Three terrifically terrifying Halloween houses separated themselves from the pack of 11 nominees in this year's Scariest Halloween House in Fair Lawn contest.
They are, in reverse order of votes, 8 Townley Road, 1-27 Hartley Place and this year's winner, 12-10 Ellis Ave.
At 12-10 Ellis Ave., artist-engineer John Bernabeo has 27 monsters that he built himself using PVC pipe and chicken wire. He began making monsters in 1995, and has been adding new ones each year. This year, he added three zombies.
Bernabeo uses his electrical and plumbing skills to place motion sensors on a number of the monsters, rigging them to jump out at trick-or-treaters (had there been any) as they walk by on the sidewalk. A chorus of monster sounds, thunder and flashes of lighting are also motion sensor-activated.
Children who reach the front door can sit on a replica electric chair that vibrates when they sit down while a light flashes above their heads. An animated group of witches stir a cauldron of brew. A mad scientist carves up a blood-spurting body on an examining table.
Young monster maker Michael Kwasnik, 11, is responsible for the haunting display at 1-27 Hartley Place. A sixth grader at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, he was motivated to start creating his own Halloween monsters three years ago after seeing other handmade Halloween monster houses.
A relative who works as a hairdresser gives him mannequin heads that hold wigs, which he then paints and carves into monster heads. Kwasnik dresses his monsters in old costumes and clothing he gets from his mother, a dance studio teacher.
At 8 Townley Road, Liz and Kevin Twiggs have been creating elaborate Halloween displays for about nine years. Liz and Kevin, who both work for the borough, make some of their monsters and buy the others from Halloween and party stores.
Liz's birthday at the end of August and their anniversary at the end of October offer yearly excuses to add new pieces to their display, Kevin said. Next year, they will expand across the sidewalk into the neighbor’s yard.