Marblehead architect creates latest Halloween installation: Egyptian cobra goddess

Tom Saltsman hard at work on his latest Halloween installation PHOTO: Leigh Blander

Marblehead architect Tom Saltsman is at it again, creating a 20-foot-tall, mystical Halloween installation in his driveway at 32 Pleasant St. that is already drawing crowds from around Marblehead and beyond.

Saltsman’s subject this year is the ancient Egyptian goddess Meretseger, who has the head of a cobra and the body of a woman. Meretseger guarded and protected the Valley of the Kings, a burial ground for pharaohs on the west bank of the Nile.

“She guards the tomb, that’s what she does,” said Brooke Trivas, Saltsman’s wife.”You’ll have to come figure out what she’s guarding. We always thought it would be fun to do something Egyptian.”

The Walking Man in 2021 PHOTO: Brooke Trivas

Saltsman has been building Halloween installations for nearly 20 years, starting when his daughters were at the old Gerry School. Some highlights include a red-eyed dragon that blew smoke, a spaceship, a 22-foot hulking gorilla that turned his head and made noises, a ghost ship and an 18-foot skeletal man that seemed to walk when the wind blew.

For the first time since COVID, people will be able to enter the installation. Saltsman and Trivas are keeping the indoor section a secret… for now.

Saltsman has been planning Meretseger for months and started building in September. He moved outside about a week ago.

So, how many hours does it typically take to create the installations?

“A lot. I mean a lot,” said Trivas. “The inside has been so extraordinary on top of the outside. You work full-time, come home, change and go in there until you can’t stand up anymore.”  Saltsman has a small group of Marblehead volunteers who help every year, including Tim and Katie Sullivan and Jill Dearborn.

Saltsman uses a lot of styrofoam in his creations, along with recycled materials he finds in his house or around town.

Trivas and Saltsman in front of Meretseger PHOTO: Leigh Blander

“My daughter modeled for him. He carved Meretseger’s arms out of styrofoam and used plastic and bound pieces of wood. Whatever he could find,” Trivas said. 

People are stopping by to watch the building process.

“It’s sardonic and sensual,” said Joanne Clifford, who was walking by with a friend. “The best part about art is that is stimulates conversations.”

People are also slowing down their cars to snap photos, Trivas said.

“Oh yeah, Waze is red,” she laughed, referring to the driving app. “People honk their horns and shout out ‘Thank you! This is great!’”

Asked which of the installations has been her favorite over the years, Trivas answered, “I don’t like to have a favorite child.

“They all spark and delight people in their own way,” she added.  “The emotional trigger is that it’s happening again, the fact that we’re still doing it. People are so grateful and so appreciative. They mark this as part of their experience of living in this town.”

A sign posted at 32 Pleasant St.

Here are the hours when people can visit and tour the inside of the Meretseger installation:

Sunday, Oct. 30, 3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 31, 4:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 4, 4:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

To see more of Saltsman’s installations over the years, click HERE

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