Featured photo: An evil pumpkin witch brings the dead back to life in Ursula Bone’s front yard (photo by Jerry Cooper)
Possessed babies. A crashed UFO. A demonic scarecrow. And of course, the iconic 12-foot skeletons from Home Depot.
These are just a few of the decorations that grace the yards of some of the most elaborate Halloween houses in the Triad. And this year, we caught up with the owners of five houses to ask what goes into planning such involved horrorscapes and what they love most about the scariest (and I daresay, most fun) holiday of the year.
The 400 block of N. Cedar St.
Favorite candy: Reese’s Cup or Snickers
Liz Fitzpatrick’s 12-foot skeleton, Skellan Skarsyärd, has his own Instagram account.
“Just a normal, #12footskeleton in Greensboro looking for new friends,” his bio reads. “Likes: cosplay and selfies with strangers. Dislikes: HOAs and Halloween-haters.”
It’s an account that Fitzpatrick, who has lived in College Hill for 20 years, started earlier this year after finally getting her hands on one of her one “12-footers” as the Halloween community calls them.
While she has almost always decorated her house for Halloween, she says 2020 was the first year she went out and bought an expensive decoration — an inflatable sandworm and a large Beetlejuice. She tried to buy a 12-foot skeleton that year, too but Home Depot had quickly sold out. The next two years, Fitzpatrick made sure to stalk the website until she finally got to bring Skellan home last summer.
“It’s been up in my yard the whole time for a year,” she says.
He’ll go through outfit changes, like in the spring he had a flower crown and held a single red flower, while in the summer he had a red and blue pinwheel, a Jaws tank top and a pool tube around his waist.
This year for Halloween, she’s thinking of dressing him up as a medical examiner, inspired by Reanimator. It’ll match the overall theme of her decorations, which will draw from Fitzpatrick’s job as a nurse.
“I don’t scare easily but I get lots of inspiration from the crazy, funny, strange things that happen without violating HIPAA,” she says.
In addition to the sandworm, Beetlejuice and Skellan, Fitzpatrick says she’s got half a dozen human-sized skeletons, string lights and a digital projection that her husband, Sam, helps install. Her favorite? The skeletons.
“They’re so fun,” she says. “They’re poseable, you can put clothes on them; you can do all sort of things with them. It’s like having giant Barbie dolls to play with.”
That joyful spirit extends past Fitpatrick’s yard and into her neighborhood too. On Halloween night, people come by to tell her that they “had to stop at the skeleton house.” They’ll laugh and take pictures with Skellan.
“That’s what’s fun to me,” she says. “That’s still my favorite part. Being home, seeing people out, and seeing and hearing trick-or-treaters, knowing that that’s still a thing that they do; I hope that doesn’t go away.”
Heather Hogan & Catherine Geary
The corner of Courtland St. and Crestland Ave.
Favorite candy: “I like it all.” – Heather; “I just like sugar.” – Catherine
For years, the tradition for Heather Hogan and Catherine Geary was to take their kids trick-or-treating and then go to Westerwood Tavern afterwards.
“We would all take Fireball shots,” Hogan says. “But we stopped bringing the kids when they were like 10 or 12 years old.”
Prior to the pandemic, the two friends and neighbors would also have a party at Geary’s house the week before Halloween. But when the pandemic hit, they decided to funnel all of their energy into one event: decorating the hell out of Hogan’s house.
“We take the entire week off work,” Geary says.
It’s a lot because the two have individually collected so many decorations over the years, and now they have to find a way to fit it all in one yard. Eventually, the decorations spill out of Hogan’s yard and onto the neighborhood sidewalk. But her neighbors don’t seem to mind, she says.
“If I’m introducing myself to anyone in the neighborhood, I’ll say I live at the Halloween house and they immediately know what I’m talking about,” Hogan says.
They have a collection of clowns, skeletons, bloody stuff, zombies, ghosts. This year, they’re working on curating their creepy doll collection.
“We try to get a little bit of everything,” Geary says.
