ROCK FALLS – A trip down Marsha Lane in Rock Falls this time of the year is not for the faint of heart.
That’s because a yard full of ghoulish figures are waiting at the home of Dennis and Joan Wilburn, and their son, Shannon Claudin.
For the past 6 years, Claudin has accumulated about 100 figures that are on display. They range from the scary to the downright frightening, and it all will come to a head on Halloween, when the figures are put into motion and a fog machine is activated.
“Halloween is my life,” Claudin said. “I love horror movies. Anything Halloween, I live it and breathe it every day all year long. If I could, I’d have this stuff out here all year long.”
The process begins in July, when Claudin and Dennis Wilburn, his stepfather, begin retrieving figures out of a storage area in the basement. They test the figures and repair the ones that need it. By the end of August or early September, the duo begin placing them in the yard. They sometimes get a few curious looks.
“We’ve gotten a lot of comments from the neighbors. They like it,” Claudin said. “Some say when we start putting it out, ‘Oh, it’s too early.’ Can you see how much stuff we have? It takes a while.”
Claudin’s favorite part of the display is a Krampus, a horned, half-goat, half-demon figure who, according to Central European folklore, punishes children who misbehave at Christmastime. A movie on Krampus was made in 2015. The figure in the Wilburn’s lawn cost $500.
“He makes noise and moves and everything,” Claudin said with a grin.
Claudin estimates the family has spent between $10,000 and $20,000 on the display. One might ask what his mother thinks about the whole situation. The answer is she loves it.
“We love this and we love Halloween,” she said. “If I had my way, there wouldn’t be any other holidays, just Halloween. My whole family loves Halloween.”
Claudin noted his parents are right in the thick of things when it comes to acquiring new display items.
“When we do our yearly shopping for the new stuff, they help pick out stuff online,” Claudin said. “We all sit down and look online to see what looks cool so we can add to it. We all order stuff that gets shipped here. I’m sure the UPS and FedEx guys love us, having to deliver those huge boxes.”
Curious onlookers are a regular occurrence at the display, and cars regularly slow down to get a better peek. Claudin is happy to accommodate any and all who come to check out the display.
“Some people just love it,” Claudin said. “They come here with their kids. They say they’ve come here every year since their kids were little, and now they’re 10 or 11 years old. They come and get family pictures.”
For now, lights around a gate and in a tree are used to illuminate the display on a nightly basis. On Halloween, the display will be activated all day, complete with motion, sound and fog.
As one might expect, the Wilburn house is a must stop for Rock Falls trick-or-treaters. A year ago, more than 600 little ghouls and goblins visited, and the Wilburns had treats for all of them.
“We’ve got a stockpile,” Claudin said. “It’s a hefty price for candy, but it’s all worth it to see kids’ reactions.”