By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
Despite the sign on her front door that proclaims, “The witch is in,” Ann Wood is most definitely not a witch.
The sign, and her yard full of witches, are all in celebration of Wood’s favorite time of year: Halloween.
Just like she has every Halloween for the past 20 years, Wood will welcome 50-75 of her closest friends over today for their annual womens’ Halloween coffee.
It’s the social event of the season, her friends say.
“They have the best time,” Wood said. “We just enjoy being together and laughing.”
The women who attend Wood’s annual event include her closest, lifelong friends, along with members of her Red Hat Society, her church and her friends’ friends. It started out as a fun reason to get-together, and since 1991, it has grown into the huge party that it is today.
Her entire house is decorated for the Halloween season throughout the month of October.
Wood has created a Halloween village, complete with haunted houses, witches, ghosts and bright orange lights inside a huge white railroad cabinet handed down to her from her father.
“Most of this is Christmas stuff, and I just put witches all over it,” she said. She leaves the spooky town inside all year, but keeps the doors shut when it’s not Halloween season.
“If I need a laugh, I just open the doors and turn the lights on,” Wood said.
Wood collects witches, and has for the last 20 years.
She has a witches from all over the world, and her friends bring her back anything witch-related they find on their own travels. If she wants something witchy and can’t find it, she makes it herself, like the hand-carved, hand-painted witches that line her yard. Wood painted them herself, front and back.
“I hate things not painted on the back,” Wood said. “And I painted them with their own hair color, because I have different color-haired friends.”
All of the women come in costume. Wood keeps scrapbooks of each year, and as she flips through the books she remembers costumes of years past: witches, of course, pirates, a deviled egg, and once, her friend Jo Ann Finn dressed as Nadya “Octomom” Suleman, complete with a long black wig and eight babydolls.
“I have this to watch people laugh,” Wood said. “These ladies love it.”
Across from Joyner Elementary School in Tupelo is a graveyard, full of the tombs of Al Capone, Groucho Marx and Herman Munster.
It’s not a real cemetery, but it looks like one.
Patrick Ross and his wife, Joni, are the proud owners of the cemetery that captures the imagination of Joyner’s students.
“You can see them, waiting to get out of the cars, and you can see them pointing at it,” Ross said.
Ross used to work at a country club, where he hand-made many of the tombstones for their Halloween decorations. When he left, he took the tombstones with him. He’s put up the creepy cemetery, complete with a baby Freddy Krueger, a dismembered body, plastic snakes, spiderwebs and a mad skeleton doctor, for about the last five years.
He used to have a mummy outside, until his dog, Eli, found it.
“That was the last I saw of it,” he said, laughing.
Ross made the body by hand, filling old clothes with newspapers and foam and spray painting the “insides” with red paint.
“I think life is taken too seriously sometimes,” Ross said. “You think once you’re a grown-up, you can’t have fun. You can have fun in your heart. I don’t ever want to grow up.”