For most people, decorating for Halloween means carving a Jack O’Lantern and maybe hanging a skeleton or ghost in the yard.
Frankfort area residents Michael Brooks and Jim Hauser aren’t most people. They’re taking Halloween décor to the next level.
“I’ve always enjoyed Halloween,” said Brooks.
But Brooks’ love for Halloween and all its trappings took on a life of its own eight years ago.
At the time, Brooks owned a food truck. On Halloween night he put a monster in the truck and gave away hot dogs to parents and children who were out trick or treating.
The monster proved to be such a success, that the following year, Brooks decorated his yard on Pine Hill Road with the same kind of seasonal flair, an undertaking that has grown every year since.
This Halloween, Brooks’ yard is home to an extensive group of goblins and ghouls, including:
- A recreation of the bedroom from the classic horror film “The Exorcist,” complete with a priest figure and a Regan figure with speech capability and spinning head.
- A zombie crash site, consisting of a crashed pickup truck, zombie figures and a fog machine.
- “Dr. Brookenstein’s Pub,” for monsters seeking refreshment.
- A devil figure that is roughly the height of Brooks’ garage and emits smoke after dark.
- Dr. Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s monster, Igor and the bride of Frankenstein, complete with electric chair.
- Dracula in his casket.
- The tombstone and ghosts of Brooks and his wife Debbie.
- A graveyard, with grave markers bearing the names of Brooks’ closest friends.
Organ music plays throughout the yard 24 hours a day. At night, Brooks enhances the scenes with lighting and fog.
The display changes every year. Brooks says that his ghostly hobby is expensive, but that he doesn’t keep track of the exact cost.
Most of the dioramas and decorations have push buttons, so that children who visit the yard can interact with the displays and take pictures. Anyone passing by the Brooks house is welcome to stop and explore.
For Hauser, who has a meticulously detailed ghost dungeon occupying his front yard on Oak Street, Halloween decorations aren’t a show for the neighbors — they’re a passion project.
Hauser says he doesn’t create yard décor for the audience it brings.
“I like to make monsters,” said Hauser. “That’s it.”
Hauser has been building Halloween sets and accessories for approximately 15 years and is a member of Chicago Haunt Builders, a regional Halloween Club with approximately 70 members.
The group meets regularly to compare and discuss building techniques, tour haunts and build together.
Hauser said that it took 40 hours of labor to set up the dungeon and that every new piece he makes costs hundreds of dollars to create.
Hauser also said that he loves haunt building because it provides an opportunity to create ambience. By carving and painting foam to emulate wood and stone, he is able to evoke atmosphere and emotion.
This year, Hauser added a standing and moving coffin to the display.
“It’s a mixed mode art form,” he said.
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