Berkeley resident’s climate disaster Halloween decorations are ‘scarier than any ghost’

Plus: A roundup of spooky Halloween and Dia de los Muertos happenings this weekend.

Julie Twichell picks up an oil-covered metal duck from the terrifying “climate disaster” Halloween decoration display in the yard of her South Berkeley home. Credit: Joanne Furio

Ghosts, goblins and … global warming?

For South Berkeley resident Julie Twichell, Halloween might be a time for creepy creatures and costumes, it’s also the perfect time to educate trick-or-treaters about the scariest topic of all: climate disasters. To that end, she has dedicated half the yard in front of her Craftsman bungalow at 3204 Tremont St. to a display depicting an oil spill.  

The homemade scene includes a 3-foot cardboard oil tanker and a river of black oil created by rolls of plastic, which cover up the blue plastic waters. The black “oil” turns into a painted surface that runs off the display and across the sidewalk. Black metal ducks and two crows represent oil-covered wildlife. Behind it all are the flames of wildfires, climbing along the home’s façade. Nearby, posters hang or are inserted into the ground, including a homemade one demanding to “Stop Adding Fuel to CA Wildfires! $ Big Oil has always known fossil fuels harm the climate.” 

“One of the scariest things happening today is climate disasters. We need to act much quicker than we had imagined,” said Twichell, 66, a retiree who spent a quarter of a century educating the public about lead poisoning for Alameda County. She sees her display as a continuation of her role as educator.

“For the younger people, their lives will be dramatically impacted,” she said. “People are going to lose their livelihoods. Their lives. That is scarier than any ghost or goblin.”

Though visions of global disaster may be an unusual way to decorate for Halloween, Twichell and her friend Rosemary Ehat wanted to include a more positive display to leave children with hope. “We think it is very possible to turn things around,” Ehat said. 

The other side of the garden includes things “we can do to make change,” Ehat explained, represented by images of happy children and zero-emission toy busses and trucks. One poster shouts, “Rise for Climate Jobs and Justice!” Another, depicting a girl jumping in the air, proclaims “The Freedom to Breathe!” 

The treats Twichell will be offering will also have a green theme: chocolate globes and packets of pollinator seeds. 

Spooky happenings in and around Berkeley

You don’t have to don a costume or eat a single piece of candy to celebrate seasonal holidays like Halloween and Dia de los Muertos. Here’s a sampling of events, ranging from roller-skating to science-based experiments and avant garde performance.

Friday, Oct. 29

  • Halloween Hootenanny on the Downtown Berkeley Plaza hosted by DJ O’Aces from 4-7 p.m. Evie Ladin, a master of the clawhammer banjo, and her band will play, followed by a Rocky Horror “Time Warp” featuring the Barely Legal Players. Crafts for the whole family will be provided by Artist & Craftsman. Free. 
  • Wear your costumes to the Howl-ooo-ween at the Lindsey Wildlife Center from 2-7 p.m. Animal ambassadors, a Mad Scientist and carnival-like games will be on hand. The event is sold out, but a limited number of tickets will be available at the door. 

Saturday, Oct. 30

  • Halloween Roller Skate BOOgie and costume contest from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at Grove Park, 1730 Oregon St., Berkeley. Costume parade at 1 p.m.; costume contest at 2 p.m. Sponsored by the City of Berkeley. 
  • Happy, Creepy Halloween at Lawrence Hall of Science from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Activities include Pioneers in Engineering, who will launch pumpkins into the air with their trebuchet; creepy, crawly critters in the Animal Discovery Zone; and a photo booth for costumed visitors, who also get free tickets to the 3D theater. Free with admission. 1 Centennial Drive, Berkeley. (Also on Oct. 31.) 
  • Puppet Art Theater will present a free virtual program, Tommy’s Space Adventure, with a Halloween twist, from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sponsored by the Berkeley Public Library. 

Sunday, Oct. 31

  • Manual Cinema’s production of Frankenstein features actors who join puppeteers and live musicians to create live cinema at 3 p.m. Cal Performances, 101 Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley. 
  • Dia de los Muertos will be celebrated from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at a free outdoor festival in the Fruitvale section of Oakland, with local artists, vendors, ofrendas, Aztec dancing and more. International Boulevard between Fruitvale Avenue and 42nd Avenue, Oakland. Sponsored by the Unity Council. 
  • Halloween Family Parade from 1-3 p.m., sponsored by Fourth Street retailers and featuring the Berkeley High School band and costumed characters including a gigantic walking tree, skeletons on stilts, a mad gorilla scientist, a sea dragon and Sterling the Bubblesmith and his amazing bubble creations. Treats and prizes will be awarded. 
  • Happy, Creepy Halloween at Lawrence Hall of Science from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Activities include Pioneers in Engineering, who will launch pumpkins into the air with their trebuchet; creepy, crawly critters in the Animal Discovery Zone; and a photo booth for costumed visitors, who also get free tickets to the 3D theater. Free with admission. 1 Centennial Drive, Berkeley. (Also on Oct. 30.)
Joanne Furio moved to Berkeley because it has sidewalks. She specializes in design in all its incarnations, innovation and the arts.