“I’m coming for ya.” And just like that, a challenge from neighbor to neighbor had been dealt, and while the challenge was playful, carnal instinct ensured it would be satisfied.
The need to best your neighbor has become the benefit of Halloween lovers across the North Shore, as two of the area’s spookiest displays are better than ever in 2020.
Usually, Mike and Kerry Judy add one element to their frightening Halloween layout each year in the 600 block of Kenilworth Avenue, but after their neighbor Al Stepan goaded Mike with friendly banter, “I’m coming for ya,” well, the Judys had to pick up a little something extra.
So the yard got two large new features this year: a 7-foot, jack-o-lantern-headed creature with plenty to say and a life-sized zombie armed with a severed limb.
Add those to a murderous clown with his own carnival booth, a witch dangling a doll over a cauldron, and a diverse graveyard with plenty to catch your eye and you have a display 15 years in the making.
“It’s fun. It’s our thing,” said Mike Judy, whose family — which includes James, 15, Giles, 13, and Joe, 11 — moved to Kenilworth six years ago. “It’s a bit goofy and just for Halloween.”
Just a block over, on Glendenning Road, more fright is afoot.
The Stepans also enjoy October’s spooky holiday, but thought 2020’s celebration needed extra oomph.
“It’s all for the kids this year,” Al Stepan said. “The kids have been through the ringer. We wanted to do something special for those kids.”
With that motivation, Stepan provoked his neighbor, Mike Judy, all in good fun, which has had the added benefit of a better collective experience for the neighborhood.
The Stepans — Al, Candice and Spencer, 12 — started gathering supplies to double the decorations in September and went to work Oct. 1 to build their diverse display.
Two days later, the front yard was busy with classic and modern Halloween fright, from wooden cutouts of human ghosts to a Spanish corpse couple enveloped in fog to skeletons climbing the home’s facade — and, just like the Judys, a 7-foot, jack-o-lantern-headed creature with plenty to say.
“It’s something really good for the community,” Al said. “It’s been hard on everybody, so thought we could give them a break.”
And as a side benefit, beat the Judys. The winner of the Halloween War of West Kenilworth may be up to participants in a COVID-safe neighborhood celebration set up by Mike Judy and his neighbors.
“Just a stroll around here and to have some adult drinks and fun,” he said. “Everybody has been super game.”
Fright Date Night at Fred’s Garage
Giving back to the community has also motivated Fred’s Garage to go big this Halloween — really big.
Overseeing diners on the Winnetka restaurant’s patio are two 12-foot tall skeletons sporting Fred’s Garage work shirts.
Co-owner Cary Michael said the restaurant felt it needed to do something special amid all the chaos and negativity circulating.
As dusk settles in, the eyes of the giant skeletons activate to improve their watchful gaze, while lights bring out the homemade bar cart complete with coffin and more throughout, making for a spooky and festive ambiance.
Town overrun by skeletons
If you are up for a short drive, visiting Highwood may be worth it. Charming spaces and welcoming faces. There’s just one thing:
Beware of the skeletons.
They’re not so bad when you get used to them, but they are everywhere, because to make up for the loss of the beloved Pumpkin Fest — taking a year off because of COVID-19 concerns — Celebrate Highwood has launched Invasion of the Skeletons.
Businesses and community members have collaborated in a collective skeleton display throughout the community, and they are literally hanging from the rafters in some places.
It’s worth the drive, no bones about it.