Photo by Joe Del Tufo
In a quiet Wilmington neighborhood, one house sets the scene for Halloween with décor and spooks galore in the Triangle neighborhood.
On an unassuming street in the Triangle Neighborhood of Wilmington, one house glows orange at night. Every night of the year.
The top windows blaze like giant eyes, massive spiders climb the home’s brick walls and rain spouts, and an upside-down pentagram lights the door like glowing fangs.
And that’s just the outside.
Step through the front door and you see thousands upon thousands of Halloween ornaments, curios and playful party favors festooning the large space like a demonic Magic Gardens.
With his wild, wispy, Luciferian beard and long curly hair, Halloween-house owner Dan Martelli can be a little imposing until he smiles. Behind the orange glow, he is an energized and benevolent spirit, trying to make his home a place for fun, friends and occasional revelry.
“My mom used to make all of our costumes when I was growing up,” he says. “When I was 10, I decided to be an escaped maniac. We tied my arms in a straitjacket made out of bedsheets, blackened my eyes and made my hair stick straight out.”
Martelli has been interested in the occult from as far back as he can remember. He collected or inspired friends who had similar interests.
“The house has always had a lot of spirits in it,” Martelli says. “We’ve seen orbs a number of times. One time there were eight of us who saw three orbs that centered in the coffee table and then just split.”
One Halloween more than 15 years ago, he decided to make a statement. He decorated the house for a small Halloween party— and then continued to add to it every year.
With each holiday, the scale of the decorations—and the number of people attending the house party—have grown substantially.
“The last party we had, there were over 250 people,” Martelli says. “And we always have many kids who come to the front to trick or treat before the party starts in the back. We have a band and food, and we do have security to make sure it’s the same experience for everyone and no one underaged is there.”
For Martelli, Halloween is Christmas, New Year’s Day and his birthday all rolled into one. Perhaps the best party was Dan’s own Halloween wedding: “Me and [my husband] Michael will have been married seven years come this Halloween,” he says. “It was a Friday night, and there were 250 people here for an 8 p.m. wedding in our backyard. We had people dressed up like [Night of] the Living Dead handing out candy in the front while we were having a wedding in the back. I don’t think it gets any better than that.”