Human skeletal remains were found around dusk Saturday night, Oct. 31, on Stirrup Road in Reston.
Further investigation uncovered an “unofficial” cemetery that Jim and Nancy Harris have been operating ever since she was a school teacher at Lake Anne Elementary School.
Sara Folsom, 13, touched the decomposing skin on the nose of a body staked up against a tree.
Her brother Robert Folsom, 11, carried a severed arm, still dripping with blood, that he found on his neighbor’s property.
When officials came with cameras, they found a skeletal dog munching on the bones of a lamb in the front yard.
Bats flew around the front porch. Low-flying witches ominously gave warning to anyone who dared to enter the premises.
“No one gets out of here alive,” screamed blood-red letters on a blood-stained sheet at the bottom of the driveway.
“Every year there’s something new,” said neighbor Marty Gurtz, who investigated the property with his wife Sharon.
TWO DAYS LATER, nothing remained but folklore from the neighborhood.
“It’s just a neighborhood thing,” said Sara Folsom.
“The haunted house is our favorite,” said Neal and Jason Gross, next-door neighbors.
“The graveyard is a good idea, too,” said Jason, 11.
Robert Folsom helps Jim and Nancy Davis with finishing touches in the days before the Halloween extravaganza.
“I had some ideas,” he said.
Jim Harris started to gather boxes of Halloween items from downstairs storage in late September. When asked to approximate the number of items in the inventory of his wife’s “brainchild,” he said probably not a thousand.
He claims he does not need to rent a storage bin.
The Halloween display takes a month to set up, and fills their entire first floor, front yard and garage.
“It kind of grew over the years,” said Jim Harris.
NANCY HARRIS retired from teaching at Lake Anne Elementary School in 2011. But for more than 25 years, the beloved teacher has hosted a Halloween party in her home for first and second grade students.
Harris always takes photos of all children who come to the Haunted House.
She now invites her grandchildren’s classes, and her grandchild Katie, a sixth-grader at Sunrise Valley Elementary School wanted it especially scary this year since she and her friends are now in the sixth grade.
“The party started modestly over 25 years ago, but grew,” the couple said as they added a haunted house and graveyard and equipment including flying bats, jumping spiders and fog machines.
The witch’s cauldron display was a new feature this year.
The Harris host neighbors one night, too, and the macabre celebration lasts three nights for all the invites and “victims.” Former students often attend.
Neighbor Joan Smith walked nonchalantly past the cemetery and witches on her way back home Saturday night as Jason, 11, Neal, 14, and their mother Nadine Gross dared to enter.
“She loves teaching and she loves children and it shows,” said Smith.
The Halloween party is one of the events that her former students remember the most, said Nancy. Sometimes former students, now in high school or college, will show up on Halloween night to say hello.
CHLOE YAZDANI was one of Nancy Harris’ former students at Lake Anne Elementary. She is now a second grade teacher at Timber Lane Elementary School in Falls Church and Harris has evolved into her mentor and friend.
“We did the best things in her class,” said Yazdani. “I remember first grade more than any other year.”
“I remember first grade more than any other year.”
— Chloe Yazdani, former student
Yazdani still has a photo of the year her class braved the haunted house almost two decades ago.
“It’s the most coveted of invitations,” said Yazdani. “This is quite a memory.”
When Harris retired, she donated her library to Yazdani to use for her classes. “I tell my students, ‘Maybe one day you’ll be a second-grade teacher,’” said Yazdani.