by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
---- — Heading down 10th Street in Logansport, it’s difficult to miss the home of Brian and Gayla Zimmerman.
A horde of Halloween hosts await to greet visitors in the front yard, porch and second floor balcony. Ghouls and ghosts hang from the gutters, swaying in the breeze. Many of the life-sized monsters, demons, mummies and skeletons, when triggered by a switch or motion sensor, will hail you verbally.
Then there’s the spiderwebs filled with enormous arachnids, preceded by the tiny ones dotting the steps leading up to the home. Rats and jack-o’-lanterns fill in what little room is left, along with the bones and severed limbs strewn about the front lawn.
And that’s just the outside. In the entryway await several more life-sized monsters, many of whom, like their outdoor contemporaries, will come to life at the flip of switch to shriek out ominous taunts.
Two large tables hold a bustling Halloween village with more than 25 miniature buildings, complete with a road going through it all littered with tiny autumn leaves. Surrounding it are cabinets and shelves filled with skulls, figurines from horror films and prop severed heads whose eyes gape from behind the glass.
Brian and Gayla Zimmerman spend the entire month of October getting it all ready, with Gayla taking care of the interior while Brian handles the porch and front lawn.
Gayla Zimmerman estimates they’ve been decorating on this scale for about the last 10 years, since their three children, now grown, were young.
“We’ve gotten worse since the kids moved out,” Brian Zimmerman said, adding that they’ve built their collection from sources like garage sales, eBay, Walmart and even placing ads in the Pharos-Tribune to solicit decorations, props, models and figurines people are looking to get rid of.
Their daughter, Jesika Alexander, calls her father “a perfectionist” in the annual endeavor, describing the countless hours he spends rearranging the setup outside.
“It just gets bigger every year,” she said.
When asked how many elements they have in all, Gayla Zimmerman guessed it was more than 1,000.
“Too much to know,” she said.
Even more awaits in storage, but space and weather conditions prevent them from being presented simultaneously. Luckily the city’s trick-or-treating time for today was postponed until tomorrow, when milder weather conditions will allow more decorations to be on display, Brian Zimmerman said.
Brian Zimmerman said the hobby stems from an affinity for old horror films instilled in him by his mother. This admiration can be seen in the vintage Dracula, Frankenstein monster and Wolfman models, figurines, posters and movie stills throughout his home. It was a better time for movies, he said, when dialogue was important and the “actors acted,” as opposed to the “slice and dice” of modern horror films that seem to focus more on shock factor.
Providing a unique and fun trick-or-treating destination for kids is also among the couples’ motives.
“We really do it for people in the community,” Gayla Zimmerman said. “We like to see the kids have a good time during Halloween.”
And kids do. Gayla Zimmerman recalled one year in which they handed out more than 1,000 trick-or-treat bags. While the slew of scary sights on the front porch gives some kids the willies, the Zimmermans say it’s never their intention to frighten anyone.
Alexander said she always enjoyed growing up around her parents’ ongoing Halloween fascination, although she does recall a few frightening late-night instances when she would awaken to the sound of a shrieking animatronic ghoul whose motion sensor had been triggered by one of the family pets.
Just as many elderly people enjoy the decorations as the kids do, Brian Zimmerman said, which he thinks can be attributed to a mutual admiration for old horror films. He said he’ll often notice cars slowing as they drive past his house, with some even stopping to take pictures.
After the Halloween festivities have concluded, the Zimmermans will begin packing up their decorations and clearing the slate for what will eventually become a similarly extravagant Christmas display. Brian Zimmerman said they also decorate for Easter and the Fourth of July, but not to the extent of what they do for Halloween and Christmas.
The couple says as they get older, they plan to reduce their decorating efforts.
“Every year we say is the last year,” Brian Zimmerman said.
Alexander rolls her eyes teasingly when she hears her father say that.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him: @PharosMAK