North Asheville family prepares for unconventional Halloween

BOO! The Duncan family poses with some of their latest Halloween decor. Featured, from left, are Corbin, Taryn, Lily and Gavin Duncan. Photo by Thomas Calder

Taryn Duncan got the boot this Halloween. Up to now, she and her husband, Brian, have provided both the creative vision and the muscle for decorating the family’s North Asheville lawn. But amid the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, the couple’s 16-year-old son, Corbin, stepped in to ensure the Duncan decor would offer the neighborhood something fun to freak out about.

“When I started to put things up, my son told me it looked like a window display at a department store,” Taryn says with a laugh. “I was apparently a little too symmetrical and vanilla. He wanted to take it up a notch.”

Along with adding more skeletons, Corbin suspended giant spiders from trees to add to the yard’s overall spookiness.

Because of the pandemic, Taryn says the family — which also includes son Gavin, 13, and daughter Lily, 10 — is still figuring out their Halloween plans. “From a safety standpoint, I think some of the older residents in the neighborhood are understandably pulling back,” she says. “We’re hoping we might have something worked out so we can still have kids stop by.”

In normal times, she continues, their home’s proximity to Kimberly Avenue means they see a goodly crowd of diminutive goblins, ghosts and superheroes. And despite COVID-19, Taryn anticipates a similar turnout this year.  One strategy the Duncans may deploy is to set up a pair of tables with prearranged candy bags evenly spread out to avoid close contact with and among trick-or-treaters.

Whether or not the usual costumed horde will show up remains to be seen. At the very least, the Duncans’ lawn — courtesy of Corbin — will offer an extra-eerie spectacle during this unconventional Halloween.

This article is part of COVID Conversations, a series of short features based on interviews with members of our community during the coronavirus pandemic in Western North Carolina. If you or someone you know has a unique story you think should be featured in a future issue of Xpress, please let us know at


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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