The queen of Halloween

The Brooklyn Paper
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A flying saucer will touch down on a makeshift Clinton Hill graveyard this Saturday, in anticipation of the most spine-tickling holiday of the year.

The UFO, a silver ship spanning 50 feet in circumference and standing 15 feet tall, is this year’s central prop in what has become one woman’s annual quest to share the glorious ghoulishness of Halloween with her neighbors.

Janna Kennedy Hyten would not reveal the alien ship’s mission, citing state secrecy. But she did promise that before long, its purpose would be as clear as the cornea of a gouged-out eyeball.

Hyten has used the parlor floor and front yard of the five-story white Victorian mansion between Lafayette and DeKalb avenues as a stage from which to scare the tuna salad out of her friends and neighbors since 1994.

Her Halloween observances have since grown more ambitious, though they retain their original form: one part private bash, one part public spectacle. These days, her party attracts about 500 people, and her increasingly elaborate front yard draws countless more.

Hyten, who gave two reporters a tour of her apartment on the condition that they reveal next to nothing about the preparations they saw inside, said her love of Halloween is rooted in her childhood.

“I grew up on a very dark street in rural Florida,” said Hyten, who now shares the home she’s dubbed Chateau de Chat Noir with her husband, daughter, a deaf and blind black cat Tattoo and a plump black kitty called Bob.

“My mom and dad’s house was the scariest one on the block,” said Hyten. “My mom was a hermit with a BB gun, and she didn’t like visitors. For me, this big extravaganza is the exact opposite of what I grew up with.”

There are no flying BBs, but it is the scariest house on the block. Take, for example, the mock skeleton with its cranium sliced in two atop an autopsy table covered in blood. Hyten wouldn’t reveal its exact purpose. She would only refer cryptically to the likes of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.

Hyten is not alone in her obsession with Halloween. She’s infected about a dozen of her friends with her enthusiasm, each of whom is charged with tasks ranging from scriptwriting and lighting to music and tombstones.

Yes, tombstones: the grave-markers that sprout up every year from the oddly fertile grass on Hyten’s front lawn. The epitaphs change with the season. In recent memory, the cemetery has memorialized Christian Slater, Mike Tyson, and Bob Dole.

“Tombstone epitaphs fly back and forth on email,” said Claudia Howard, Hyten’s upstairs neighbor, who is the head writer. Indeed, only one tombstone epitaph has survived unchanged: the stone above the grave of the National Rifle Association.

“It’s all in good fun,” said Hyten. “It’s not meant to offend. Well, it is meant to offend some people.”

Halloween festivities at Le Chateau de Chat Noir, (313 Clinton Ave., between DeKalb and Lafayette avenues in Clinton Hill), Oct. 31, after dark. (Mwaaa-ha-ha-ha!).

Updated 4:33 pm, July 9, 2018
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