Neighbours accuse Halloween display creator of racism, insensitivity

·2 min read

Some residents of Maple Ridge, B.C., say one family's front lawn Halloween display is insensitive, inappropriate and racist, and it's time for it to come down.

Calvin Meier and his family have put up the display for seven years, adding to it each time. It includes a person being guillotined, two people being hanged and a person getting sawed in half.

"It's Halloween, this is medieval. That's basically all there is to our display," Meier said on Saturday.

But some of Meier's neighbours say the display — which features electronics that make the human figurines appear to be writhing in pain — evokes the idea of lynching, or suicide.

Susan Einarsson, whose grandchildren live nearby, think it's too gruesome, especially for little children.

"Halloween doesn't just take our societal duty to protect children from horrific violence and erase it for one day or three weeks," Einarsson said. "This is not Halloween, what little children are supposed to be seeing."

Doug Kerr/CBC
Doug Kerr/CBC

Einarsson says she spoke with Meier two years ago about her thoughts on the display. She says it's especially upsetting to her because a relative of hers died by suicide.

Einarsson says she reached out to city council to step in, but they have, so far, refused to intervene.

On Saturday Councillor Kiersten Duncan said on Twitter that she would look into the matter, but was unsure about what could be done.

Later in the day, Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden said on Facebook that the display, "doesn't pass the test of acceptable in my mind."

He said that the city had received two formal complaints about it, but needed one more to proceed with enforcement under a recently passed nuisance bylaw.

"While this isn't criminal, it is clearly offensive to many," he wrote about the Meier's Halloween display.

Plans for next year

Meier says he welcomes anyone who wants to talk about the display so he can explain that it's medieval and doesn't have anything to do with suicide or racism.

"To even consider this a racial aspect is completely ridiculous," he said.

Most people in the neighbourhood like the display, Meier says, and hundreds of people come by every year to see it.

Helen Homer is one of them.

"I think it's great that they go to all this work every single year to put it up, it's so good," Homer said.

Doug Kerr/CBC
Doug Kerr/CBC

"I have my granddaughter staying with me for four days, and she loves to come and look at all the lights and all the things."

Despite the growing controversy, Meier says he intends to put the display up again next year.