Wilmette, Community

The horrors at 7th and Lake

After people walk by the menacing skeleton horde and shriek at the murderous clown brigade and shudder at the horror villain trio covered in blood, they find homeowner John Hoeper.

And they thank him.

Hoeper’s horrifyingly elaborate Halloween display is a showstopper at 7th Street on Lake Avenue in Wilmette, and he said it’s the appreciation that keeps it going — and growing — year after year.

“Last year, boy did a drawing in crayon of the entire yard that said he wants to help next year,” Hoeper said. “It’s things like that keep it going.”


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Hoeper’s Halloween spectacular has been an annual affair for about 15 years, with the last five on Lake Avenue, he said.

This year, he started erecting the display around mid-September and is still adding the finishing touches here and there.

In the front yard facing Lake Avenue, motorists and pedestrians are greeted by a lifesize undead gravedigger and skeleton-horse-drawn hearse-carriage

The fright continues as you turn on to 7th Street, where an 18-foot skeleton kicks off more mayhem that includes giant mama spiders (complete with egg sacks) dangling from the home’s roof, a zombie-infested graveyard lining the landscaping, and skeletons … everywhere.

New to the decorations is an animated and talking skeleton waiting near the steps to the front door.

Keeping it moving along 7th, the Hoepers’ backyard fence is secured by zombie dogs and a collection of blood-thirsty clowns too horrid for words.

The killer-clown portion of Hoeper’s display is his favorite.

More creepers and animatronics round out the nightmarish display.

“I like the clowns. They seem to bother people the most,” Hoepner smirked.

Children aren’t the only fans of Hoeper’s work. He actually said the yard art is a big hit among area senior citizens out for an autumn stroll.

He said they are the most vocal in their gratitude for his work, which he added helps him unleash his creative side.

Hoeper isn’t the only one letting his creative juices flow.

The neighborly Halloween war is back on in Kenilworth between the Judys and the Stepans.

The seasonal rivalry, which was profiled by The Record in 2020, has added some new elements and is a must-stop for those looking for a scare on Halloween weekend.

A portion of the extensive decorations outside of the Judys home in Kenilworth

The Judys, in the 600 block of Kenilworth Avenue, now have a Skeleton King — complete with throne — sharing their yard with the Pumpkin King.

The Stepans, a block east on Glendunning Road, feature two 15-foot pumpkin-headed skeleton creatures guarding the front door.

The front door of the Stepans home in Kenilworth
joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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