But the most impressive part of their joint venture is probably the tunnels that they set up through Hogan’s yard for people to walk through.
“They’re like little haunted houses,” Hogan explains.
They’ll also have not one, but two 12-footers this year, something that Hogan splurged on after trying to get her hands on one for three years.
And even with so many decorations, the two say they try to hold back some until the night of Halloween.
“It’s so people who have come out before are surprised,” Hogan explains.
“We’re putting stuff up until the day of,” Geary adds.
While some houses want everyone to just have a good time and bring joy to kids and adults alike, the goal for Geary is a little… different.
“My goal every year is to make at least one kid really terrified,” she says. “Maybe cry, peeing their pants, running away. Any of these is acceptable.”
One year, they even had one of their husbands out in the yard chasing people around with a chainless chainsaw.
“Maybe that was a little much,” Hogan laughs.
This year they’re hoping to add more sensory experiences to the landscape like spiderwebs that people have to walk through or noises that scare people.
“We claimed it as our holiday at some point,” Hogan says. “Some people love Christmas; we love Halloween.”
Ursula (Kelly) Bone
Off of Old Winston Rd.
Favorite candy: Butterfingers
As a child, Ursula Bone spent a lot of time living on a military base. Her dad was in the Navy and her mom was in the Army, so she spent a lot of Halloweens celebrating with people from around the country.
“Halloween was a massive staple for the Navy,” she says. “Everyone wanted to scare the kids, they wanted to decorate.”
The neighborhoods where the families lived lit up as house after house transformed from living quarters to haunted houses. There would be firebreathers, trick-or-treaters, the works.
“It was like what you saw in the movies,” she says.
When Bone bought her own house in Kernersville a few years ago, she set her sights on recreating that same magic in her own yard. The first big investment she made was in 2021 when she bought a large skeleton boatman who shuttles the dead down a river. At just 8 feet, he’s not quite as large as the 12-footers, but she was excited nonetheless. That is, until he arrived and didn’t work. His face didn’t light up; he didn’t talk. But that didn’t deter Bone. Instead, she doubled down. The next year, she hit the jackpot when she found a military family selling a bunch of their decorations on Facebook marketplace. From them, she got two 12-footers, one inferno man, two plant monsters, two 8-foot skeletons and one more animatronic.
“It just got bigger,” she says, “and this year it is out of control..
She got two more 12-footers — for a grand total of four! — a 20-foot inflatable pumpkin guy, a Mars Attacks alien, a ghoul that breathes fog and an 8-foot witch.
Then, her husband found another 14-foot flying witch and two more skeletons at Goodwill.
“The Halloween gods didn’t think we had enough decorations,” she jokes.
With that many decorations, it’s hard to come up with a theme but Bone says she has a pretty tight narrative in her head.
“This year, the 8-foot witch put a spell on everything and she made an evil pumpkin patch and made the skeletons rise from the dead,” she says. “Basically the whole front yard is a party. The witches put a hex on everything and now they’re having a grand party because they won the battle of Halloween. Oh, and Mars Attacks, he’s protecting the pumpkin patch.”
Even though they don’t get a lot of trick-or-treaters because of where they’re located, Bone says she hopes her decorations bring that sense of wonder and joy she felt when she was younger.
“Growing up, Halloween really brought everyone together,” she says. “That’s what we wanted to bring back. Turning adults into little kids. It’s like when it snows, you turn into a little kid again.”
Ashley Cobbler Pearson
Off of Quail Hollow Rd. in the Pine Knolls neighborhood
Favorite candy: Fun-size Butterfingers
Ashley Cobber Pearson has always loved to dress up. She did tap dancing, ballet and jazz as a child and had crazy costumes for Halloween. In college, she delved more into the makeup side of costumes and eventually ended up working on the makeup team at Woods of Terror for years. One year, she played a sea witch whose face was half ripped off in the midway section of the attraction. She has a pinup pumpkin tattoo on her forearm and when she had her first baby a few weeks ago, she dressed him up as a pumpkin.
