One Capitol Hill resident has a serious bug problem, but that’s how she likes to live–at least during Halloween.
Lara Walker, 48, is the self-proclaimed “Mama Spider” behind the Capitol Hill spider house at the intersection of 13th Street and South Carolina Avenue SE. Almost every Halloween, the elaborate decorations seem to weave their way out of the brick home.
Walker has lived in Hill East for nearly 25 years and has set up her elaborate display of arachnids for more than 20 of them.
“The spider thing happened completely by accident,” Walker explained. “I like spiders, and they happen to be a simple thing in Halloween stores. I didn’t really like any of the gaudy, bright colored stuff.”
Halloween is the only holiday Walker commits to decorating for, and commit she does. She estimates it takes her at least 40 hours, spread out across the course of a week or so, to put up all the decorations.
Even then, she said she is constantly adjusting them, always finding something that could look a bit better.
The exterior decorations are made up of several packages of 400-foot long, synthetic webbing draped from all levels of the home, including the roof. It’s also wrapped around the fencing, trees and shrubs along the front and side of the house.
That’s not all. Nearly 30 spiders of all sizes are scattered around the webbing, hanging from the roof and windows. There are skeletons, bones, bats, ghosts, rats and likely hundreds of smaller spiders–what Walker calls the “babies”–used around the yard.
Every year, things are arranged a bit differently.
“I want it to look real, not kitschy,” Walker said. “I try to add a little bit every time.”
This year, she crafted some spider “cocoons” using extra webbing and some of the smaller spiders. They’re hanging from trees and settled in bushes. They are, indeed, freakishly realistic.
“People of all ages get a kick out of the house,” she said. “I think a lot of people appreciate how much work goes into it, but to be honest, I don’t do it for them. I just love it. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Until about 8 years ago, Walker worked in marketing communications. She now owns her own dog-walking business.
She doesn’t have any children, but she knows many families in the area and enjoys seeing the kids take notice of the decorations, whether they enjoy them or are a little scared by them.
“That’s what I love about this neighborhood, and I think it’s one of the reasons why I’ve stayed here as long as I have,” Walker said. “I think it’s also why this works here. It’s like a village, and everybody knows everybody.”
“In a community like that,” she added, “it’s kind of fun to be known as the spider lady.”
But being the spider lady is hard work, and Walker isn’t sure how many more Halloweens her spiders will come out for.
“I make no promises anymore about the house,” she explained. “That’s why I wanted to outdo myself this year because this really may be the last year.”
For now, trick-or-treaters can still visit the spider house between 6 and 8 p.m. on Saturday. Walker will be there too, dressed as a “spooky, witchy spider lady,” an extension of the entire display.
Visitors can also document and track their time with the spiders on Twitter and Instagram with #CapitolHillSpiderHouse.
As far as the future of the spider house, Walker said anything could happen.
“It’s a labor of love at this point,” she said. “A really weird one, but I do love it.”