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The story of the Trick or Treat House of Montlake

What started as a Pumpkin Witch conversing with a scarecrow belonging to two children across the street, has morphed over 18 years into a low key Halloween block party in James Sutherland’s Montlake front yard. This is the story of the Trick or Treat House of Montlake.

Sutherland has lived in his home since 1996 and noticed over the early years how few kids showed up to his house on Halloween.

“I love Halloween” James said, “ever since I was a kid. When I grew up and moved here, it didn’t seem like there was a lot of Halloween happening. I ended up in a cute little house in a sweet neighborhood and it seems like there should be kids knocking at the door.”

18 years of decorating later, Sutherland and his husband Don now expect 800 to 900 kids this year.

“This is the 18th Trick or Treat House Anniversary,” Sutherland tells CHS on a visit to the Montlake Hauntlake neighborhood. “It started with 20, then 50 to 75, then the elementary school found out about it and so, it became a couple hundred and stayed there for a while. I think word got out elsewhere because we see van loads of people parking and coming to trick or treat on our street.”

While it is intended to be a “calm, mellow, sweet, not too scary, Halloween street party,” Sutherland says he can’t leave his house on Halloween because of all the visitors.

When he really took on the decorating fun, the themes changed every year. Sutherland has photos from every year on his website,, so you can see the progression from a birthday party, a garden party, to an art opening where “we made all the artwork and sculptures.” Sutherland ended up selling and donating the proceeds from those creations to the Montlake Elementary art program.

While it all seems like silly fun, Sutherland has decided to take a few extra steps to ensure his decorated house helps his community. As it grew in size and detail, neighbors began asking if they could pitch in, buy candy, or pay for the costs of decorations.

“We always saw it as a gift to the neighborhood,” he said.

The effort now focuses on the Chicken Soup Brigade. Last year’s haul brought in 46 boxed meals, 21 pounds of dry pasta, 22 pounds of cereal and crackers, and $333 in cash donations.

““This has really brought the neighborhood together and it feels good it turned into a food drive for the community,” Sutherland said.

Although he thinks the event might be reaching capacity for the street — “When you get parental units and friends visiting, we see maybe 2,500 people” —  we’re pretty sure a few more trick or treaters won’t put too much of a dent in the 200 pounds of candy Sutherland will have ready this year at the Trick or Treat House.

The Trick or Treat House is located on E Blaine in Montlake. You can learn more at

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