She wasn’t planning on buying anything new this year, but cracked open the checkbook for a couple of display model figures. And she bought “a whole lot of spooky dolls, too," thinking ahead to next year.

“I love it all. It’s all my favorite. Right down to the last dead rat in my yard,” Rettig said.

The holiday brings back happy memories of childhood trick or treating.

“It’s fun. You get candy,” Rettig said. “It will be with me forever.”

E.T. the extraterrestrial and a 12-foot skeleton are ready to greet trick-or-treaters Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in the Haake family's Halloween decorated yard at 1723 6th St. S., Fargo.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

Back at the Haake house, dusk beckons and the glow of the lights add to the holiday spirit.

Haake encourages DIY displays as well as having a theme to avoid spending too much.

“Be creative. It doesn’t always have to be store bought. Think outside the box a little bit. Sometimes the things you have around your house are the best decorations you can find,” she said.

At that point, a white SUV stops in front of Haake’s house.

“Is that your house? It’s awesome. Good job,” the man driving says. “We’re getting to this point someday soon.”

Haake thanks them, then urges them to go to her Facebook page: Haake’s Yard Haunt F/M Trickers and Treaters .

She’s hoping to get most of the area’s “yard haunters” to join, so that she can create a map of the best displays in town, making it easier to tour the late-autumn lights.

“We have parades of people that drive on through when the lights are on at night and again on the weekends,” she said. “It’s kind of fun watching and meeting all the people and seeing all the kids have fun and enjoy it.”

Last year, the Haakes handed out candy to about 700 trick-or-treaters.

“Everybody around here loves it. Everybody has decorated more,” Haake said. “The only thing they complain about is that they have to buy more candy.”

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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