ROCKLAND, Maine — When Brian Messing and his family lived in San Jose, Calif., he had a tradition of decorating their home for Christmas by putting up thousands of lights.
Neighbors followed suit, and soon their neighborhood became a destination for people to drive by and admire the decorations.
In 2001, the family moved into a large Victorian at the corner and Summer and Lincoln streets in Rockland.
“I realized it was totally inappropriate to put up so many lights here,” he said.
Messing and his wife decided they wanted their home to be party central for their children and decided that organizing a party at Halloween for their offspring and neighbors was the way to go.
“We were the mean parents. We said no drugs, no sex,” Messing said.
Messing said he started off small decorating their home, but that has it has grown to now being a Halloween haunted house.
As you arrive at the front yard to their home, you are greeted with a fenced-in graveyard of notable people. There is a gravestone for author George Orwell that notes he was “missed by all except Big Brother.”
Lizzy Borden’s father is buried under one gravestone. and pieces also are buried at other spots in the cemetery.
Messing said the gravestones are made out of plastic foam that he carves and then paints. One of the gravestones he designed mechanically to have it rise regularly and a skeletal hand to reach out from under it.
Messing trained and worked as an electrical engineer before coming to Rockland.
While many items are purchased from stores, he said he also has either made some of the Halloween items himself or tweaked what he has purchased.
Three large, inflatable pumpkins are on the front lawn, and a small projector hardly noticeable that projects faces on the pumpkins, gourds that also sing.
A huge inflatable spider crawls up the second floor of the house, various creatures hang from trees.
Messing said one of his favorite props, the large eyeball that follows people, is visible from a window from the attic of the house. This illusion was created by setting up a projector in the house with a graphic of a bloodshot eyeball aimed at the window. He covered the window with a sheet of wax paper so that the eye can be seen from passers-by.
To add to the Halloween atmosphere, Messing has also built a fog machine in his basement. It sends out fog under the deck, and, if weather conditions are right, no wind but cool, can envelop the entire front yard as far as the road.
When you enter the house, you immediately are confronted with the mad scientist’s laboratory. The scientist is a large creature whose head rises automatically to expose his brain, and next to him is a zombie-looking thing sitting in an electric chair. He said he created a “Jacob’s Ladder” of lights from a high-voltage transformer that he took off an old oil burner. He has set that device in a corner blocked by the mad scientist’s lab so that no one gets actually shocked by his invention.
As you enter the dining room, a large black spider descends whenever someone walks under it. Messing said he has rigged many of the props to be sensitive to motion or activated by pressure plates.
Messing said one of his reasons for making such a fuss on Halloween is it provides an opportunity for neighbors to meet other neighbors.
“As families get together, people start talking and get to know each other. Plus, kids love it,” he said.
Messing said the first year he began putting up Halloween decorations and props, three people showed up at the house. The following year, there were 30. He said last year nearly 700 people stopped by to admire and enjoy.
The people who stop by can also get tasty treats, although not your typical candy or apples.
While Brian Messing spends his time getting the decides ready, his wife Tiare prepares the treats with the holiday-theme names “corn and maggots,” “mummy babies,” “jellied brains.” and “toilet bowl punch.” The corn offering consists of candy corn, while the mummy babies are mini-hot dogs wrapped in dough. The punch is Sprite with blue Kool-Aid under a black light.
He estimates they spend about $500 each year for the food.
He said his only concern this year is the weather. He said rain does not go well with electronic devices left outside.
Correction: The story has been corrected to say that the gravestone for author George Orwell notes he was "missed by all except Big Brother.”