Eighteen years ago, in California, Northwest residents Keith and Jenny Stewart decorated their front yard with a few tombstones, and Keith dressed up as Mike Myers from the movie "Halloween."
They had no idea what they were starting.
Now, on Wanda Road just north of Magee in the Northwest, the Stewarts go all out, decorating their entire front yard with tombstones, skulls, werewolves, giant ants, coffins, and pretty much anything else related to Halloween.
They've created Tomb Town.
"It started getting bigger and more and more people started coming," Keith said. "It started off with Mike Myers and it kind of just exploded."
On Halloween night, for five hours, people from all around filter into their yard, pay a $1 donation for admission, and make their way through the winding path lined with dead trees, lighted only by tiki torches. All admission donations are given to the community food bank.
If years past are an indication, the Stewarts can expect about 1,200 people this Halloween.
During the rest of the year, handmade creatures like a graboid, the animal from the movie "Tremors," and a man being eaten by a giant red blob are packed into their garage, storage closets and backyard. Garage shelves are reminiscent of a horror flick with all the different human heads.
Jenny stays home during the day as a pet sitter, and Keith works nights as a stocker at a local grocery story. For the tail end of September and the month of October, the two focus a large portion of their free time setting up and creating new features for Tomb Town.
Store-bought props have been personalized. Take, for example, the small dragon they have in the children's portion of the haunted yard. It once was a child's pony ride. Now, it has been painted, decorated with teeth and wings, and taken on an entirely new form.
The human head dangling from the werewolf's hand was once a simple mannequin head for displaying wigs. Now it has deep red vertical slashes through the face, and one eye is hanging from its socket.
This Halloween obsession hasn't always been part of the couple's 28-year marriage.
"I wasn't so much into horror movies, I was kind of creeped out by horror movies," Jenny said. "And then I met Keith and he showed me the movie magazines, the art of it. … and made me less scared of it. And I got kind of into it."
Jenny tends to enjoy movies like "Alien" and "Predator," more of the science fiction-based horror movies. More than movies, she is a book reader, consuming up to three or four books in a week. Since Keith was about 10, he has enjoyed horror movies. Keith was hooked by the show "Dark Shadows," a gothic soap opera from the late '60s and early '70s depicting the life of a vampire, featuring the vampire Barnabus Collins.
Keith has a serious passion for Halloween and scaring people. He loves to tell stories how he can stand still for long periods of time – the point where even a kid hitting his leg with a candy-filled pillowcase thinks he is simply a giant stuffed doll. As soon as the person lets down their guard, thinking he isn't a real person, that is when Keith goes in for the kill – pun intended.
He has even dug a six-foot-deep hole in the hard Arizona earth so he could place a coffin over it, and scare anyone not expecting a person to be in the giant pit.
The event takes place this Sunday, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., at their house. Their address is 8343 N. Wanda Road. For more information, go to the website at www.myspace.com/tombtowntucson
Oct. 31, 5-10 p.m.
8343 N. Wanda Road.