Spent Your $20.34 on Halloween Home Decor Yet?

pumpkinThat’s how much the National Retail Federation (NRF) says each of the two-in-five Americans planning to decorate their home this year will spend, on average. (The figure is based on a Consumer Spending Survey it commissioned from Prosper Insights & Analytics.)

When you add up all this spending, you get a total of $1.9 billion. That’s a lot of styrofoam tombstones and hay bales!

With all this home decorating, will extreme displays become the next big grounds for neighbor disputes and lawsuits? Winter holiday lights displays always seem to engender their fair share.

Legally speaking, a display that’s so extreme that it affects others’ enjoyment of their home–perhaps due to light, increased traffic as people drive by for a look, or incessant sounds of creaking doors and “Mwah hah hah hah” laughter–can, in theory, provide grounds for a nuisance claim in court, just as with holiday lights displays.

Courts are, however, reluctant to interfere with people’s property rights, and worried about placing unconstitutional restrictions on free speech. So a display would have to be pretty egregious before a court would order a change (leaving aside the fact that Halloween will likely be over before you can get into court).

One wonders what the court would have said about the Parma, Ohio family who made the news this year (even being written up in the U.K. Daily Mail!) with a Halloween display that caused children to become scared and start crying as they walked past on their way to school.

The display reportedly includes multiple and highly realistic human bodies: a crucified man upside down, a child with a knife in its throat, and a body, wrapped in plastic, hanging headfirst from a tree. (Ick. I don’t recommend looking at the photos.)

City officials refused to step in, on grounds of freedom of expression. But after public complaint and concern, the family seems to have taken down the display on its own.