Every year Keith Oliver and his family add one more decoration to their smoking Halloween display.
This year machines emitted low-hanging fog around the Nightmare Before Christmas and Dracula photo op stations near the sidewalk on Windswept Court in Sykesville, and behind them a cemetery with gravestones and bones led up to the garage.
That’s where Oliver set up a laboratory, complete with Frankenstein and his creation, jars of eyeballs and fingers, and a projector prepared to show the mad scientist.
“It’s our third year doing this,” he said. “Now, the day after Halloween I’m at Walmart at 6 a.m. to get everything on clearance.”
And Oliver made by hand what he could not find in stores — decorations like Dr. Frankenstein’s giant electric machine, a wooden panel he painted silver and on which he affixed various knobs and tubes.
Fifteen-year-old Alex Marbut wore a gray clown costume and was pretending to be a prop sitting in a chair behind makeshift chains locking him in the garage.
“We’ve had props in past years,” he said, “and we are really hoping people think he is a prop and get scared.”
To the young Marbut’s right was a homemade swing set with a girl doll sitting on a swing. Her hair was long and dark, her dress was white and her skin was pale.
“La la la la la la,” she sang ominously as her yellow eyes glowed at dusk.
To the young Marbut’s left, a beheaded man hung from a tree; his head hung from from a meat hook on a chain and lights flashed around him. Whenever someone walked by, his motion-activated sensors started up and he shook in the tree.
“I used to be too scared to go there,” said Ciara, “but this year I’m going to just get my candy. They always get their oldest son to scare all the people and I’m just going to be like, ‘Pennywise, you don’t scare me!’ ”
And although the Olivers and Marbuts have lived on Windswept Court for years, their enthusiasm has spread to newcomers.
“We had a lot of new people move in this past year,” Oliver said.
Two houses away from the Olivers is the Robertson home. After living in Tucson, New York, and other parts of the United States, they’ve made Sykesville their home.
On Halloween, they recruited members of their church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to help give out hot dogs, caramel popcorn balls, apple cider and hot chocolate to any passersby.
“He just started doing it,” his father Mitch Dobres said.
Dobres set up an evil carnival this year, called “Carnevil,” where a dropped bucket of popcorn has a rat scuttling out of it, skeletons are dressed up in traditional clown attire, and slowed-down carnival music plays in the background.
After having worked on his display since the second-to-last weekend in September, and saving up money all year for his decorations, he said he doesn’t think he is going trick-or-treating this year.
“He has so much more fun watching people enjoy what he put together,” said his mother, Erinn Dobres.
She said throughout the years she noticed that Halloween festivities have gotten bigger and better.