CHESANING — A birthday prank 10 years ago keeps on getting bigger for one Chesaning couple.
“My brother turned 50 (that year) so we thought it would be funny to make some tombstones to put in his yard while he was gone,” Kelly Gross said. “Well then he kept them and we thought they turned out pretty cute, so we made more … and then thought, ‘We need a fence.’ It just went on from there.
Now Kelly and Bruce Gross have tombstones, a lumberjack, Frankenstein’s monster and his bride, a skeleton-horse drawn buggy among other decorations in their own yard, the fictional Main Street Cemetery, 125 S. Main St.
“Every year we try to do a little bit more,” Bruce Gross added.
Almost everything in the cemetery was handmade by Bruce, including the tombstones, a buggy that he converted into a hearse, a mausoleum building with the fake ghost inside and a stuffed lumberjack.
It takes him and Kelly a “good, full week” to put everything up, especially now that the couple owns the lot next door to their home, too.
“We just bought the lot a couple years ago so we could expand,” Kelly Gross said.
Each year, the couple sees 300 to 450 trick-or-treaters, many more than before they transformed their yard.
“I go camping with them and Bruce will bring tools with him to make certain things for the yard. He‘ll bring saws and paint while we camp,” their friend Amy Collins said.
In addition to the outdoor display, the couple decorate indoors.
On the inside, purple, orange and green lights line the arched walkway from their kitchen to the living room, a severed head is attached to a window and Halloween-themed curtains hang from their windows.
They also have a Halloween-themed mini-village above the cupboards in the kitchen.
“It’s our favorite holiday. It’s not as commercial and it’s just fun. We dress up on Halloween day. In the past, we’ve been a Dallas Cowboys football player and cheerleader, pirates, and Thing One and Thing Two from Dr. Seuss,” Kelly Gross said.
For the couple it’s not just about offering thrills for their visitors. They enjoy seeing children’s and adults’ faces when they see something new that wasn’t there the year before.
“They put a lot of time into (the display),” Collins said.
The inspiration for expanding each year comes primarily from the internet, Kelly Gross said.
In front of the couple’s home are tombstones with the names of pets they used to own. Others are silly, with phrases such as “Rob D. Graves” and “Pae D. Price.”
With just two weeks until Halloween, the couple is enjoying the visitors their front yard brings.
”It’s just spectacular. They take (decorating for Halloween) to a new extreme,” friend Julie Struck said.