Updated Oct. 31 at 11:40 a.m.
The average Halloween displays include a few jack o’lanterns, some fake cobwebs, and maybe a witch on a broomstick. But some suburban residents have taken decorating for Halloween to another level with animatronic ghouls, sunken pirate ships and an 800-square-foot haunted house in the yard.
WBEZ’s Morning Shift checked in with suburban homeowners in New Lenox and LaGrange whose Halloween decorations are truly next-level.
Jeff Eggener, 2800 Block of Ferro Lane, New Lenox
Four years ago, Jeff Eggener decided to take over Halloween decorating from his wife. A carpenter by trade, he chose to work with plywood to create an entire new facade for his home, transforming his single-family ranch house into what he calls “an evil manor.”
The gray “stone” is actually wood that’s been primed, painted and primed again. Eggener attached his creations to the front of his home with wood screws that get plugged into holes he drilled into the mortar between bricks. Set up can take about two weeks, and he leaves the decorations up for about a month.
One of his favorite features is the elaborate dungeon door he fashioned out of an old fence. But the door doesn’t lead to a dank, underground prison cell — or even to a suburban living room. It’s a mock door.
Eggener gets the effect of individual stones by cutting a groove ⅜ of an inch deep into the plywood and painting the groove flat black.
“A lot of guys use foam,” Eggener said Tuesday on Morning Shift. “The only problem I have with foam is the wind we get during October, especially in my neighborhood, it doesn’t seem to hold up.”
The elaborate facade also features a classic trifecta of Halloween symbols: skeletons, skulls and spiders, including a huge spider in the middle of the front lawn.
Eggener also built the fence and trellis around and over the lawn. Notice the “E” for Eggener.
In 2016, the Eggener Halloween decorations had some added flair as the Cubs made a successful postseason run that would end in World Series victory.
“I have a 10 and 12 year old. They’re a big factor behind what I do,” Eggener said. “Honestly, I wasn’t even going to do it this year with my work schedule, but my kids really wanted it done — so here we are.”
Andy Novinger, 5600 Block of Willow Springs Road, LaGrange
Meanwhile in LaGrange, homeowner Andy Novinger experiments with a new theme for his Halloween display each year. This year’s theme: Pirates of the Caribbean.
There’s a sunken pirate ship in the yard with skeletons perched atop. At night, the scene is lit and becomes a little spookier thanks to a fog machine. (Also, beware of the sharks!)
“I like to do scenes so it looks like a still photo from a movie,” Novinger said on Morning Shift. “And then adding the sound kind of brings it to life, especially with the lighting as well.”
Novinger is a member of the group Chicago Haunt Builders. Each year, he tries to outdo his previous work. Some other themes he’s experimented with include evil carnival, clowns, zombies, and spiders versus skeletons.
“Probably about February or March I kinda get an idea of how I want to build things,” Novinger said. “I have a 16-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter and they do help me put things together. They’re like my test subjects.”
Novinger said a love of Halloween, horror movies and construction are also part of what motivates him every year. He said he also likes to give people something to look forward to.
“I love putting on a show for the neighborhood,” Novinger said. “Next year, I’m looking at giant mutated insects.”