ROXBURY, NJ – Newcomers to the Succasunna property of Craig and Madeline Heard on Halloween evening won’t know the difference, but “regulars” will notice right away: The Heards’ annual Halloween House display is bigger and better than ever.
Even before this year’s upgrades, the Heards’ effort was jaw-droppingly extravagant, with thousands of spooky parts and pieces and sights and sounds that covered their front lawn and stretched into their house.
For this, their 28th installment, the Heards not only brought in many new items – including skeletal dinosaurs - but they also rebuilt their most famous element: the full-size pirate ship stationed outside the front door of their 2 Alcott Way home.
“We mixed things up a bit with the invasion of Jurassic Park trying to take over the display and the pirates,” Heard said. “We also completely refinished and rebuilt the pirate boat. It’s preserved now for many years. In doing that, we also enhanced it by … having smoke come out of cannons which we hadn’t done previously.”
Without giving too much away, Heard noted he and his family “added some gallows and other props we built over the last four weeks.” These new items will be seen near the full-size hearse, another trademark element of the Halloween House fun.
“We also refurbished the hearse completely,” Heard said. “It’s now in great shape and weather resistant.”
The Heards bought the pirate boat about a decade ago. It came from people of a Denver, Colo., neighborhood who built it for family parties and “dragged it” around from one house to another.
'Right Down to the Skeleton'
Although the boat is built with a solid steel structure, time and weather took its toll. “We went through Hurricane Sandy, snowstorms, ice storms,” said Heard. “That boat was not prepared for those kind of elements. The skin had to be completely replaced right down to the skeleton frame.”
He said all the floors were also replaced and drains were built to channel rain to underneath the boat. The exterior was clad in weather resistant material covered with shingles “to make it look like its boat slats,” Heard said.
To enable the boat and hearse restorations, the pieces were brought to the Heards’ house a month earlier than usual. “We’ve been setting up now for seven weeks,” Heard said. “It takes up our weekends and nights and occasional days off.”
Additional new features this year include an increased size for the “operating room” inside the Heards’ house “due to increased body counts,” Heard said. “The Egyptian tomb is moved into the living room of our house now and the tent outside has become more of a memorial site for those who have passed along.”
Other imaginative, creepy surprises are in store for the hundreds of people who make a point of visiting the display. Heard stressed that it is designed to be campy and fun, not frightening. No people in costumes jump out and yell or touch visitors.
“It’s kid friendly,” he said. “It’s not like there are people grabbing kids legs when they are going by.” He noted that he pays a Roxbury police officer to be on-site, a fun, after-hours gig that some officers yearn to get.
The Halloween House will be open to the public from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Halloween and again on the evening of Nov. 4.