ROXBURY, NJ - Without much effort, you could have snuck right up to Craig Heard the other day as he worked on this year's version of his annual Halloween House display in Succasunna. But scaring him? Not likely.
If the vast array of creepy-crawlies, skulls, pirates, ghosts, vampires and monsters that Heard was arranging didn't bother him, an unexpected visitor to his front yard was unlikely to have much effect.
Instead - affable as always and excited about the coming of his favorite holiday - Heard extended a handshake, adjusted his Yankees cap and began explaining how Halloween House 2018 will differ from last year's version (or any of the past 28 years' installments, for that matter).
This article will not reveal all those changes - other than to note they will involve dragons - but one alteration will be obvious to those who regularly visit Heard's free-to-the-public, over-the-top display: The humongous Ghosts of the Caribbean ship is in a slightly different position.
The repositioning of the big vessel was done partly to enhance the story the Heards try to tell with their artistry; something to do with the Somali pirates winning, or losing, the battle. And it's done partly because the Heards are always trying to keep their beloved production fresh and exciting.
The purchasing of new stuff begins almost as soon as the old stuff is packed away each year. The Heards gather during the summer to discuss new concepts and arrange them on paper.
With thousands of items to be unpacked, set in place, wired and tested, the Halloween House is as much a masterwork of planning as it is of humorously morbid creativity.
The display, on Alcott Way, opens to the public Oct. 31.