Halloween landscapes take holiday decor to creepier levels

When Jennifer Litomisky moved to Pleasant Ridge in 1997, she created a front yard Halloween scene with a few hand-cut wood characters from the ‘"Nightmare Before Christmas" film. 

Just like other hobbies, scaring the wits out of people takes some time to collect the right pieces. Twenty-two years later, the epic display takes almost three days to put up and has return visitors beginning to drive by the house at 19 Maplefield more than a month before Halloween.

Jennifer Litomisky of Pleasant Ridge gives a vampire grin beside her homemade Jack Nicholson character from 'The Shining,' displayed in her front yard.

“It’s just grown and grown and the little kids that are now teenagers just love it,” Litosmisky says proudly. This year, the theme is "Game of Thrones," new creatures that she added to the already fear-evoking front yard display. Other characters include Jack Nicholson (Litomisky’s favorite) and the twin girls from the movie "The Shining," a knife-wielding Jason Voorhees from the "Friday the 13th" franchise, along with a host of zombies, skeletons and apparitions to round out the horror.

 Litomisky gets a range of reactions to her Halloween display, but one in particular is music to her ears: "People screaming!  I’ll be sitting and watching TV and I can hear children screaming outside when something moves and surprises them. That’s the best reaction.”  

Emma Barbieri looks at one of the ghoulish figures in her Clinton Township front yard, which leads to a walk-through "haunted house" that takes up the driveway and garage.

In Clinton Township, Emma Barbieri and her son started with a little Halloween scene 10 years ago on the front lawn of their home at 24213 Harrison. Those humble beginnings have morphed into "Twisted Fears," a free walk-through "haunted house" — actually it's the driveway and garage — filled with scares and surprises for several weeks each year.

“It’s basically phobias, what people are scared of,” that her homemade house of horrors plays upon.

 As for the results, a giggling Barbieri responds, “I once popped up from behind this drop-down panel and I scared a woman so bad she actually peed her pants a little.”   

The haunted house is closed Tuesday and Wednesday but will be open, of course, on Halloween night.     

Bob Kowal's lawn is infested with giant insects that he built himself for his Halloween display in Clinton Township.

Also in Clinton Township, car brake lights can be seen all the way down the street as motorists wait to get a look at Bob Kowal’s insects-gone-wild-inspired front yard. (Kowal asked that his street not be identified.) The display has been described as “movie quality,” a testament to the creative work that Kowal puts into it.

“Anything that isn’t smaller than me, is homemade,” says Kowal. From the mammoth praying mantis made from green plastic panels to the huge snake made from pool pillows that weaves its way throughout the yard, Kowal’s display is impressive during the day but a showstopper at night.

His main reason for creating the Halloween display is nostalgia. “My mom was very creative, and she really sparked her kids’ creativity,” Kowal says. “I grew up in this house and me and the neighbor kids, when we were in third grade in the ‘60s, used to make spooky houses in the basement with sheets on clotheslines, so it’s something in the DNA.”

Looking over his frightful yard filled with cockroaches, spiders and a rat the size of a Volkswagen Bug, Kowal knew he had created something special when one year, a kid came up to him and gave him a piece of candy, saying he had earned it.