ROXBURY, NJ – For a quarter-century, Succasunna resident Craig Heard and his family have proudly, and publicly, exposed their neighbors to dead people, otherworldly demons, malevolent poltergeists and demented psychopaths.
Each October, the Heards turn their quiet corner of a Roxbury subdivision into a nightmarish display of decadence; hardly the type of thing expected of upstanding citizens and certainly not behavior that should be encouraged.
But there they were at Roxbury Town Hall on Tuesday, shaking hands with the mayor and actually being awarded for their love of spiders, skeletons, mummies and gore.
"The Township Mayor and Council takes exceptional pride in recognizing residents whose efforts have made our community a great place to call home," says the Special Recognition Award presented to Craig and Madeline Heard.
As shocking as that might be, the Mayor and Council proclamation went even further in rewarding the Heards' strange actions: The award presented by Roxbury's elected officials says the Heards, with their so-called Halloween House, "have inspired the community."
This type of praise is normally bestowed upon decent entities, such as Roxbury High School sports teams, retiring police chiefs and Eagle Scouts. However, on Tuesday, the powers-that-be shamelessly embraced The Dark Side and the Heards showed absolutely no remorse for their decades of deeds that would make Alice Cooper proud.
They even brought along their children and some accomplices who help in their yearly slide into wickedness. Upon being handed the award, an unapologetic Heard said his family "and extended family," roll out guillotines, hang nooses and otherwise deface their property "so this community can enjoy it."
He acknowledged his descent into over-the-top glorification of cobwebs, sneering pirates, caskets and things that go bump in the night began innocently enough, "starting with a few pumpkins in our front hall and dangling skeletons."
As the years passed, the Heards' late October abandonment of normalcy progressed. Each season brought more sinister creations to their front yard. A full-sized pirate ship appeared as did a Satanic stagecoach and a slowly rotating water wheel. Tombstones and skulls littered the lawn. Taunting ghouls cackled through mist spewed by hissing fog machines.
"The community was so engaged in enjoying it that it just motivated us to do it more," Heard said, sounding similar to your typical classroom miscreant egged-on by fellow spitball-tossing lost souls. "It is such a joy to see this community come out and grow," he said. "This last year was 3,500 people."
In fairness, as pointed out in the award they received, the mild-mannered businessman and his more mild-mannered wife still have the ability to at least act like good citizens during other times of the year. As a former member of the township Economic Development Committee, Heard initiated the first township Economic Development Day, says the award.
It also notes that Heard served on the Roxbury School Board and currently is chairman of the Roxbury/Mt. Arlington Consolidation Commission. "Mrs. Heard served on the Cultural Arts Committee for 15 years and was a teachers' aide for 17 years," says the award.
Somehow fooling quite a few voters into believing he wasn't on Ozzy Osbourne's speed-dial, Heard even ran this year for Congress, a candidacy left out of the award.
There are other niceties cited in the proclamation issued by the town. But since Roxbury leaders clearly have lost their ability to discern good from evil, only the sensible residents of Roxbury can decide whether the Heards should truly be forgiven and allowed to continue with their wickedness.