Betty the Witch brews ghostly fun for Bayside

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Elizabeth Robbins, who is better known on Halloween as “Betty the Witch,” may be 65, but she says she has never grown up.

“I live for Halloween,” she said.

A 45-year Bayside resident who works as a gardener in the Bronx and Queens, Robbins has made it her mission for the past 31 years to keep up the Halloween spirit. Frustrated that few neighborhood children came to her house on 207th Street, she began Halloween-Fest-on-the-Mall, a one-woman event where she sets up a stand on the grassy mall at 208th Street and 42nd Avenue in Bayside.

“This is one of the great loves of my life,” Robbins said.

After decorating the mall with balloons, a cornstalk tent with herbs grown by locals and a scarecrow with the head of a teddy bear named Scarlton, Robbins spends the next three hours on the mall holding a Halloween celebration. While in the past other members of the 207th Street Block Association have helped out, Robbins mostly holds the event herself now. Dressed in a witch’s costume, she sets up a table and chairs where she hands out bags of candy and homemade cupcakes she calls “Elizawitch’s cupcakes.”

Sometimes if a child can brave the fall wind, she tells them ghost stories or has construction paper that the kids can use to make masks.

“We’ll just enjoy being out here and talking,” Robbins said.

When it gets dark, Robbins lights a pumpkin and the kids in the neighborhood come visit and dance around it.

Robbins said she loves Halloween, but dislikes the goriness and the fake violence that has accompanied the holiday in recent years.

“There’s a certain innocence that should be about it,” Robbins said.

Robbins said she has loved the holiday since she was about 7 or 8 years old and takes a week off every year to hold her Halloween celebration and recover from it. If it rains, she leaves a note out on the mall for children to come to her house. Once when she went to Augusta, Ga., for Halloween, she set up a booth there.

While many kids from the neighborhood come to visit Robbins, she said she does it because she loves it.

“I think I do it more for myself than anyone,” Robbins said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 6:17 pm, October 10, 2011
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