VIDEO: A good haunting takes a lot of workFor the last five Halloweens, trick-or-treaters stopping at 501 Belmont Road in Grand Forks received a bonus to go with the candy.
By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald
For the last five Halloweens, trick-or-treaters stopping at 501 Belmont Road in Grand Forks received a bonus to go with the candy. Horror movies were shown on a 4-by-6 bed sheet placed on the house’s balcony, attracting big audiences when the weather was mild.
Homeowner Dave Dauphinais is ratcheting up the fun — and the fright — on Wednesday.
The movies, which combine humor and horror, are back. He has added a motorized coffin that opens and closes, revealing a mangled hand and spewing fog, and a motorized rocking chair occupied by a plastic corpse with a bulging eye. Also, seemingly out of nowhere, is a “floating” picture frame of scary images, an illusion created by projection equipment.
“I’m a techie who likes to tinker,” Dauphinais said. “I’ve been adding some things every year and this year I threw some technology into it, making things move, shake and look spooky.
“Halloween is my favorite holiday because it’s the perfect opportunity to do something different. And it’s always fun to be scary.”
Dauphinais is among a seemingly growing list of local residents whose commitment to Halloween goes beyond handing out sweets. Decorations and entertainment also are part of the experience.
“It’s almost like Christmas, where people try to make their house look the nicest,” Dauphinais said.
Coincidence, not competition
It’s not a competition, although it might appear that way for the throngs of sightseers on the 600 block of 18th Avenue South in Grand Forks in October.
On the north side, Jack and Debbie Dekker’s front yard has 150 pieces of Halloween decorations, including more than 60 masks, bought on eBay, attached to full-body and half-body mannequins. On the south side, Kelly Straub’s front yard features 26 homemade ghouls having a formal dinner party in a “graveyard.”
The fact that the two properties are only 150 feet apart is mere coincidence, they say; it’s not as if one inspired the other to join the freak show.
“By far, Halloween has always been my favorite holiday,” said Jack Dekker, a 64-year-old farmer. “When I was a kid in Finley (N.D.), we hit every house in town. In fact, we brought along an extra mask so we could go back to homes who gave out the large Hershey bars.”
His Halloween fixation has changed from sugar to decorations. He estimates that he has about $7,000 tied up in his display of ghosts, ghouls, zombies, witches, hags, skeletons, skulls, one-eyed wenches, vultures, spiders, black cats, bats, gravestones, Frankenstein and “funky old people.” Some are scary; some are funny.
It addition to the monetary commitment, there’s a time commitment. Setting up the yard takes 32 to 40 hours each year. But the payback is worth the time, money and effort, Dekker said.
“People will knock on our door and thank us because their kids enjoy the decorations so much,” he said. “That gives me a warm feeling. It’s something money can’t buy.
“It’s pretty cool.”
It’s clearly a drawing card. Halloween in 2011 attracted 836 children and uncounted adults to the door, where 70 pounds of candy was dispensed.
Although it’s the biggest display, Halloween isn’t the only holiday that prompts the Dekkers to decorate. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and the Fourth of July also trigger displays, she handling the inside and he the outside.
Neighbor Straub marvels at the Dekkers’ year-long decorating efforts. And Jack Dekker marvels at his neighbor’s homemade decorations.
“Kelly’s decorations are more detailed, more dramatic and more gothic,” he said. “She calls ours ‘cutesy.’ I’m not sure I like that word.”
Straub has decorated her yard since 1983, but has “gone big” the last 10 years. Her theme and characters change each year.
“This year’s theme is more eerie and less gory,” she said.
Bodies are made with chicken wire and spray foam insulation. And the 25 characters’ details come from rummage sales, garbage pickup days, dollar stores and second-hand stores.
“We recycle everything,” she said. “Our eyeballs come from stuffed animals, for instance. By making them, we get off a lot cheaper.”
Like with her neighbor, Halloween always has been Straub’s favorite holiday.
“It’s stress-free,” she said. “You can dress up to be anything you want to be. And, when you startle somebody, it’s funny.”
Call Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send email to email@example.com.