LISBON – From downtown Main Street, the Worumbo Mill looms large in the background. It's big, empty, eerie.
Close by, Drapeau's Costume, the largest costume shop in Maine, beckons Halloween-goers to come inside.
A few doors down, in a back room of the Lisbon library are shelves of Stephen King books: “Carrie,” “Salem's Lot,” “Pet Sematary,” “Cujo.” King — raised in nearby Durham — walked the halls of Lisbon High School before graduating there in 1966.
And when the sun goes down on this town on cool October nights, house after house lights up, aglow with skeletons, spiders, witches and webs.
Lisbon – population 9,000 – is a town full of Halloween spirit. Come along for a tour.
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Inside the Maine Art Glass Studio, when asked about Halloween, owner Jim Nutting drops what he's doing.
He sports a big smile. “I love Halloween,” he says, and offers a tour of his Butterfly and Insect Museum. It's not for those with arachnophobia.
Along the way, Nutting points to stained-glass black widows and tarantulas, one on his front door, one next to a stained-glass depiction of the Moxie man.
In 2002, the first year Nutting moved his studio to a former church where it now resides, he held a haunted house for the public. He still has the artifacts. Nutting opens a stair door, revealing a giant black widow hanging from the ceiling. Suddenly the spider's legs begin moving — because a laughing Nutting is pulling the papier-mache spider's strings. Down the stairs, bats are suspended from the ceiling. At the foot of the stairs, a life-sized skeleton.
The tour continues: Nutting shows off his encased spiders. “These are real. These were all alive, they were my pets,” Nutting says of the black widows and tarantulas. “I'm the spider man, among other things.”
In another room hang skulls of African animals, a stuffed snake, a hornet's nest. Nutting then takes out live insects from a collection he brings to schools.
He picks up a fat, live tarantula, placing one on his chest, then plays with a live scorpion that jerks around as it hangs suspended from his fingers. Then he pulls out web from a live spider, showing off the strands.
“This is the largest spider in the world, a Goliath Bird Eating Spider,” Nutting says, pointing to a spider in a case. “They're aggressive, so I won't hold them.” He dangles a cockroach over the spider, prompting it to crawl forward.
Nutting shows off stuffed bats and bugs, then puts on an insect costume headpiece. With a grin, he says, “I can become a bug too!”
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At the Lisbon library, director Diane Nadeau shows off her copy of the “Lisbonian,” the Lisbon High School year book from 1965-66.
In it are several black-and-white pictures of Stephen King as a high school student. Some of King's teachers and classmates still live in the community, Nadeau says. While most students pass notes in class, word is that King often gave his friends short stories he wrote.
In the yearbook, King is shown in a jacket and tie, playing the guitar and singing “If I Were Free” with a girl in an evening gown at the coronation ball.
In high school King was an honor roll student and wrote for the school newspaper. Today, his books take up two-and-a-half shelves at the library. “We buy multiple copies,” Nadeau says. The collection includes “Thinner,” “The Shining,” “Bag of Bones,” “The Stand” and last year's Kennedy assassination fiction “11/22/63.”
King's books are popular, Nadeau says. His stories often mention where he grew up. In "11/22/63," a Lisbon Falls High School English teacher, Jake, travels back in time through a portal to 1958 at a Lisbon diner to prevent the JFK assassination.
“It's a rare day that at least one of those don't go out.”
In 2001, King gave the library an $80,000 grant to create a children's room. Fittingly, on Halloween, pre-schoolers come in costume for an annual Halloween party and trick-or-treat parade, complete with a police escort.
People respect King for his hard work, achievements and giving back, Nadeau says. “He's more than the master of horror.”
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A few doors down on Main Street, Kris Cornish, owner of Drapeau's Costumes of Maine, acknowledges, “Lisbon definitely has a lot of Halloween spirit. It has lots of old, well-cared-for houses,” perfect for private parties and Halloween decorating. “They seem to do it up.”
The decorating, atmosphere and small-town feeling “gets people out” on Halloween, “which is always a great thing,” adds Lisbon Fire Chief Shawn Galipeau. Even his firefighters pass out candy.
On Halloween, many adults, including Cornish, are in costume. One of her favorites is Marie Antoinette.
Cornish also offers decorating tips. One customer asked: “Do you know where I can buy gallons of fake blood?” Do it yourself, Cornish answered, with corn syrup and red food coloring. “It's nontoxic.”
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On Vining Street, Denise Booker's home is styling in spiders.
Her windows, front door, porch, front yard and fence are covered with assorted spiders and spider webs. Skeletons and a “Turn Back Now” sign add to the ominous.
Booker isn't quite ready for company, though. “We're not done,” she says during a visit one day last week.
Like Booker, many homeowners in this town like to show their Halloween spirit.
On Route 196, just outside of the downtown area, is a home with seven or more giant Halloween blow-ups, ghosts galore, a giant spider, skulls and too many hanging and lawn pumpkins to count.
Over on Addison Street, Christine and Daniel Nicholson not only go all out with their decorations, but give out hot dogs during a Halloween block party.
On Main Street, Roxanne and Michael Mooney deck out their home, yard and barn. “We have a lot of original decorations my husband has made,” Roxanne says, including a graveyard, skeletons coming out of graves, lots of lights, smoke machines and orange and purple spiders.
They've been known “to trip some fuses, she notes. The Mooney's throw a costume party before Oct. 31. “We have all ages,” babies who come as butterflies, and teens and adults who come as Beetlejuice, inflated ballerinas, super heroes, vampires and witches.
“We love Halloween,” Roxanne says. “It's so much fun to celebrate with friends and family. Who doesn't like to dress up?”
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At Lisbon school Halloween is still celebrated, even in an era when many schools forbid costume wearing in class.
"Quite a few kids dress up,” as do some staffers, says Lisbon Police Resource Officer Renee Bernard.
Each year the Lisbon Recreation Department and police also hold a “DARE Halloween” for middle and high school students.
This year, there will be a showing of Tim Burton's “The Corpse Bride” on the big screen at the MTM Center on School Street, as well as free food, drinks and prizes.
The party is a good place for teens too old to trick-or-treat, but who love Halloween.
When in Lisbon . . .