Come October, most neighborhoods see a small smattering of pumpkins and Halloween decor. But few get a home that goes to the level of spooky one Oakland house reaches. Slathered with cobwebs, lit up with red and blue lights, and decked out with everything from hanging bats to a giant skeleton, this particular Laurel district house has become a known neighborhood attraction.
The ghoulish residence belongs to Wilfried Eisinger, a local French chef, and his family, who have lived in the house for the past 16 years. But the story of how this decked-out Halloween home came to be began years before Eisinger moved into the neighborhood or became a chef.
“I came to the USA with $200, a bag of clothes and an English dictionary,” Eisinger said of moving to the states in 2000 from Toulouse, France. At the time, he was a renowned DJ back home who came to work in the San Francisco nightlife scene. Back then, Eisinger’s DJ name was “Frenchy Le Freak,” and he would play at some of the biggest nightclubs in San Francisco, including the iconic EDM nightclub, Ruby Skye, which shut down in 2017.
At Ruby Skye, Eisinger hosted some of the biggest gigs of his career, including elaborate Halloween parties. Through the years behind the turntable, he often decorated large venues that would host around 400-500 people. All the Halloween decor he collected from his days as a DJ is now stored in his basement — roughly 50 boxes worth around $15,000, he estimates.
Eisinger didn’t want the creepy-crawly decor to go to waste when he switched careers from DJ to chef, learning to cook from renowned chef and owner of the now-closed restaurant, Fleur De Lys, Hubert Keller. As his DJ career dwindled down, he created his own food business: a subscription-based website where customers can order prepared meals from menus he crafts twice a week (the subscriptions are currently at capacity.) He still occasionally jumps behind the turntables.
Now, every year, in the first week of October, he gets some boxes out of storage and goes on the time-consuming task of decorating the outside of the home. Sprawled on his lawn, you’ll see everything from giant bats hanging from trees to a frightful baby doll that crawls up the chimney to timed outdoor lights that he controls from his phone, as well as lots of other devilish decor.
“I have 11 human-size statues that move, but I don’t put them out because of my kids,” he said of not wanting to frighten his two young children.
Neighbors and other visitors thoroughly enjoy how much effort Eisinger puts into his Halloween project every year. Having been in the neighborhood for so long, he has seen how much kids who live nearby and families who come from elsewhere enjoy his boo-licious home.
“For a long time, I was the only house that would put up decorations, and little by little, more and more houses started decorating,” he said. “All the kids stop by when they get out of school. Sometimes families stop by to take pictures and look at all the decorations.”
Despite the pandemic, last year was no exception.
“Last year was one of the busiest times,” he said. “Since people couldn’t really go anywhere, everyone was coming here.” Eisinger wanted to find a COVID-safe way to give out candy like other parents who were mindful about trick-or-treaters. So he tied a string between the trees outside his home and the street sign and hung small bags filled with candy so kids could grab them as they walked by. He may repeat the strategy this year.
To take things up a notch, he sets more decorations up just before Halloween so that on the evening of the 31st, his house looks even more spook-takular.
The night for ghouls and monsters isn’t the only time that he decks out his home. Come Christmas, Eisinger also decorates just as grandiose and even sets out a mailbox where kids can deliver letters to Santa.
“I do it for the neighborhood,” he said.