Santa Monica Tesh Rosenblath-Talaro and her friends Dodie Murphy and Paul 'Spooker' Gerthoffer stand among an elaborate Halloween display at an apartment building on California Avenue.

(photo by Brandon Wise)

WILMONT — When it comes to Halloween decorations, Tesh Rosenblath-Talaro doesn’t settle. She goes all out.

With the help of her husband, a pair of childhood friends and a few enthusiastic neighbors, Rosenblath-Talaro has for the last 15 years transformed the courtyard of her California Avenue apartment building into a homage to horror with tombstones, demented clowns, skeletons, bloodied babies, a handmade guillotine and even a scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “The Birds,” featuring a life-like dummy being picked apart by crows.

“It’s definitely PG-13, maybe even a little above,” she said Thursday with a smile, delighted by her guests’ reaction to the macabre grandeur of the display that takes roughly six weeks to complete and about two days to take down. “It’s pretty creepy.”

A jewelry designer by trade, Rosenblath-Talaro makes most of the spooky decorations and props herself, filling up the gated courtyard and her own apartment with the sights and sounds of All Hallow’s Eve. Neighbors pitch in with their own ideas and props, as does her husband, who constructed the guillotine.

“It started out kind of small and it just kept growing,” she said. “Everyone’s free to participate.”

Her love of Halloween can be traced back to her childhood, which she spent in Syracuse, N.Y. She has fond memories of her mother dressing up in the scariest costume she could find to frighten trick-or-treaters.

“It was all in good fun,” she said. “It’s the one time of year that you can kind of go crazy.”

The decorations serve a purpose other than scaring unsuspecting visitors. They’re the backdrop to a private Halloween party Rosenblath-Talaro and her neighbors throw each year, attracting anywhere from 40 to 70 people, including her two childhood friends, Dodie Murphy and Paul “Spooker” Gerthoffer, so nicknamed because he was born on Halloween. The two have been flying out to Santa Monica nearly every year for over a decade to celebrate Spooker’s birthday in the courtyard.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Murphy said of the display. “It can be a little eerie at night when you’re trying to go to bed.”

Rosenblath-Talaro wouldn’t be able to indulge if it wasn’t for the understanding and support she receives from her landlord, with whom she is friends. One neighbor said when she was considering moving into the apartment complex, the landlord warned her about the Halloween decorations, telling her that if she wasn’t OK with it, she may want to look elsewhere.

It seems her neighbors don’t mind. Some quite enjoy the display.

“I love it,” said Ethel Mason, 82, who has lived in the apartment complex for the last 30 years. “[Rosenblath-Talaro] is so kind, thoughtful and sweet. She’s the best kind of neighbor to have.”

While the Halloween party is private, Rosenblath-Talaro said she welcomes visitors, just as long as they can stomach the grotesque.

“You kind of have to keep a watch on the kids, make sure they’re old enough to handle it,” she said.

kevinh@www.smdp.com

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