“I’m thinking about it year-round,” Pearson says about the holiday.
It’s funny, she says, because she was raised conservatively, but when she moved into a house with a yard for the first time last year, she felt like she could finally let her freak flag fly.
She got her hands on a 12-foot skeleton, which she dresses up year-round. They also have an inferno skeleton, a werewolf, a mummy and a scarecrow — all 12-footers.
For the baby shower, they put a big tank top on the skeleton that read “Becoming a Big Bro” and brought him into the clubhouse where women asked to take pictures with him.
“Everything is surrounding Halloween,” she says.
This year, her husband Andrew, who Pearson says is almost more obsessed with the holiday than she is, worked to create a UFO crash scene in their front yard. They took an old umbrella that someone had thrown away and added green lights around it.
“You can see it from half a mile away,” she says.
Even though they live in a neighborhood with lots of kids, Pearson says that their house is one of the only ones that goes all out with decorations. Because of that they’ve become known around the neighborhood as the “skeleton house.” A few weeks ago, a woman dropped off a box of decorations on their front porch that had two wall sconces — one with a vampire being stabbed in the heart — because she thought Pearson would like them.
Now with her son, River, Pearson hopes to pass on the love of the holiday to the next generation.
“I hope that he doesn’t mind that mommy puts makeup on him,” she laughs. “He’ll be a zombie one year. I hope that he gets into it as much as I do.”
Stacy & Frank Chance
In the Grandview Place neighborhood in Pfafftown
Favorite candy: Peanut butter taffies (Stacy), Kit-Kats (Frank)
Stacy and Frank Chance take DIYing to a whole other level.
The first year it was just some tombstones and a few pumpkins. But by 2016, Frank was taking measurements of their front door and making a clown head to go around it. He built a 7-foot mannequin and a ticket booth while Stacy went out and bought a giant cotton-candy machine. That year’s theme? Haunted Carnival.
Since then, the Halloween-obsessed couple have made UFOs out of sheet metal and plywood, aliens, a full-blown pirate ship and walls made of pumpkins.
After they finish the holiday, they don’t have anywhere to store it so the decorations often get sold on Facebook Marketplace, Stacy says.
The giant UFO Frank built was bought by a guy who owned a paintball field, while the light-up “Freak Show” sign was installed in a tattoo parlor.
“We use it for Halloween and other people use it for something else,” Frank says.
The love affair with the holiday started with Frank, he admits.
“I was the one that was super into Halloween at first, but over the years she’s gotten into it,” he says. “Now inside our house, every table, every window is set for Halloween. It’s become a thing that we enjoy celebrating together.”
She’s even planning and plotting by perusing Pinterest throughout the years. Then she’ll pose the idea to Frank who’ll think of plans to build the creations.
This year, the two have installed a haunted pumpkin patch with a bunch of skeletons and a spooky tree. And, of course, one 12-footer.
“One thing we learned is that you really need a giant storage shed,” Frank says. “For some reason, I think our yard is just gigantic; it is not.”
The two also spend almost every weekend in October visiting different haunted houses and trails across the state for fun, but also for information gathering.
Eventually, the two hope to have a mini haunted house in their backyard. But for now, something else occupies that space.
A few years ago, Stacy had the idea for Frank to cut out a giant Bigfoot out of plywood. They placed him in the backyard and then Stacy went out and printed flyers.
“We created a phone number and posted them at the Dollar General, the Food Lion, the gas station,” she says. “They said, ‘Pfafftown, if you see something, say something.’ And they had a picture of the Bigfoot.”
Soon, they started getting calls.
“People would call and say, ‘I saw it!,’” Stacy says.
Well that’s probably because Frank would get up every morning at around 5 a.m. and move Bigfoot to another location in his backyard. Eventually, he had roped in neighbors and asked them if he could put the behemoth in their yards, too. And that’s kind of how the couple approaches Halloween as well.
“It’s become a whole neighborhood celebration,” Frank says.
And about next year?
“We’re already talking about next Halloween,” he says.
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