Drive past Lee Howe’s home at 2920 Pebble Lane, and you will see a sort of nightmare before Christmas.
Christmas lights, pumpkins on tomato cages and a pirate ship manned by a skeleton all light up, seemingly at random. That is until you turn the radio to 98.5. Then the display comes alive, flashing in rhythm to “Ghostbusters” and “This is Halloween.”
Howe has spent about 100 hours creating a nine-minute musical Halloween light show in his front yard.
Why would anyone spend that much time on Halloween decorations?
Two words: the challenge.
“It’s so difficult that most people would quit before they would actually get it built,” Howe said. “A lot of people can do part of it. But to be able to do all of it — the computer side, the music side, the editing, the set — it’s really challenging.”
Howe has spent the past month planning and building a set for the show. He designed the set in his head as he drove to work each day. He picked out songs, ran them by his wife and then began the real work: the computer programming.
“I have heard this figure and it seems to be true,” he said. “It’s about 30 minutes of work for eight to 12 seconds. Then I’m always tweaking, always changing.”
Each flash of every Halloween character has to be precisely timed to the music for the display to look right. Howe uses a program called Light-O-Rama to break each song down into 0.1 second intervals. He then assigns a value to each character to turn them on and off to each interval.
“The challenge is getting those darn computers out there to do what you want them to do when you want them to do it,” he said. “It’s a lot of trial and error.”
Howe uses an FM radio station, 98.5, to broadcast so vehicles driving by can hear the show in their cars. It also means the music isn’t disturbing his neighbors.
Howe got involved in showing lights after meeting another community member, Zach Stoltenberg, who also has set up musical light shows. Stoltenberg showed Howe the ropes and off he was.
The whole display cost Howe about $1,000. Howe said he doesn’t watch much TV and always tries to stay occupied. This is his third year doing musical light decorations. He also puts on a Christmas show.
The display keeps Howe busy and is a way for him to give back to his neighborhood.
“When I was a little boy, my dad used to take us to downtown New Orleans and there was this house that had animated characters, and I’d always look forward to that.”
This Halloween you will find Howe sitting on his porch giving out candy and enjoying everyone’s reactions.
“People come up and say how much they enjoy the show. That’s when it’s really cool,” he said.
If you want to see the show, Howe runs it each evening leading up to Halloween. The house is near the intersection of 30th Street and Lawrence Avenue.