Decorating for Halloween is an annual tradition in the suburbs, but some go beyond the pumpkins. On Long Island, certain homes get completely decked out to theme-park levels. Here are three haunted homes with handmade decorations that will give you both a smile and a scare:
When Joe Murphy grew up in Oceanside, he would ask his parents to drive by the Slade family’s home in Rockville Centre to view their detailed Halloween display.
"I looked up to them and wanted to be at their level," says Murphy, 24. "They gave me tips and tricks about how to make the bodies more lifelike."
Today, Murphy annually builds his own Halloween scene in the front yard of his parents’ 1860 Victorian home, which he assembles over Columbus Day weekend.
"We change it every year to keep the community on its toes," says Murphy. "This year I’m doing a Sleepy Hollow theme with the Headless Horseman and a graveyard on one side plus a witch scene inspired by the Hansel & Gretel story on the other."
Murphy makes each body out of wood, stuffing and old clothing.
"It’s something anybody can do," he says. "As long as you have some time and creativity, you can go a long way with it."
To complete the ambience, Murphy boards up the windows and uses effects like thunder, lightning, fog, strobe lighting and music to enhance the presentation.
"For myself, it’s an accomplishment to have an idea and then replicate it to a finished product on the lawn," says Murphy. "But the biggest thing for me is seeing the community enjoying it. Everything is viewable from the front of the house. You don’t even need to get out of your car!"
LOCATION 2526 Oceanside Road, Oceanside
THE HALLOWEEN HOUSE
For the past 25 years, Richard Dunlop has been putting out a Halloween display in front of his Farmingdale house. It started simply with a few handmade plywood cutouts.
"One day someone lost control of their vehicle and went across my lawn and destroyed all my decorations," says Dunlop, 53. "The next year I had to start over."
When he began to rebuild, Dunlop decided to ramp up his efforts by making monsters such as The Mummy, Frankenstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and the Wolfman. But, each year he adds something new.
"This year I put witches around a bubbling cauldron with fake fire," says Dunlop. "I also have these singing jack o’lanterns with actual faces projected onto real pumpkins making it look like they are talking to you."
Dunlop works as a taxidermist and he even tapped into his professional skills to build a smoke breathing dragon.
"It used to be the form for an elk," he says. "I used the inside insert, painted it green, put some eyes on it and turned it into a dragon."
LOCATION 131 Conklin St., Farmingdale
SHIP WRECK COVE
For Richard Marte Halloween starts at the end of August when he begins building his pirate-themed display for October at his Massapequa home.
"I fell in love with the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies and I’m a big fan of skeletons," says Marte, 62. "My house is geared toward little kids. It’s not too scary, nothing bloody. It’s kind of like the Disney ride."
Marte utilizes this whole front yard and driveway including a pirate tavern and jail cell plus a 12-foot long and 8-feet high sinking ship on the lawn with a pier. Every year Marte and his brother Robert Marte and friend Tom Ciano dress up as characters from the "Pirates" films on four different dates.
"I put on a little show. I jump on the pier and we act like pirates," says Marte. "We have people taking photos and more come every weekend as word spreads."
This year Marte has built his own special effect for the ship.
"I have the Kraken, which is a mythological sea creature. There will be tentacles that wrap around the ship," he says. "Entertaining the neighborhood kids makes me happy."
LOCATION 30 William Road, Massapequa