ROXBURY, N.J. - The only thing better than visiting Craig and Madeline Heard's annual Halloween display in Succasunna is doing it twice. That's going to be possible this year for the first time since the family began its creepy creation nearly three decades ago.
In an effort to allow more people to walk through their ever-growing and ever-changing display – a Halloween night staple for many people in Roxbury and way beyond – the Heards are opening their house, and front yard, an extra night this year.
In addition to being open Halloween night, the 2 Alcott Way exhibition will be open to the public on Nov. 5, said Heard. He said this was done because many people are unable to leave their own homes on Halloween night.
Construction of the elaborate presentation of spooky stuff, including a Pirates of the Caribbean Black Pearl Replica Ship, has been underway for five weeks. It takes a lot of planning, and shopping, to fill the display with untold numbers of animated skeletons, ghouls, zombies, spiders, skulls and monsters. The Heards buy new items each year, often doing so when the creepy creations go on sale after Halloween.
Heard was out doing some last-minute shopping on Sunday. Reached via cell phone, he sounded as excited as a youngster when asked what's new this year. "Everything under the tent is new and there's a new theme there," Heard said. "But you have to come to see what it is."
The tent area, in past years, housed an Egyptian themed part of the display. "The Egyptian theme is now outside in the open air to allow the Egyptians to move on to their new life," Heard said. "The pirates are still fighting what we call the small pirate ship and shooting cannons at one another to try to survive the threat of the Black Pearl being taken over."
Inside the Heard house visitors will still find the gory "operating room," but this year's nearby "childcare center" is different. "The child care center now has adults that are helping the children as they grow up," Heard said. "Before, it was just little kids. But now it has some ghouls overseeing the little kids as they continue to mature."
He said the front hall is no longer an organ theme. It is now "a menagerie of grandmas and grandpas looking after their grandkids."
Told that he sounded like he was having too much fun, Heard – a businessman who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the Republican primary this year – laughed. "That’s what Halloween is about: Letting your hair down."
He stressed that there is "no charge at the door and no donations allowed," adding, "Just come, bring the family and have a good time."
It's not the type of Halloween event where actors try to scare visitors. Heard said it's more akin to a Disney exhibition, noting that he and his family want little kids to have fun, not nightmares.