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Saturday, October 29, 2011

10 Homes That Turn Into Halloween Haunts

10 Halloween ‘Haunters’

10 amazingly decorated homes and the haunters behind them.| By Roger Fillion, SwitchYard Media

Favorite Haunts

They call themselves home haunters: People who rig up eye-popping Halloween decorations on their homes. These passionate revelers buy fancy props or make their own, like a vampire bursting from a coffin or a “scary tree” made from real bark and roots. Some go the high-tech route, wiring their homes for elaborate light shows synchronized to music. 

Tombstones, fog machines, flying ghosts, or Freddy Krueger-like images are among the props you might see when you visit the home of a haunter.  

Their ranks include men, women, young and old. Celebrities such as movie star Dick Van Dyke and Chip Davis, founder of the top-selling group Mannheim Steamroller, are among those who also like to pull out the stops. Here are 10 amazingly decorated homes and the haunters behind the decorations.


Lafayette, Colo.: Haunting via online?


“Seeing the joy in people's faces, especially the younger kids and older generation, makes all the work worthwhile,” Alek Komarnitsky says of his high-tech decorations. Komarnitsky broadcasts his handiwork on a Web site, where web surfers from around the globe can view his Lafayette, Colo., home via three Web cams. Online visitors can turn the lighting on and off via their computer. Plus, they can deflate and inflate giant air-filled figures like Frankenstein and Homer Simpson. Komarnitsky says he spends less than a $100 a year in new equipment because he has “a lot of stuff” he reuses (electricity costs are less than $1 a day, he adds). Komarnitsky puts up elaborate Christmas decorations, too. His Web site and decorating have raised more than $60,000 in donations for celiac disease research at the University of Maryland. His two children suffer from the digestive condition.


Sandy, Utah: Family friendly, to music

Greg Shoop, of Sandy, Utah, initially planted a few tombstones in his yard. “It started out just wanting to have something fun for the trick-or-treaters,” he says. For Christmas, Shoop would synchronize Christmas lights to music. A lightbulb went off. “I decided I should also synchronize my Halloween display to music,” he says.  “Each year I add or update my display a little and add a couple of new songs.” Shoop -- who spends at least $500 annually to repair, upgrade and add props -- tries to keep his display “very family friendly” so young children aren’t scared.  “No people running around scaring people, props that are designed to startle people, and no blood and guts,” he says.


New Berlin, Wis.: Plants vs. Zombies

David Stolp adores the videogame Plants vs. Zombies -- so much so the New Berlin, Wis., resident applied that passion to Halloween 2010. Stolp, his wife, and two kids hatched a plan over dinner to decorate their yard with handmade wooden objects based on Plants vs. Zombies characters -- including zombies, plants, rays of sunlight. They planted a new object daily in a way that told a story. That unfolded over 37 days, culminating on Halloween with more than 75 characters. Stolp used Facebook to explain how each object fit in the story. The family used 16 sheets of wood and six gallons of primer. It cost more than $500. “We were just doing it for fun,” Stolp says. This year: some zombies and plants, plus pumpkin decorations and mad scientist characters. 


Springville, Utah: Imagination gone scary

Snow hasn’t stopped Robert Wolf from decorating his Springville, Utah, home. In 2003, the white stuff caused a short, halting the automated kicking legs he’d installed in his front yard as well as the computer power supply that operated his props. Since then, Wolf has expanded his offerings. His yard features tombstones, fog machines, singing skeletons, and a fake fire burning in a front room window. “I always wanted to become a Disney Imagineer, but I never wanted to move to California or Florida,” he jokes. Each year he adds new props. Among others this year: a gravedigger. Wolf also tries to come up with a new theme annually. Last year it was a carnival featuring real people dressed up as spooky clowns and mimes. “I easily spend $500 to $1,000 every year,” Wolf says. 


Minneola, Fla.: Lights! Music! Scare me!

