ROMEO: Terror On Tillson !!

6 Nov

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It’s late October, the ghosts and goblins are getting restless. Tonight we are getting into the spirit of Halloween…..One should never face the eerie, spooky or haunted on an empty stomach, to remedy this we are having dinner at The Shamrock Pub in downtown Utica. Sitting at the same Auburn Road address since 1935, the pub has been turning out one of the best burgers you’ll ever sink your teeth into for decades. The interior is long and narrow; exposed brick walls, open ceiling, dark wood tables and Art Deco style bar and mirrors, give the restaurant a quaint, relaxed atmosphere. The menu is simple:  burgers, corned beef, chili, seasoned fries, jalapeno poppers and cheese sticks; everything you could ever want. Waitresses are always friendly, it’s the kind of place you’ll see the same staff members for years. On any given day patrons run the gamut from businessmen to families, senior citizens to girls volleyball teams; everybody’s welcome.

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It’s dinner time, the place is pretty busy; tonight we are joined by a friend who is not normally a burger eater, after listening to us rave about Shamrock, she’s decided to give it a try. Orders are placed, drinks arrive, the heavenly scent of char-broiled beef fills the air; waitresses traverse the dining room and shout out orders to the bartender. The cook says ‘hot food’, ah, time to eat. Burgers are served on paper plates snapped into those red plastic frames long used by families for outdoor dining, a 7 oz. patty sits atop one bun, shredded lettuce and tomato on the other, a pile of dill pickle chips, sliced onion and a couple of peppers complete the toppings; mustard and ketchup are serve yourself. Without hesitation each of us grabs our burger and takes a big bite, it’s so good it makes me smile; top quality beef cooked perfectly, the cold salty crunch of the pickles, a little heat from the onions and the sweetness of the tomato, food nirvana! Looking down at her empty plate our friend murmurs ‘that’s a good burger’, you bet it is!

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Romeo is one of those lovely historic villages that has somehow managed to maintain its mid-1800’s old-world charm. The architecture of downtown has changed little through the centuries, this is also true of the of the gorgeous Victorian homes which, I might add, are the perfect background for Terror On Tillson Street. Every Halloween homeowners drag out the hammer, nails, saws, extension cords and their wild imaginations to create a unique neighborhood attraction that draws folks from all over to Tillson street for a little fun and fright. We’ve been coming for years and look forward visiting every October. 

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Driving down Main Street we see the congestion of traffic forming at Tillson, we go one street over and park on Pleasant; looks like neighbors here are doing a little decorating of their own, cool! Across from us glowing pumpkins line the porch and steps, lights are strung in bushes and windows looking festive. Witches are prevalent, a group of them are gathered on a porch roof while others rock in chairs. Graveyards and tombstones fill front yards, spider webs and bats cling to porch railings, a procession of skeletons hoist a wooden casket upon their shoulders. Walking to the end of the block we turn left, then left again for the main attraction; suddenly the street is alive with pedestrians, howling winds, rattling chains and creepy characters.

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Today a large home becomes the Tillson Theater, scary images are projected onto a screen, skeletal dogs reside on the lawn, there is no line at the ticket booth, the spooky guy behind the window may be the reason. Next door an old hearse carriage has encountered trouble, the casket has spilled onto the lawn, the unfortunate fellow inside sits up to have a look around. In the distance haunting images fill windows, billowy cloths react to the night breeze, black lights make everything glow in an unnatural way. Crowds gather around temporary fences watching the goings-on; a female skeleton in an antique wheelchair comes rushing towards the gate, gasps are released from the crowd. The electric chair is a crowd favorite, personally it gives me the chills when electricity passes through the prisoner and his body trembles. The Tillson castle complete with drawbridge is advertising rooms to rent….anyone interested?

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People are grouped together on the sidewalk, the pace varies according to the displays, we pause to watch as a cauldron is stirred by a skeleton chef, smoke from dry ice wafts over the sides. Cookbooks on a shelf offer recipes for preparing humans, glass jars hold shrunken heads, eyeballs and unidentifiable items. Out of the blue a child screams and begins to cry, everybody jumps, there in a tree hangs a horrifying face with ghastly fangs, more yelps follow. The Romeo High School Football Graveyard is the center of activity, here you can purchase a shirt, hot chocolate, cup cozy or cookbook; proceeds go to a scholarship fund and other local and national charities. Keep in mind these homeowners put this on out of the goodness of their hearts, they do all the work and pay for everything out of their own pocket, it is an amazing feat!

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At the Tillson Playground dolls fill the seats on swings and merry-go-round, A gigantic spider hovers over a radioactive hive, Stinky’s Trucking dump truck is parked nearby, arms and legs dangle from the bed, advertisements on the side include Got Bodies? and U Call I Haul.  Across the street cornstalks fill a front yard, colored lights and tall slender figures give it a spooky feel, an evil-looking figure hangs from the gable. The dead are having fun at the saloon while next door an elegant ball is taking place. The lawn is transformed into a ballroom; pillars are draped in tulle, a crystal chandelier provides light for the dance floor,  a queen of sorts is perched on her throne, distorted humans with animal heads guard the queen closely. The scene is otherworldly; ghouls are dressed in sequined gowns, top hats, they wear masks and beads as they twirl. Off to one side trapeze artists hand from trees getting ready for their performance.

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The captain of a marooned pirate ship looks out over the crowd, chests lie open, their treasure spilling out. Down the block a house is completely shrouded in webs, windows have been boarded shut. Havoc is taking place at Tranquil Estates Cemetery, caskets are unearthed dumping their contents onto the grass. One yard after another offers a slice of the freaky, dark, abnormal and scary; animated creatures moan and groan with glowing eyes, giant skulls fill window frames, sinister creatures lurk in yards. Bizarre and frightening clowns have taken over a house, they pop out of windows and doors trying to lure us in. We reach the end of the street just as it starts to drizzle, it seems a fitting way for the evening to end. Can’t wait to do it again next Halloween!

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