HAWTHORNE, NJ - Just days away from Halloween, and the aptly named "zombie house" is now void of any zombies at all. Homeowner and Halloween enthusiast Antonio Rodrigues was pressured to remove the decorations after receiving numerous complaints from Hawthorne residents about drivers impeding traffic when slowing down to get a closer look.
The Hawthorne Police Department allegedly arrived at the Rodrigues' home, informing him that they had received many complaints: locals concerned about traffic slowing or stopping as people stop to look. Rodrigues has since moved some figures to his backyard for their own family enjoyment, but removed any trace of Halloween from his front lawn entirely.
TAPinto Hawthorne spoke with the Rodrigues family which expressed their disappointment, as it is a labor of love for Tony each year. The decision to take the decorations down was his, they said, to avoid problems.
Several residents have taken to social media to share their own disappointment, and began banding together in solidarity to show their support of what Rodrigues' display has meant to their families over the last 15 years.
Fellow "home haunter" Sal Latrenta created his own yard display, Summit Ave Cemetery, after being influenced by Rodrigues' commitment to the holiday. To show his respect, he began a 'Go Dark' initiative and encouraged other homes in town to not turn on their Halloween lights, smoke machines, etc. on Sunday evening. "Choosing to 'Go Dark' seemed to be a quick and easy way to get the most people involved in a short time since this happened just overnight," Latrenta said.
Other Hawthorne residents quickly followed suit, deciding not to turn on their displays to show their disapproval of the locals who complained enough to make Rodrigues close up shop.
The Hawthorne Police Department issued a statement on Monday morning, attempting to clarify misinformation circulating online that Rodrigues had been told to remove his display. "On October 24, we received several calls from area residents regarding traffic issues related to the Halloween display on Lafayette Ave we have all come to know as the Zombie House. An officer and supervisor were detailed to check on the issues and, at the time, found no problem. As a courtesy, a police supervisor spoke to Mr. Rodrigues to educate him on potential safety concerns. At no time did any police officer or borough employee order, or even suggest, removal of the display. We, and our families, have come to enjoy Mr. Rodrigues's community contribution as much as the rest of you. Hopefully this clears up some confusion."
Clearly, the Zombie House has persuaded many members of the town to provide some entertainment this Halloween season, especially with the negative affects COVID-19 has had on people's moods. Dominic Czyzewski also created a Halloween display at his home, and was extremely upset after discovering that the Zombie House was empty. "Antonio's [zombie house] was definitely an inspiration for me to go big for Halloween. This year seemed special to us families... a little joy, fear, and fun in such a bad year. This happening to him seems to sum up 2020," Czyzewski said. Latrenta shared the sentiment that decorating and entertaining this Halloween is helpful for the community. "It really is a way for him and all of us to bring some normalcy back into the world, especially with all that has been going on."
There is a parade also being organized to show support of the 15 years of dedication that Rodrigues has provided to Hawthorne families, as well as talks online of "zombie flash mobs". "That’s what this town is all about. We stand by each other," Latrenta said.
Residents are hoping that Rodrigues will get his zombie decorations back up in time for Halloween Day. "He's the core of Hawthorne Halloween," Czyzewski said.
Editor's Note: This article was updated Monday morning to include the Hawthorne Police Department's statement.
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