There is a permanent roost of vultures in my neighborhood. They gather in the front yard of a house about a half-mile from my home; I pass them often.
I can always count on seeing at least five of those hulking dark bodies—often more—huddled together on the lawn. They’ve been there for years. It’s the only place I’ve seen vultures gather without the presence of a dead body.
Want to know what a group of vultures huddled around a meal is called? A “wake.” Yep. The International Committee for Giving Creepy Names to Groups of Birds had a very successful run back in the day. (See also: an unkindness of ravens, a murder of crows)
The house that sits behind the vultures is otherwise unremarkable. Older, a bit shabby, but not sinister.
Yet the vultures lend the place an air of menace, a wonderfully organic sense of dread. To the owner’s credit, he seems fine with having the roost there. I think I know why.
It’s perfect for this time of year. He doesn’t have to put up Halloween decorations. He doesn’t need to spend money to scare anyone. The vultures do it for him. And for the rest of the year, he doesn’t have to chase anyone off his lawn.
I wonder if UPS people hate delivering to that guy.
Halloween decorations will be coming down over the next week. Giant inflatable spiders and fake graves will go back into storage.
But the vultures will stay. The eerie authenticity of those beautiful birds got me thinking about how they triumph over the expensive purple lights and plastic zombie arms of the yards around them.
Don’t get me wrong—I love the purple lights and zombie arms. It’s good fun for the season. But no one will scare you with the store-bought stuff.
For those interested in getting a jump on next year’s Halloween decorations—and winning—I have some outside-the-box ideas for you.
Understand that this is a year-long project; do it right, and by the time next October rolls around, your home will already be the terror of the neighborhood.
1) Attract your own roost of turkey vultures.
That leaves carrion. You’ll have to search for roadkill and bring it back to your yard, again and again until the vultures learn that your home is ideal roosting territory.
2) Dig a hole.
Make it right in the middle of your front lawn. Dig between the hours of 2:00 and 4:00 AM by the light of a single lantern. Do it off and on throughout the year. You want the hole to be deep enough to fit your entire standing body—and then some—by next fall.
Cry loudly as you dig, muttering things like “I’m sorry” and “I’m digging as fast as I can, mother.”
You WILL get questions about this. Just tell nosy neighbors that it’s your property and you can do what you like with it. If a homeowners association gets involved, just tell them that “human laws don’t apply in the Underworld.”
3) Start a cult.
Hold meetings in your home after dark. Robes and masks are essential. Some films to use for mask ideas: Eyes Wide Shut, the Kill List, The Wicker Man.
Tell members to park some distance away and walk through the neighborhood to your home. Nothing kills the sinister cult vibe like showing up in a Hyundai Elantra.
4) Alter the public records for your address.
This will require some computer skills. The idea is to develop a sinister history for your home—multiple murders, unexplained phenomena—and get it in print, even into police records. You’ll also want to fabricate some old microfiche and get that into the local library among old newspaper articles.
If you can manage this, then you can get your home on lists of haunted/murder houses. No one should be allowed to come in the house—just let them drive by while you peer out through shuttered windows.
5) Put your house up for sale.
I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out. You aren’t actually selling. You won’t even use a realtor—at least not a real one.
List your home for half its value—make it an absolute steal for your area. The trick is to get eager young couples over to take a tour, then have them run screaming from the property in the middle of the day.
How you make them run screaming, I’ll leave to you.
I know you will have concerns about this process. I concede that there are risks: lowered property value, copious bird poop, and the danger that cult members will depose you and continue to use your home as HQ.
It’s not for everyone. Just the ones who want to win. Happy Day-After-Halloween, everybody.
*Looking at close-ups of turkey vulture heads brought The Dark Crystal to mind; these birds had to be major inspirations for the skeksis.