As a nightclub DJ, Jay Peterson synchronized music to light shows. The Minneola, Fla., resident transferred those skills to a computerized Halloween display. Lights and special effects are synced to music. Passersbys are so bowled over they’ve encouraged Peterson to start a business. “People would say, ‘You should be doing this for a living.’” He took the advice and launched Jayslights LLC, creating computerized Halloween and Christmas light shows for homes and buildings. Peterson estimates he spent close to $10,000 for all his equipment over the years, including new light controllers, amplifiers and outdoor speakers. His 2011 Halloween plans: “A little bit more special effects.”


Lehi, Utah: Handmade haunting

Rather than buy fancy lights and other gear, Levi Bradley makes Halloween props by hand. That means tombstones, a grave that breathes, or a zombie named Jared who rocks back and forth. “I make about 95% of all my decorations and props. I love to create things and then watch them work,” says the Lehi, Utah, resident. Bradley likes watching the expressions on tricker-or-treaters and parents. “I just love to walk around among them,” he says. This year’s theme: a Victorian-era cemetery. “Mostly with a creepy vibe and not much if any gore,” he adds. Bradley reckons he spends about $200 a year.


Kent, Wash.: A family affair

Gena Laws of Kent, Wash., says her synchronized lights and music are a family production. “Every January we have a family meeting and discuss ideas and brainstorm. We then vote on a theme for the year, changing our theme every year,” she says. “A blueprint is drawn up to reflect our theme, and I go to work programming all the lights, which can take up to 10 hours for a two-minute song.” Each “show” includes about a dozen songs. In March, the family begins building the large props, like "Bubbles" the vampire exploding from a coffin, or a horse bursting from the ground with the Headless Horseman on top. The display takes about 250 hours to complete. Laws is spending about $300 on materials this year. “The many comments, laughter, and sometime screams keep us going year after year,” she says.


Watervliet, N.Y.: Zombies and ghouls. Oh my!

Jeffrey Razzano of Watervliet, N.Y., threw himself into Halloween decorations after his daughter, then 21, became “very into” the holiday. He now installs in his backyard motion-activated lights and props, like the fictional Freddy Krueger from the “Nightmare on Elm Street” horror films, or Jason the villain in the “Friday the 13th“ films. Razzano also recruits volunteers to dress up as zombies and ghouls. Visitors are asked to donate a canned good or non-perishable food item that Razzano donates to local food banks. More than 400 people came last Halloween, and Razzano expects to open up the display for two nights this year. He estimates he spends $600 to $1,000 annually. The pay-off, aside from fighting hunger: “Seeing everybody so ecstatic and hearing their feedback,” he says.


Walden, N.Y.: Classic Halloween

Anita LaForte calls her 1870 Queen Anne Victorian house “the classic Halloween home.” While back problems have forced the Walden, N.Y., resident to scale back decorating the last two or three years, LaForte and her husband typically install tombstones in the yard. Lights, ghosts, and a fog machine complete the cemetery. Windows display skeletons, monsters made from Halloween costumes, and a cardboard cutout mimicking the gruesome “Psycho” shower scene. Spiders drop from the front porch ceiling. A voice-activated grim reaper flaps its arms and cries out on the front porch, and a screeching ghost also flies by. “Everything moves,” says LaForte, who estimates she’s accumulated “several hundred dollars” in props over the years.  LaForte hopes she can soon resume decorating in grand style. “Next year may be doable,” she says.


Omaha, Neb.: Halloween with a Christmas-y musician

Chip Davis, founder of the top-selling group Mannheim Steamroller, is known for his popular Christmas albums. But Davis also is a huge fan of Halloween, and celebrates the holiday with a big party on his 150-acre farm, 20 minutes north of Omaha. His house and barn are lit up with orange lights. Guests take a 30-minute hayrack ride where they confront a headless horseman who bursts from the woods screaming, “I lost my head!” The hayrack next stops at a huge, flaming cauldron with eight witches dancing to the beat of drums. “It takes about three cords of wood to keep the fire going inside the cauldron,” Davis says. The grand finale is a spaceship that’s crashed into a hill and is billowing smoke. Theatrical lights illuminate the spacecraft, as well as the eight-foot alien who emerges and speaks with a Darth Vader-like voice.  “I really enjoy Halloween more in some ways than I do Christmas,” Davis says.


Quoted from MSN
Published by Gusti Putra at: 5:41 PM
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