East Maitland dwellers Ashlea (Ash) and Michael (Mike) love to throw a good, scary party in their neighborhood.
“This house is in the burbs, it’s your sort of standard new modern suburbia home, pretty much replicating every house on the street,” Ash says.
It’s not so much the house for Ash, what she really loves is that the suburb is surrounded by beautiful Australian flora and fauna.
“There’s lots of bushland; it’s lovely. You can stand on the street and look straight down into the valley,” she says.
The couple moved here three years ago. Mike works in the air force and was posted to Williamtown.
“We had a few houses to choose from with the Defence Force, and we decided Maitland would be a nice place to live,” Ash says.
Ash works for the state government in Newcastle. Her 16-year-old niece, Savannah, lives with them, as do their two rescue dogs. (They have housed eight different rescue dogs through Dog Rescue Newcastle.)
The canines were away at a sleepover on the night of October 28, and their four-bedroom, two-bathroom home had undergone a spooky transformation.
Without the Halloween decor, the home’s interior is influenced by Asian and Torres Strait Islander culture.
On display are island mats, art and Torres Strait Island lino prints.
“My grandmother is Torres Strait Islander, my grandfather is Indonesian, and I grew up with Chinese and Japanese relatives,” she says.
“My rugs are all Persian, all of my vases are Chinese and Japanese.”
She also has Japanese pearl shells and a cabinet of bonsai trees.
This is the sixth Halloween party Ash has thrown, and the second one she’s held at her Maitland home.
A grinning Nightmare Before Christmas-style Jack-a-lantern greeted neighbours and partygoers from the letterbox.
She had spent the last two weeks decorating for the party, and the night of the event she’d put quite a bit of effort into decorating herself.
“So every year, I’m a different type of witch,” she says. “This year I thought I’d channel Beyonce and a bit of voodoo. I want the house to be a witches den. It feels like something is going to happen to you if you come into this house.”
Her inspiration came from Beyonce’s Formation music video. Filmed in New Orleans, the video references Creole culture, African-American history and Mardi Gras, among several other themes. For the evening, Ash donned a large black hat with long purple and black fingernails. Two skinny black and white braids went down to her waist.
She set up an altar in the hallway to evoke feelings of the Mexican tradition Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). She put it all together with items she had in her house from op shops.
“You would cast spells and invoke spirits here,” Ash says of the altar. “Speak to ancestors possibly, and maybe even concoct a very good cob loaf recipe.”
An all-white death angel stands in the lounge room, offering a great opportunity for guests to take photos, although Ash says its main purpose is to serve as a guardian for the evening to ward off evil spirits.
Last year her husband was a jester, and this year he’s gone with the more sinister grim reaper.
“Mike doesn’t get involved, but he’s my advisor, so he said no to a few things. I brought in a dead tree and he said no,” Ash says.
The bathroom is covered in blood, and the bath is filled with it and what appears to be a severed hand and foot.
“The bathroom is a dangerous place in general, a lot of deaths happen in the bathroom. Bathrooms are creepy in horror movies; a bathroom is where you go to be private, you’re very vulnerable because you’re naked. Everything is cold and hard,” Ash says. “I thought it would be a perfect place to turn it into something super creepy.”
She gets her blood from Shindigs, and she said they have the best fake blood in town.
Savannah and her friend Emerald dressed as cats for the party.
Savannah moved in with Ash and Mike at the start of the year, and she said she just loves living with them.