A place where it is Halloween every day of the year? Sounds divine! But, sadly, such a magical world only exists onscreen in the 1998 Disney Channel Original Movie “Halloweentown.” The utterly charming film, currently streaming on Disney+, revolves around Marnie Piper (Kimberly J. Brown), a 13-year-old who discovers she is part witch one fateful Halloween night and, along with her siblings, Dylan (Joey Zimmerman) and Sophie (Emily Roeske), follows her grandmother, tenured witch Aggie Cromwell (Debbie Reynolds), back to her native Halloweentown to learn all that she can about her powers and heritage. Since its debut over two decades ago, the tale, which spawned three sequels, has become a beloved classic with many considering it requisite annual October viewing.
Much of the sweet film’s appeal has to do with the town where it is set, an otherworld so bewitching it almost serves as a main character in the story. As described by Aggie, Halloweentown is “a magical place where many different sorts of creatures live together in peace” – “exotic” creatures such as monsters, goblins, ghosts, vampires, gnomes and skeletons, not to mention dozens of dybbuks and banshees! And, of course, witches!
To create the fictional hamlet, the production team descended upon St. Helens in northern Oregon, transforming the Old Towne area, now referred to as the Riverfront District, into a Halloween wonderland complete with a massive jack-o-lantern at its center. According to director Duwayne Dunham, the town square was largely vacant at the time of the filming, which allowed the cast and crew to make use of the place as their “own private backlot,” suitably dressing all of the buildings and storefronts with fall-themed décor. The result of their efforts was an orange and black-hued Shangri-la so revered that, 23 years after the film’s debut, fans still venture to St. Helens each fall for its annual Spirit of Halloweentown celebration, during which the downtown is transformed back into its onscreen self, large jack-o-lantern centerpiece and all!
But don’t go looking anywhere in the area for the majestic Victorian that served as Aggie’s house in the movie. Said to be “just two streets over” from downtown Halloweentown and “up a quarter-mile past the old movie theatre,” in truth the pad can be found a good 30 miles south of St. Helens in Portland’s Eastmoreland community.