WEST HARTFORD — Like every Halloween, a new cavalcade of skeletons have descended outside of the North Main Street home of Matthew Warshauer.
And just like the decorations that have come before this year’s iteration, there’s also a blunt political message that the Central Connecticut State University history professor wants to deliver to the more than 20,000 cars that pass his home each day.
This year, he’s taking on the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“I always try to choose something that’s politically and contemporary relevant,” Warshauer said outside his home, as dozens of cars pass by every minute. “And what’s more relevant than an attempt to overthrow democracy?”
Using donated funds received through a GoFundMe, Warshauer has reconstructed the U.S. Capitol on his front lawn, showing skeletons climbing the walls of the building as other skeletons dressed in riot gear defend it. Written above them is the phrase “These are not patriots. This is not democracy.”
“The capitol building has only been attacked twice in our entire history,” Warshauer said. “Once was by a foreign enemy. Once was by a domestic enemy.”
Halloween displays have been a constant at his residence since 1998, but they didn’t get political until 2003 as a reaction to the war in Iraq.
“It wasn’t even so much a matter of combining it, it was a matter of sort of reacting in outrage to what the United States was doing in that moment,” Warshauer said. “It was a much more simple display then. It wasn’t nearly as big.”
When it comes to displaying what is usually divisive political issues in front of his house, Warshauer likes to add some levity to it.
“I try to be a little bit humorous, too,” Warshauer said. “This political stuff can get very dark very quickly. I try to put a little humor in there too. I’m sure not everyone finds it amusing. I try to genuinely respect other people’s right to say what they have to say...and I hope people say the same with me.”
With so many eyes on his house, though, his decorations usually spark a discourse.
“Sometimes it’s people passing by,” Warshauer said. “Sometimes it comes in the form of a letter to the house. When I get a letter that says to the Halloween house, I know that it’s positive mail. When I get a letter that says to the residents of 115 N. Main St., I know it’s not positive.”
But that’s what Warshauer wants, he said. He does this to get a rise out of people and to start a conversation that might educate or inform in some way.
“The best part about this whole thing is what I call sidewalk conversations,” he said. “I come out and I start chatting with somebody. They may know who I am and they may not. I could have a perfectly great conversation with somebody and we’re just talking about the content. It’s either after the fact, or not at all, that they learn that I’m the one who put it up.”
This year, Warshauer approached the subject matter a little differently.
“Usually, I put up some pretty big informational panels,” Warshauer said. “I specifically did not do that this year because I just sort of didn’t think it needed to be said. This is so clear cut. The only message is right there. ‘These are not patriots. This is not democracy.’ That is my message. But yeah, I am trying to point things out to people. I am trying to educate people.”