As ghosts and ghouls prepare to roam central Maine streets on Halloween, inflatable decorations, mock graveyards and animatronic villains are haunting the lawns of numerous homes.

Four homeowners with lavishly decorated lawns said this week that their decoration collections grow every year and help make Halloween special for area children.

Stefan Johansen, owner of the home at 7 Hathorn St. in Richmond, said it takes 40 to 50 hours to set up all of his decorations. He said he started 15 years ago because he wanted to make Halloween more special for local trick-or-treaters.

Johansen’s set-up has a few more spooky twists that other yards, including a spider that jumps toward people who move toward it, and a man that bounces up and down as if he were being electrocuted. Most of the decorations, he said, came from after-Halloween sales.

He said younger children are a little apprehensive of his home after they walk past the graveyard and the animatronic figures on the porch.

“The ones that have been here now for a few years, they’re getting a little more comfortable,” Johansen said. “The ones that are really little that have never been here, they’ll make it to the steps and they’ll stop. They don’t dare to come up here.”

He said older people also enjoy the decorations. His home is on the same street as Richmond Eldercare, and residents will often walk by his home and ask about the decorations.

“It’s gotten to the point that the older people come down every year and if we haven’t gotten our decorations up … on time they are like: ‘Is something wrong?'” Johansen said.

Shawn and Lori Libby rearrange inflatable Halloween decorations on Wednesday at their Randolph residence. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Across the river in Randolph, Shawn Libby’s lawn at 20 Kinderhook St. is filled with a number of inflatable decorations. He said the inflatables are a little easier to set up, only taking him about three hours to set up a 10-foot tall demon and a 3-foot tall Minion, among others.  He moved into the house two years ago and began decorating last year, which he always wanted to do. He said many homes on Kinderhook Street don’t give candy to trick-or-treaters on Halloween, but he still gets about 50 guests each year.

Libby said he’s spent more than $1,000 on the decorations and he has “no regrets.”

“I’m going to make it bigger next year,” he laughed.

Johansen said it was important for him to contribute to the community on Halloween through his decorations, which was a common theme for the other decorators. Till Hoffmann of Hallowell told the Kennebec Journal that the day is centered around making people happy and hasn’t fallen victim to any divides in culture.

“Even as an adult, you can be a kid a little bit,” he said. “One of the things I really like about it is that it hasn’t been politicized.”

Hoffmann, who lives at 14 Middle St. in Hallowell, said his set-up started “very innocently” five years ago with a couple of cardboard cutouts of ghosts. Since then, it has grown to include a number of inflatables, including a shark in the middle of consuming a person, and a group of animatronic zombies that spit smoke out of their mouths. A father of three, he said he even made technological improvements this year, opting to buy wireless plugs so the inflatables can be activated from inside, instead of going outside to individually plug them all in.

“Every other trip to Lowe’s over the years, another big blow-up would come home,” Hoffman said, adding that he feels pressure to add on to the ensemble each year. “It’s probably gotten out-of-hand a little bit, but it’s innocent fun.

“We have three young kids and they get excited about it and it puts a smile on people’s faces when they drive by,” he added. “All the parents from school tell me their kids make them take detours so they drive by the house.”

Billie Ellis at her residence in Chelsea on Tuesday. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Across the street from the Chelsea Town Office, at 567 Togus Road, Billie Ellis has created a dragon-centric scene with an inflatable dragon and vulture and two meticulously hand-painted, hand-cut plywood dragons. She said the dragons took about three weeks to complete.

“I love to do arts and crafts,” Ellis said. “It’s so much fun to see the kids’ eyes go crazy (when they see the decorations).”

Another attraction is the graveyard with dozens of funny headstones, like one that references Lizzie Borden, who was accused, then acquitted of two murders in Massachusetts in 1892. A set of headstones “Lizzie Borden’s father lies here,” and others nearby others  say “and here.”

Her home is by Chelsea Elementary School and Ellis said school buses usually slow down at her property so children can look at the decorations. She said she puts the decorations up a month in advance of Halloween, adding that it makes the occasion special for more than just one night.

Ellis said some of the items that didn’t make the cut were decorative nooses and a guillotine. She said the theme usually changes each year and it’s a secret until then, but said she always wanted to do something related to “Godzilla.”

“We have a back shed that’s just filled with Halloween things,” she said.


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