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Curious Louisville: How Did Hillcrest Avenue Become Halloween Headquarters?

Emma Stevens

Ask anyone in Louisville the best place to see Halloween decorations, and you'll likely be sent to Hillcrest Avenue in Crescent Hill. It’s just one of those things everyone seems to know. But how did it get started? And what’s it like being a homeowner there?

That’s what Curious Louisville listener Katharine Crawford wanted to know.

Some sources have the tradition going back to the 1980s — originally a competition between two neighbors trying to outdo each other. But historian Joanne Weeter said Halloween on Hillcrest really started picking up steam in the 90s.

“1995 was the first year that Hillcrest was formally mentioned in the local paper that it was a Halloween thing," Weeter said.

Word got out, and crowds started showing up throughout the month of October. These days, they number in the tens of thousands.

Up and down the street, stretching from Frankfort Avenue to Brownsboro Road, houses are decked out by proud homeowners who spend months preparing.

“It takes a commitment to pull off such a wonderful display that really borders on set design," Weeter said. "These homeowners are putting in a lot of time and effort to put up such elaborate concoctions for Halloween.”

Who are these frightfully festive people?

We met Susan Longerbean on a stroll down Hillcrest the week before Halloween. Longerbean bought a house on the street to be close to her son's school.

“And the tradition here is that the owners will leave the Halloween decorations behind," she said.

So her family inherited Halloween decorations, including a pair of giant eyeballs, and several rows of sharp teeth. 

“I didn’t know what this house was," Longerbean said. "And then a neighbor said, 'oh, that’s the monster house!'"

She googled the words monster house, Hillcrest, Louisville, "and it popped up immediately!"

She followed the design in the picture, and now Longerbean and her family fit right into their bloodcurdling block.

If you go to Hillcrest tonight to check out the devious decor and maybe score some candy, be prepared for a crowd; the neighborhood website says between 2,500 and 3,000 kids trick-or-treat there every year.

Once you wake up from your Kit-Kat coma, submit your own question at curiouslouisville.org

You can listen to this story in the player above, download it here, and subscribe to Curious Louisville wherever you get your podcasts.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.