RAVENSWOOD MANOR — Halloween is serious business at Kevin Byrne and Dop Troutman’s house.
Every year, Byrne spends his free time making costumes by hand or creating elaborate, creepy displays outside their home at 2920 W. Wilson Ave. This year, the production involves a dozen homemade zombies — modeled after real people — crawling across their front yard and scaling their home. It’s drawn a caravan of fans to Ravenswood Manor.
“I’ve always kind of gone crazy for Halloween, and that was an easy avenue to have creative projects and express myself artistically,” said Byrne, an advertising analyst who once worked behind the scenes for the Blue Man Group.
Each figure is wrapped in plastic and bound with about 90 yards of duct tape. The zombies are posed in different positions and made to resemble friends and relatives. Some even wear clothes from their human counterparts.
That’s Byrne’s mother with wavy brown hair and a red-stained dress shirt creeping her way to the front door.
The whole display took about 50 hours to produce, Byrne said.
“There’s Dan laying on the ground, Jessica is standing next to him. Christy is scaling the window. My mom is the one walking up the front steps,” Byrne said.
A zombie on top of the house has a helmet, which proved a good teaching moment for one mom, Troutman said. “See, Bobby? Safety first!”
This year’s display is not Byrne’s first rodeo. His previous creations include handmade characters from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and a giant skeleton reaching across the facade of their old home.
This labor of love is a creative outlet for Byrne, as well as a way to connect with neighbors flocking to their yard to admire the craftsmanship. They came even in the pouring rain Monday night.
“The neighbors have been really accommodating and enthusiastic about it, because … there’s been some minor traffic jams,” Byrne said.
One visitor put themselves into the display, acting out as a zombie as they crawled through the drenched lawn.
“I live in an old house with not-great windows, so I can totally hear people talking outside on the sidewalk, talking about how creepy it is or just how much they’re” enjoying it, Byrne said. “It’s fun to … spread that cheer or to amuse people, like during their commute or whatever the case may be.”
Migdlia Duarte came by with her nephew. When the boy reached out to touch one of the zombie figures, Duarte crept up behind him and and grabbed his leg to scare him.
“Bringing my kids around here, it’s like enjoyment,” Duarte said. “Because during quarantine and COVID last year, we weren’t able to do nothing, you know?”
On a recent night, a police car shined its lights on the house. It was unclear whether they were worried about a possible break-in or were simply enjoying the craftsmanship.
Neighbor Kelli Landes said she enjoys seeing people gawking at the creepy display.
Landes herself gets into the Halloween spirit, decorating her front yard with a pair of skeletons, Margaret and Ike, who act out a different hobby each year. Even the skeletons can’t keep their gaze from the chilling scene next door — they’re positioned to look at the display, too.
There’s still almost three weeks until Halloween. If you’re feeling inspired, Byrne has step-by-step instructions available online for creating your own figures.
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