Bozeman couple unite by love for Halloween

Article Image Alt Text

BOZEMAN (AP) — Lauri and Phillip Aguirre go all out for Halloween.

For the Bozeman couple, turning their entire home into a haunted house is a labor of love. True love.

Separately, they'd always loved putting on Halloween parties. Eight years ago they started doing it together. They share such a passion and delight in creating elaborate Halloween events, that a year and a half ago they got married.

Phillip said he has loved monster movies ever since he was a kid growing up in Burbank, California, obsessed with Boris Karloff's "Frankenstein," Lon Chaney's "Phantom of the Opera," Aurora Monster Model kits and Famous Monsters magazine.

"That's what happens when you're raised between Walt Disney Studios and a graveyard," he said.

In her wedding vows, Lauri promised to "encourage and support your dreams, as you have mine." She went on to say, "I promise you an annual Halloween party, until I grow too old to respackle and paint after the decorations come down."

This is their busy time of year, getting ready for the Halloween party that draws 80 to 100 people.

Midnight in the Tower of London is this year's theme. They just got back from a trip to London and Scotland. They visited ancient graveyards and the stone Tower, where royal wives, traitors and pretenders to the throne met horrible ends.

With time running short before their big event, Lauri had already created mannequins of King Henry VIII and a headless Queen Anne Boleyn. She loves to make everything from scratch, scouring second-hand shops and junkyards for materials. She used damask tablecloths and fur trim from an old coat to simulate royal robes.

Their living room is decorated with a knight in shining armor, human skulls, huge iron keys, gargoyles and a blood-smeared executioner's ax. They have elaborate plans for creating a graveyard on the lawn.

But the bathroom is the place guests are most excited to see each year. One year, Lauri decorated the toilet to look like the gravestone of the biggest monster she could think of — Adolph Hitler. This year, it's a royal toilet, decorated with ornate, crimson textiles.

"It's an actual throne," Phillip said. On the bathroom mirror, "Help" was written in fake blood.

Their guest room has been transformed into a dungeon, featuring a large medieval instrument of torture, the rack. On it lies a skeleton. Iron chains and a rat lend a touch of authenticity.

One year they built a life-sized Frankenstein monster on a lab table. Phillip loved it.

"I wanted to keep it so bad," he said. "But we needed the guest room."

Another year Jack the Ripper was the theme. For that Lauri created a body on a bed, using spray insulation to make realistic looking entrails.

"I have so much fun making props," she said. "I can't cook, I can't sing, but I can create guts."

Usually they decide on a theme two days after the last Halloween party, Lauri said. "Then it becomes an obsession."

They met when Phillip owned a second-hand store in Three Forks, and Lauri stopped by looking for antiques. He had old Hollywood pictures on the wall, and she was one of the few people who ever recognized the actress Billie Burke, who played Glinda the Good Witch in "The Wizard of Oz." They discovered they both loved holding Academy Awards parties.

Lauri, who grew up in Great Falls, is a writer of young adult novels and a book on Montana women. She resisted Phillip's phone calls. But he persisted. They started emailing and eventually, merged Halloween parties.

Finally, Phillip proposed to Lauri in Los Angeles, at the Hollywood sign. They got married in vintage 1940s outfits, her in a long gown and him in a double-breasted suit and fedora. Between them they have two daughters and four grandchildren.

Recently the couple landed parts in the new film, "The Ballad of Lefty Brown," starring Bill Pullman and Peter Fonda, serving as extras.

"That's always been my passion," Phillip said. He described himself as a portrait artist and an "actor/dishwasher." He joked that he's "56 going on 15."

Halloween is the high point of the year, Phillip said. After all, it helped bring them together. "Our song is 'You always make me feel like I'm young again,'" he said.

"He gets me," Lauri said. "I feel every day of life is a celebration. There are people in Las Vegas who don't have another day to celebrate, to have fun.

"One of my girlfriends said, 'You don't want a husband, you want a playmate,'" Lauri said. "I've got both."

There was still plenty to get ready for the Halloween party, but Lauri wasn't worried.

"It'll happen," she said. "It always does."