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Finding comfort in ghosts

patty ryan
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By PATTY RYAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 25, 2002

SOON it will be Christmas. The Palma Ceia Neighborhood Association will offer luminarias for driveways.

For now, it is Halloween.


Clearly, we are parched for the frivolity of a holiday.

* * *

EXHIBIT 1: I did indeed take my dogs trick-or-treating at Old Hyde Park Village on Saturday and then helped judge a pet costume contest, entered by more than 60 creatures.

My favorites: two dogs in cowboy hats, sheriff's badges and denim shorts, one riding a hay wagon.

EXHIBIT 2: The Wood family's front yard in New Suburb Beautiful. The Woods, like many of us, take decorating tips from Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Arthur Wood, 42, recently retired Air Force intelligence officer, gazes fondly at the wide strands of cobwebs that climb from tree to tree and from tree to house.

His teen son erected them, under the watchful eye of a 4-year-old.

They began with a few store-bought packs of cobwebs, Wood says. Each trip to Target spawned more cobwebs.

"It's only $2 a pack and it's like candy," he says. "You nibble and nibble."

* * *

MAYBE people do this much Halloween decorating every year.

Maybe we never noticed. Or, this year, we needed the relief. For whatever reason, people have turned porches into spider webs, trapping something that feels like fun.

It returns us to childhood, Wood guesses.

* * *

IN NEARBY Hyde Park, accountant Edward Fitzgerald, 31, answers a door on Watrous Avenue. His wife made the harvest wreath. The electric orange spider web came from Target.

"You see a lot of people doing more with their homes," he says.

He wonders aloud if the nesting urges are in response to 9/11, or if they are simply born of first-time home ownership.

"To have something you can take pride in and call your own," he muses, "something that you can kind of control somewhat ..."

A few doors down, ghost-shaped lights flash over Deanie Gregory's front porch.

Gregory, 36, is about to take her son Chase to find a Halloween costume. He is 11. Daughter Mackenzie, 6, already plans to be a flapper.

A giant moving spider dangles from a candelabra. A pumpkin waits to be carved. A sound-sensor goblin saves its voice for Oct. 31.

"You have to have fun things for kids," their mother says.

"You can't take all the fun out of it. You have to make it special for them, too."

There's a rat and a bloody hand, both rubber.

They are scary things, to be sure.

But scary things under control.

-- Tampa's Kennedy Boulevard was once called Grand Central. Now Grand Central is a weekly City Times column. Writer Patty Ryan can be reached at 226-3382 or

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