LAFAYETTE — The teenagers weaved through the cardboard graveyard at the corner of Main and 27th streets.
As they approached the small cement porch they noticed a body in a wooden coffin.
“She’s fake,” one said.
“She’s real,” another countered.
Motivated by candy they inched closer.
She rose slowly up from her homemade coffin and flashed the teenagers a toothy smile, vampire fangs and all.
“Good evening,” Connie Miller said. “Welcome to my home.”
And of course, the teenagers screamed and laughed and came back for more next year.
Connie and her husband, Ken, have dozens of stories like this of all the hijinks they’ve pulled on Halloween over the last 15 years.
Their house — you probably know the one — has become a local attraction on Main Street. Every year, the Millers put out dozens of headstones, skeletons and ghosts.
The couple crafts nearly all of the decorations by hand, often personalizing what is store bought, and estimates spending at least a few hundred dollars in spray paint alone.
The yard has become a backdrop for an entire scene out of Tim Burton’s “A Nightmare Before Christmas,” featuring the entire cast from Jack Skellington to his love, Sally, to their foe, Oogie Boogie.
When they first started dating, Connie told Ken she didn’t want to watch horror movies.
“They always make the women look so dumb,” she said. “They’re always running into the locked closet and getting killed.”
But when Burton’s stop-motion animated musical came out in 1993 they both fell in love with the story.
So far they’ve gone through three versions of the leading man, Jack. The first had a head made of foam. He’s still around. Ken has repurposed him to sit on top of a different scary statue.
The second Jack was stolen right off the lawn.
This prompted security cameras and long leashes tying down the characters.
The third and final Jack stands at eight-feet tall. He, like most of his cast mates, is made up of a combination of PVC pipe and chicken wire –with the exception of the Mayor who gets his round body from a hula-hoop and cone head from a lampshade.
Jack has become the most recognizable fixture in the yard. One year, when the Millers both caught a cold right after Halloween and the snow fell early Jack stayed up until November.
At that point, the family received an anonymous letter in the mail asking for the decorations to be taken down.
Their response? Make the Halloween decorations into Christmas decorations.
In retaliation, Ken spray painted Jack’s suit red and gave him a Santa hat.
“It’s my yard,” he said. “See how you like that.”
The pumpkin archway is now a staple in their yard and stays up all year round.
Overall, the response to their yard has been overwhelmingly positive, they said. Whether its coworkers, family members or just strangers, there are constant requests for more Halloween spirit. There’s even the occasional ghost or skeleton that gets dropped off on the porch, hoping to find a new home.
The one year the Millers were slow to start decorating due to a bathroom remodel they got a knock on the door from a concerned fan, Ken said.
“They asked if they could help, and I was like, ‘with the bathroom?'” Ken said. “They go, ‘No with the yard. We’re worried.'”
After doing this for more than a decade, the Millers have started to recognize the same trick-or-treaters arrive every year to get their annual photo.
“Our son has grown up now so we really just want to make something that’s safe for kids to come and enjoy,” Connie said.
Contact Journal & Courier reporter Lindsay Moore at 765-420-5205, [email protected] and follow her on Twitter: @_lindsaymoore.
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