By Dawn M Chiossi
When the weather cools, and brisk breezes start to stir, it is a sure sign that autumn is in the air. Can Halloween be far behind?
Some people just revel in the holidays; their decorated homes can be a spooky treat for the season–even a can’t-miss tradition. Take Roxbury’s Heard family for example.
Celebrating 30 years of Halloween thrills, Craig, Madeline, and the Heard family invite everyone to their annual Halloween House display. Taking place on Halloween night, October 31st, hours will be from 5:00 to 11:00 p.m.
Located at 2 Alcott Way in Succasunna, this amazing Halloween tradition has been thrilling friends and neighbors since the 1980s.
An indoor and outdoor display, the Halloween House is completely free, and perfect for all ages. “There are no jump-out and scare techniques, we make our display family-friendly like a Disney Display with animation,” Heard shares. “It’s a great chance for families to enjoy and leave the wallet at home.”
Additionally, the Heard’s hire a police officer to watch traffic and families to keep the event safe. Their goal is to bring a fun-filled day to others and simply see the joy and smiles on other people’s faces.
Letting his creativity soar, Heard and his family brainstorm for ideas all year long, even having design meetings in the summer. Decorations are mostly homemade by the Heard’s themselves, and they hunt for animated characters throughout the year.
A resident of Roxbury since 1983, Heard’s Halloween House display fits right in with his work, a family-owned media outdoor advertising company. In fact, the whole Heard family gets involved in the Halloween spirit, it is in their genes. For them, it’s all about fun, props, and letting the artistry flow. Heard’s son, Craig Jr, is “co-producer/creative director and my right hand,” he says.
A real family affair, Heard, his three adult children, cousins, and close family friends are also involved in the six-week setup.
Heard explains that they started out with carved pumpkins in their front hallway in the ’80s, then to children Melissa, Craig, and Kristen dangling skeletons in the front hall, to hand painted tombstones in the front yard with fun sayings on them. Adding to it, everyone was relishing the Halloween decorating. “As we developed more ideas, we would build more props, and seek online displays,” he tells. “Thanks to our son-in-law Rusty he ended up building the horse-drawn hearse, the small pirate ship, front cemetery gate, hangman’s noose, and many more tombstones.”
Growing and expanding throughout the years, Heard explains that the pirate theme has been the dominating one of his Halloween House display.
Large, intricate, and extensive, this is an entertaining time for all; a true sensory experience. “The base theme is Pirates of the Caribbean, the large ship is a model of the Black Pearl,” Heard prides. “The pirate theme is often expanded on throughout the years. There are ship attacks, cannons being shot off of the bridge, an Egyptian Rain Forest theme, and dinosaurs attacking the pirates.” Heard explains, “This theme started about four years ago and expands each year when they were caged and escaped last year. Now, all the dinosaurs will surround the Black Pearl.”
The Halloween House has even expanded to the inside with three room themes, including a funeral site in the front hall, a Rogan master and funeral viewing guests on the right side of the hall, an operating room on the left side of the hall, as well as displays in the dining room and living room.
Heard explains that the themes are a wonderful 50/50 mixture of favorites and the innovative new. Attendees will love keeping an eye out to see what has changed from last year’s Halloween House.
This year he is thrilled to announce they will have a fun light show along with smoke machines and black lights.
Bigger and better than ever, Heard quips that his Halloween House has gone from pumpkins to theme park, and he is only half-joking.
“Last year we had over 6,000 visitors,” he prides. “Families just love it and tell their friends to come. I love the challenge of engaging (the display) in new layouts, and dressing it up. We now have three generations coming from many of the same families. It is always fun to hear kids and families talk about it and identify changes in the display each year. As I am the greeter in the front hall handing out chip bags to the kids, it’s fun to hear their comments and the appreciation from the parents for what we do each year.”
In true generous spirit, Heard ends his annual Halloween labor of love with a celebration. “The following Saturday after Halloween we have a private event; a backstage tour and buffet for our friends and neighbors to thank them for putting up with the display and for helping,” he shares.
Then, of course, Heard begins thinking of next year’s Halloween.