Every Halloween without fail, just when residents of Stansbury Avenue in Sherman Oaks think their picturesque street is safe again, the horror returns, paler than Dracula, with more tentacles than “Alien . “
Returning as regularly as Frankenstein or razor-handed Freddy Krueger, long streamers of toilet paper are found winding about the stately trees and well-kept lawns of the street, like a disorderly mummy’s shroud.
But the question this year is:
Who did it?
The usual prep school suspects? A visiting film company? The residents themselves? Poltergeists?
Again this year, as for at least 24 years by some accounts, what appeared to be hundreds of rolls of toilet paper decorated the street’s trees and bushes--a phenomenon known to high school students as “TP-ing” or “teepeeing.” The two-block stretch of Stansbury Avenue, a half-mile south of Ventura Boulevard, lends itself particularly well to the practice because of the trees that arch high over the street.
Since Monday morning, the street has resembled an eerie Tunnel of Terror, with shards resembling torn white curtains dangling over passing cars.
But some residents are not as eager to put up with the prank as in previous years, calling it a horrible sight and an unholy mess to clean up.
The paper usually stays in the trees for several weeks or until rainfall brings it down. Last year, during the drought, the paper specter of Halloween lingered long into the winter.
“Neighbors have come up to me and said, ‘What a horrible waste of paper,’ ” said Bob Miller, who can remember the annual ritual taking place since 1967, when he first moved onto the street.
But others find the sight enchanting. Some even call it environmental art.
“I love it. I think it’s like Christo’s umbrellas,” longtime resident Stephanie Tyrell said. “My children have grown up with it. It’s like the official heralding of Halloween.”
Many block dwellers call it a harmless rite of fall.
“I don’t think it enhances the neighborhood, and it won’t help property values, but it doesn’t really hurt anything,” Miller said.
But there is a deeper mystery this year on just who the “TP” goblins are.
Several residents point to seniors at Buckley School, an expensive prep school at the end of the street. Residents said that in the past they have seen students hauling boxes of toilet paper down the block late at night, throwing the rolls into trees.
“I figure it’s the boy’s thing to do,” said Helen Levitt, who has lived on the street since 1963. “It’s like a courting ritual. They usually do it on Halloween, so they’re a few days early.”
But Nancy Whitson, principal of the Buckley upper school, said students for the past several years have denied responsibility. “Last year, some of our student reporters did an investigation, and they found out that it was a neighborhood project” by the residents themselves, Whitson said.
“Ten or 12 years ago, seniors used to take credit for it, but I have not heard anyone taking credit for many, many years,” Whitson added.
Still other neighbors said the paper trail leads to a film company who “teepeed” the neighborhood Sunday and then filmed the blocks Monday.
“I know it wasn’t the kids, because they just hit the trees,” former advertising executive Larry Orenstein said.
“This was wrapped carefully around mailboxes and lamp posts. It was all over my lawn. There are laws against littering. It was very picturesque but not very responsible to leave it. I’m very upset about it.”
Another neighbor, author and screenwriter Albert Lewin, agreed: “It’s definitely worse now than it ever was with the kids. We’re a little upset at all this junk.”
But representatives of a film production company filming nearby on Ventura Boulevard “vehemently” denied the paper assault or any filming on Stansbury Avenue, said Katharine McDonald, press deputy for Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky. A resident had complained to Yaroslavsky, who represents the area, and his office contacted the movie makers.
So as Halloween arrives, it is unclear who was responsible for the festooning of Stansbury Avenue.
Or whether they’ll be back.