Haunting hobby: Marblehead architect prepares for next big reveal

With Halloween still more than a week away, people are already slowing their cars and peering into Tom Saltsman’s Pleasant Street driveway, hoping to catch a sneak peek of his latest Halloween installation.

“He started working on it in early September, planning and making models and sculptures,” Saltsman’s wife Brooke Trivas told the Current. “There’s a lot of prep work.”

 Tom Saltsman works on a model for his latest Halloween installation.  COURTESY PHOTO / BROOKE TRIVAS

The owner of a design and construction firm, Saltsman has been creating awe-inspiring Halloween installations in his driveway and garage for nearly 20 years, attracting people from around Massachusetts and beyond. He’s even been on national TV.

Last year, he designed and built a 20-foot Egyptian goddess with the head of a cobra and body of a woman. Other highlights from over the years 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.

Trivas was tight-lipped about the subject of this year’s design, except to say it will feature outdoor and indoor components. 

Asked when they decided on this year’s theme, she answered, “We had a conversation right after last Halloween about the inside. Then we didn’t talk about it again until August. In August, we looked at each other and said, ‘Well, it’s time.’ Then he started doing sketches.”

Saltsman’s gorilla turned its head and grunted. COURTESY PHOTO / BROOKE TRIVAS

Saltsman works full time and spends dozens of hours in the evenings and on weekends working on his Halloween projects. This year is no different.

“He’s spent a lot of time working on really beautiful models of ideas,” Trivas said. “He’s really interested in the process and in exploring the materiality of things. Inside there’s a lot of play on different effects and how that might create a sense of space and light and depth.”

She continued, “He does find a lot of joy in exploring those things and trying to get it right. If it wasn’t fun and it wasn’t exploratory, joyful and creative… it wouldn’t look the way it does.”

Saltsman and Trvias typically announce a schedule of days and times when people can come and tour the installations, right before, on and after Halloween. Stay with the Current for updates.

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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