By Justin Boron
Donna Nettleton and B.J. Burrell grow a garden of ghouls in the front yards of their early 20th century homes each October. The decorations have been part of a tradition that has endured for more than 20 years.
Each year, the two neighbors transform their well-groomed front lawns into playful nests of the macabre, with ghastly sheets stuffed and staked into the ground to form a colony of spirits.
Cobwebs and vampires welcome guests to the Jonesboro houses on the corner of Church Street and Stewart Avenue, notifying them of the inhabitants' favorite festivity.
"I celebrate other holidays just as much, I just zero-in on Halloween," Nettleton said. "It's such a magical fun holiday."
To an outsider it may look like a competition, but the neighbors insist it has always been in good fun as the try to outdo what was done the previous year.
"Everyone says it's a competition, but we've been buddies for years," Burrell said.
Childhood memories from when Burrell soaped windows in downtown Jonesboro drive the public display of affection for Oct. 31.
"My mom always made it a really special time," Nettleton said. "We're just adults that are still kids."
Their friendship began almost 30 years ago when their two sons, who are 38 now, met in Cub Scouts.
Eventually, Nettleton moved next door to Burrell, and the Halloween drama ensued after they realized they both favored the observance.
This year's decorations include tombstones scrawled with the names of current and former Church Street residents, Burrell said.
Several of Burrell's family members are featured such as her Uncle Clyde Pittman.
Other neighbors like Nanny Harris, a single lady that Burrell remembers from down the street, make up the graveyard.
On Nettleton's side ghosts roam through the path leading to a sign telling visitors they have arrived at the Bate's Motel n the establishment fictionalized in the movie "Psycho."
The combination of their yards attracts almost 150 trick-or-treaters each year looking to experience the haunted atmosphere and cash-in on the stash of candy, Burrell said.
Although they only show off their enthusiasm once a year, Nettleton said she keeps a private antique collection of Halloween amenities ranging from books to paper mache pumpkins in a glass case year around.
Her collection has been showcased in a show called "The Collection Inspector" on the Home and Garden Television network, she said.
Nettleton said she used to store them away, but when her Halloween cohort noticed the heirlooms, she said, "Why don't you just leave them out."