Bob and Carol Gross of Penobscot have built a haunted pirate ship in their front yard and incorporated the inside of their garage into the design. They welcome local families to enjoy a tour during Halloween. The decoration this year is in the theme of Captain Hook’s pirate ship and Peter Pan’s Neverland. Credit: Gabor Degre

Carol Cody of Penobscot spends more than three hours a day in the car during her commute back and forth to work in Augusta. While she’s driving, she has lots of time to daydream and plan, be it what to do with the foster cats she takes in with her partner, Bob Gross, or logistics for the hunter’s breakfast at which they volunteer each year.

About two years ago, she came up with a plan to turn the garage at the home she and Gross share into a replica of a pirate ship, that they could decorate for Halloween each year. Not a seaworthy one, of course, but a pirate ship nonetheless.

“My mind wanders on the drive,” said Cody, an accountant for the state. “I know it probably sounds crazy, but what can I say? I have an active imagination. I love dressing up. And I could just picture the whole front of the garage being like the front of a ship.”

It’s usually up to Gross, an instructor at Maine Maritime Academy and assistant fire chief for Penobscot, to help realize Cody’s boredom-induced flights of fantasy. After acquiring a pile of old wooden floorboards, it wasn’t long before the front of their garage was transformed into the hull of a pirate ship — complete with cannons spouting “smoke” from fog machines, a mast with sails and rigging, and a plank for scallywags to walk down.

Credit: Gabor Degre

“So we lose part of our garage,” Gross said. “It’s worth it though. She loves it.”

“Oh, he likes it, too,” Cody said. “He’s dressing up as a pirate right along with me.”

Though Gross might grumble about the time and money they have spent on costumes, props and sets, two things are clear: Gross and Cody love each other, and they also really, really love Halloween.

Each fall, the couple turn their pirate ship into a full-fledged haunted house experience that is open to the public for free for a few days around Halloween. This year, the theme for the ship is Peter Pan — meaning Gross will spend two days dressed as Captain Hook, his daughter April will dress up as Peter Pan, and a small army of local elementary- and middle-school students will play pirates and Lost Boys.

Credit: Gabor Degre

This year’s public showings are set for 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, and 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31, at 73 New Road in Penobscot. Though there is a “haunted” feel to the display, the overall effect is only lightly scary, meaning it’s appropriate for children of all ages.

Inside the “ship” are rooms packed with scenes from Peter Pan, including Captain Hook’s quarters, complete with the ticking of the crocodile’s alarm clock, and Tinkerbell, trapped in a lamp. There’s a room stocked with piles of pirate’s booty, sleeping shipmates in hammocks, a dungeon and outside in a little farm pond, a mermaid resting on the shore.

Credit: Gabor Degre

“The mermaid is actually my child-sized CPR mannequin,” said Gross, who has worked for local fire and rescue departments for decades. “Last year she was a skeleton walking the plank. She’s pretty versatile.”

Nearly all the couple’s countless decorations are made from DIY elements, with Cody scanning the Facebook Marketplace, yard sales, thrift stores and other sources for free or cheap things to reuse. They spend $400 on candy to give out to kids on Halloween and set up a free popcorn machine.

Though Cody and Gross profess to being total nuts for Halloween, their pirate ship endeavor is as much about the love of dressing up and spooking people as it is giving back to the community. This year, they will take donations to benefit the Penobscot Community School’s Drama Club, members of which will help with running the show both days.

“We just love doing things for the community. This is such a nice place to live,” Cody said. “And we have a blast doing it, even if it’s a lot of work.”

“I like seeing people staring out the window at the pirate ship when they drive by the house,” Gross said. “It’s a real head-turner.”

Credit: Gabor Degre

Though the ship has only been around for a couple of years, the couple have lots of plans for themes for future Halloweens. If it involves a ship in any way, they’ve probably thought of it.

“There’s a lot of possibilities,” Cody said. “Think of how much fun we can have.”

For more information, visit the Halloween at 73 New Road, Penobscot Facebook page.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.