Unless you live in southeastern Michigan, you probably never heard of Tillson Street or the village of Romeo… The 4,000-resident quaint town dates back to the pre-Civil war era and is located about 30 miles north of Detroit. Romeo’s Tillson Street is Michigan’s “scariest”, and this is its claim to fame.
The reason behind it is that every October nearly all of 2 and 1/2 blocks of Victorian era Tillson Street houses are transformed with elaborate Halloween decorations. And when I say elaborate, I don’t exaggerate. Gravestones and coffins, skeletons, scary clowns, monsters, corpses, ghosts and huge spiders and bugs – you find it all there. Many of them spiced with animation, fog, sounds and, of course, lighting. Just by looking, you can tell it takes countless hours to make and assemble them.
So you might wonder how did it all start? Who is behind all this?… As often the case, there is a person who is “blamed for it”, as she puts it when telling the story. Vicky Lee has been on Tillson Street for over 30 years. Lee’s birthday happens to be on Halloween, and for that reason, to celebrate it, her mother tried to make it a little bit more special for her on the holiday. So when Lee’s sons were young, she continued the celebration tradition by decorating for Halloween. Gradually, few neighbors joined in, and eventually it grew to include pretty much the whole street.
It always drew a local crowd, but few years ago, when it was featured on one of the local evening news, it literally “exploded”. Lee estimates that about 80,000 visitors come to see Tillson St. displays in the two weeks ending with “spooky” holiday; some of them from as far as Germany and Japan. As the days draw towards Halloween, the throws of people line the sidewalks, even during the day, but especially at night. The crowds slowly move along the sidewalk admiring, discussing, and taking photos. Therefore, it takes about hour and half to cover both sides.
The traffic can come to a gridlock in the evening. So take that into consideration, if you plan to visit. You can park on any of the local streets, but I would not waste time trying to find a parking spot on Tillson.
If you plan a visit to Detroit area in the second half of October and you like unusual, one of a kind, attractions, you should definitely put Tillson Street on you destination list. The event is free, the town is safe, with friendly residents.
Rich S. is a lifetime photographer and traveler based in Metro Detroit area. He has been traveling the Great Lakes area for over 30 years.
Follow his blog about his trips, interesting activities and destinations in the Great Lakes region.