Meridian High School Student Newspaper - The Lasso

The Lasso

Meridian High School Student Newspaper - The Lasso

The Lasso

Meridian High School Student Newspaper - The Lasso

The Lasso

Homegrown Halloween haunts: alum’s Halloween decor stirs up scares

John Lanouette’s decorated house sits on Broad Street, across from Dulin Methodist Church. (Photo by Molly Moore)

While many enjoy dressing up in costumes and eating candy each October, Falls Church native John Lanouette takes Halloween festivities to the next level. Lanouette’s annual “Haunted Half Acre” display features his enchanting and bizarre handmade creations that complete the Halloween scene in The Little City.

It is impossible not to notice the Halloween spectacle located directly across from Dulin Methodist Church. Dozens of illuminated ghouls, goblins, clowns, and pumpkins offer a captivating sight for all who pass by Lanouette’s front yard, which is open to the public seven days a week from dusk to 10 p.m. This walk-through experience features soft sculptures so expertly designed that most people might not realize they were handmade by Lanouette himself, who first began designing foam creatures when he was a student at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. Lanouette also owns Enchanted Sculptures (@enchantedsculptures on Instagram), which specializes in soft sculptures and advertising props. 

“I’ve always loved scary movies, and when I was a little kid, I saw an article about a company named Geppetto Studios that made props for a lot of Hollywood productions,” said Lanouette, who graduated from George Mason High School in 2002.  “I asked my mom to buy me a bunch of foam and I messed around with it with scissors and a glue gun. I guess the rest is history!”

Lanouette grins proudly next to his Halloween structures, holding one of them. (Photo courtesy of Beau Fay)

While a student at George Mason, Lanouette focused mostly on painting under the tutelage of legendary art teachers John Ballou and Maria Shields. He later rediscovered his love for soft sculpture craft as a college student.

Upon graduating from VCU with a degree in Art, Lanouette was hired by his heroes at Geppetto Studios, who were impressed with the fact that he had been a fan since early childhood. After he moved to Brooklyn, Lanouette built foam props and costumes used for the David Letterman show as well as numerous Broadway and Hollywood productions. 

Lanouette began creating his own soft sculptures in his basement studio after he moved back to Falls Church. He started the “Haunted Half-Acre” in 2007, and his annual Christmas display, “Polar Acres,” in 2013. 

“Both have just grown and grown every year,” said Lanouette. 

He starts the building process by gluing foam blocks together, structuring them into different shapes depending on what he’s making. Then, he draws a basic outline on the foam to plan out where he is going to shave down or build up the sculpture to create the features. After painting the sculptures to give them their creepy look, he sprays them with a special coating that gives them their shiny, plastic finish. 

“While most artists sketch out their designs before beginning a piece, I see my artistic vision in 3D, sculpting my designs with reference only to my imagination.”

Lanouette also finds ways to incorporate everyday objects into this process, showcasing an impressive level of creativity. He constructed one of the largest features of his lawn, his popular UFO display, out of an outdoor umbrella, foil insulation, and a plastic dome. This sustainable approach to repurposing items may serve as a source of inspiration for those who want to try this craft without investing in new supplies and materials.

Lanouette’s UFO display is made out of an outdoor umbrella, foil insulation, and a plastic dome. Lanouette tries to find ways to incorporate everyday objects into his sculptures. (Photo by Zaria Djapovic Scholl)

As for Lanouette’s hope for his annual seasonal displays, he believes that behind every member of the Falls Church community is a little kid, ecstatically anticipating the holiday season. 

“My goal is to evoke that nostalgic feeling that we all felt during Halloween and Christmas as kids,” said Lanouette. “At Christmas, I want my yard to feel as though a greeting card or one of those tabletop villages has come to life.” 

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