For New Jersey residents, Halloween is always an exciting time of the year. From unique trick-or-treating locations to elaborate house decorations such as Dr. Wayne Gangi’s office in Clifton, North Jersey is always prepared for Halloween. Although many people may not think of North Jersey as a premier place for Halloween, the state has many fun traditions and a great history with this spooky October holiday. In honor of Halloween 2022, we’ve compiled some fun things to know about Halloween in the Montclair area — like unique traditions, how it’s changed over the years, the response after Chris Christie postponed the holiday in 2012, and some must-visit spots to hit while trick-or-treating. Read on to learn all about the history of Halloween in the Montclair area.
The Year Halloween Got Postponed in NJ
In 2012, New Jersey locals were shocked when then-Governor Chris Christie announced Halloween would be postponed. Former Governor Christie signed an executive order postponing Halloween from October 31st to November 5th because of the damage and unsafe conditions from Hurricane Sandy on New Jersey communities.
“In too many communities in our state, the damage and losses from this storm are still being sorted out, and dangerous conditions abound even as our emergency management and response officials continue their work,” Former Governor Chris Christie said in a statement at the time.
Although children couldn’t go out on Halloween, many families found ways to celebrate the festivities — including long-time Montclair resident Chris Mann, who saw the postponement as a “bummer.”
“[My kids] still had costumes and I think we just went over to a friend’s and kind of just had a little makeshift gathering,” Chris said. “[My kids] were a little disappointed but they still got to dress up.”
Trick-or-Treating in the Montclair Area
For many Halloween trick-or-treaters, the main goal is to find the houses with the best candy (we get it — we also love a king-sized Hershey bar). While many houses in Montclair do have good options in their candy bowls, sometimes a candy bar isn’t what kids are looking for on Halloween.
Montclair trick-or-treating stands out amongst the North Jersey towns on Halloween for its alternative Halloween treat options.
Montclair Avenue is on that map not only because of its many options of houses on the flat street but also because of Judy Newman’s house, or as trick-or-treaters refer to her, the “Book Lady.”
Every Halloween, Judy Newman hosts Trick or Read at her house, where she gives trick-or-treaters the ability to choose from free Scholastic books instead of giving out candy. This year will mark 29 years of this tradition.
“[Trick or Read] was a little thing inside our house and people came and word got out and then over the years it’s grown to this massive experience where kids would come from community shelters, homeless shelters, community centers in Newark,” Judy said. “We have thousands of kids coming each year.”
Judy is the Executive Vice President and President of Scholastic Book Clubs and E-commerce and is “inspired” by the growth of Trick or Read.
“[Trick or read] just proves what I know to be true, which is that you just have to keep going and technology or phones and video games, sure, but you just can’t give up believing in the power of a great book connecting with a child,” she said.
Local Businesses That Love Halloween
When it comes to noteworthy spots to visit in the Montclair area, Dr. Wayne’s dental offices at 562 Grove Street in Clifton are not to be missed. Every year, he goes all out with decorations for the holiday — we’re talking lots of lights, giant + freaky figurines, and more.
“My critics say I just throw all this crap all over the lawn, but there’s a meaning behind all this,” he once told Patch. “It goes a lot deeper. I want this to be a place where people can come to see things differently. This tests the reality of our own mortality.
As such, his displays often depict dark and violent scenes, so they’re definitely not for the faint of heart. Having said that, his creepy decorations draw crowds throughout the area, and they’re definitely worth the visit on Halloween.
Another local business that loves Halloween is Paper Plane Coffee Co., located at 194 Claremont Avenue in Montclair. Last year, the shop started holding a dog costume contest — and it’s back again this year for the 2nd time.
View this post on Instagram
The shop also has fun decorations (like a giant skeleton) and a Halloween-themed section of the menu featuring ‘Weird Science’ menu items like Voodoo and Monster Mash.
Montclair on Halloween
Montclair is a town known for its community feel, which is why many residents who grew up in Montclair return to raise their families in the town.
While years may have passed since residents, including Chris Mann and Warren Ross, were running up and down the streets of Montclair sifting through candy bowls to find their favorite candy, Montclair’s Halloween culture has not changed much.
Warren Ross, who was a Montclair resident for 66 years and now lives in Cedar Grove, grew up and raised his kids in Montclair and believes Montclair Halloweens haven’t changed except for costumes and treats.
“I don’t know that it’s changed so much. I really don’t but the costumes that the kids buy are a little more elaborate than they used to be,” Warren said. “When we were younger, we used to give out like candied apples and then somewhere along the line somebody stuck a razor blade in one and it got on national news and people started becoming very leery.”
His favorite part about Montclair Halloweens, something that has remained the same over the years, is that everyone gets in the spirit. Warren gets into the spirit by dressing as a headless butler every year, something he hopes his son Jack will carry on this year, he said.
However, Warren didn’t realize how big Montclair Halloweens were until he ran out of candy during his first Halloween.
“We had over a hundred kids come and we had not enough candy,” he said. “At the end of the evening, I’m embarrassed to say that I was wrapping up carrots and celery sticks because I didn’t want to not give something to these kids… that’s when I realized Montclair is a very big Halloween town.”
For Chris Mann, who has been a Montclair resident for 50 years and also grew up and raised her kids in town, believes Montclair Halloweens have become more festive.
“When I was a kid, it was just much less of a big deal — like people didn’t decorate as much their houses and people didn’t have as many parties,” she said. “And today, I think it’s much more of a big holiday… there seems to be more decorations and people going all out.”
Although trick-or-treating remains the same, Chris said she noticed people now tend to trick-or-treat in other neighborhoods too.
Montclair Avenue is one street in particular where Chris said a lot of people go, including herself.
The street gets a lot of foot traffic from kids both from Montclair and from other towns on Halloween, but for Montclair Avenue resident Judy Newman (“Book lady”), that is what makes Montclair Halloweens so unique.
“There’s something about this community that likes to welcome everybody into their house,” she said. “It’s so child-focused, which is what I love about Montclair, too, that it’s really all about kids… and this is a community that really focuses on families, all kinds of families, and a really important focus on children and developing a community for kids.”