Michele Hafner doesn't mind the graveyard in front of her house. The family of skeletons sitting at her dining room table may be a little strange, but they're easy enough to get along with. And who can't love the human-sized spider hanging from the roof?
Michele Hafner doesn't mind the graveyard in front of her house.
The family of skeletons sitting at her dining room table may be a little strange, but they're easy enough to get along with. And who can't love the human-sized spider hanging from the roof?
This Peoria home, decked out and drawing attention from the neighbors, is an ongoing project for Hafner's Halloween-obsessed husband, John. Michele Hafner doesn't quite match her husband's passion for ghouls and ghosts, but she knows when December comes around, it's her turn to take over.
"I tell him it has to be elegant for Christmas," she said. "That's our compromise."
The Hafner house is a trick-or-treater's paradise. Tombstones are scattered about the yard, with decomposing carcasses popping up here and there. A coffin complete with furry rats rests near the driveway, and an intimidating scarecrow keeps guard.
On Halloween night, Michele Hafner said eerie lights and fog pour over the yard from every direction, and Frankenstein makes himself at home in the science lab on the front porch. Thunder and lightning crash from speakers, and the monsters living in the spooky shack made from an old playhouse come to life.
"My dad is obsessed with Halloween," said 9-year-old Nick Hafner. "Last year we bought so much candy, we probably had like 30 pounds left over."
Houses like the Hafners' are trick-or-treating magnets, often stirring up more oohs and ahs than even the most embellished winter wonderlands.
Dale Burklund said his Halloween haven attracts about 800 kids each year. Lucky for him, he owns Burklund Distributors, a local candy distribution company.
"Christmas is my favorite holiday, but Halloween has the best decorations," Burklund said. "I like the unusualness of it. You get to be really creative."
Pumpkins and strands of lights are sprinkled throughout the yard, but the giant spider web that nearly envelopes the house is the real work of art. Burklund said it takes four men from Hoerr's Nursery an entire day to decorate the yard.
Kathy Ramirez has opted for mostly inflatable decor at her home but also has some traditional spooks, like the evil camouflage-wearing clown who has made his home in a lawn chair on the front porch.
"We just love Halloween," Ramirez said. "We're so crazy, we put on costumes and decorate in September."
Located near a bus stop, Ramirez's house is a playground for schoolchildren, who explore her yard in the mornings, checking out the always-growing sights and sounds of the Halloween hub.
"I think it's just a fun holiday," Ramirez said. "And we make the most of it."
Erin Wood can be reached at email@example.com.