An unfamiliar noise hums in the late-October air on evening strolls through some Canadian neighbourhoods.
It's not the whooshing of witches on brooms overhead, the howling of werewolves or the lament of restless spirits. It's the whirring sound of motors blowing air into giant inflatable Halloween decorations that have become ever more popular over the last several years.
Many families celebrating their second pandemic-era Halloween have upped the ante with their decorations, offering a little extra joy to kids who have sacrificed so much in the name of public health.
"Because we can't travel and we can't go anywhere with the kids, it's all about just trying to get community spirit up," said Candace MacGibbon of Toronto. "We had a little bit more time than we normally do, and we just thought if we can share a little bit of a smile when people drive and walk by, why not?"
The hedges leading to her home are adorned with giant spiders, and zombie hands peek out from the mulch in her garden. Ghoulish figures and at least one bright orange, disembodied foot hang from the trees -- decorations picked out in part by her kids, she said.
Neighbour Amy Langlois was an early adopter to the inflatables trend, picking up the pumpkin-headed giants that flank the front door of her Toronto home roughly eight years ago.
With a school nearby, Langlois said she hopes the little kids get a kick out of the festive display.
She said more people in her neighbourhood have embraced decorations this year.
"I think maybe because of the pandemic, people are excited to celebrate this year because they couldn't last year," she said.
Retailers said they've noticed the trend, too.
"Over the last couple years while many of us have been staying at home, exterior decorating for Halloween became a great way to connect and celebrate safely with your community," said Konstance Sevastos, decorative holiday merchant with Home Depot Canada.
She said customers are shopping earlier and more often to deck out their homes for Halloween.
The retailer went viral online last year for one particular decoration: Skelly.
The blow-moulded plastic skeleton dwarfs trick-or-treaters at 3.5 metres tall, has LED eyes that move and captured the hearts and minds of Twitter two years in a row.
"There's definitely a push towards bigger is better," Sevastos said in an emailed statement.
While Skelly's goal is to frighten — or at least shock — the inflatables tend to be a little more "playful," she said.
Walmart Canada has seen a similar boost in the Halloween spirit.
"We're seeing faster sell-through and increased sales of our Halloween decor this year," spokeswoman Stephanie Fusco said in an email. "This year, our customers are gravitating towards our expanded selection of fun and spooky larger-scale inflatable and animated decor options, like our inflatable pumpkin monster and animated reaper."
Neither company offered specific sales data.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2021.
Nicole Thompson and Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press