Gone are the days when jack o’ lanterns and a witch or two were considered great Halloween decorations.

If you go

Halloween decorations featured in this story are from these families:

Hawkins: 226 Moon Dance Lane, Summerville.

Kent: 101 Sully St., Goose Creek.

Vahala: 2013 Prospect Hill Drive, Mount


Today, animated life-size figures, creepy music, fog machines, even hands appearing to reach up from the deep are not uncommon.

Homeowners like Scott and Judy Hawkins of Summerville, Mark and Susie Vahala of Mount Pleasant and Randy and Claudia Kent of Goose Creek are on the edge.

Their decorations have become bigger or more intensive over the years. They have extreme Halloween displays.

“I’d like to think the kids in my neighborhood expect it,” Hawkins says. “Heck, the adults expect it.”

As a boy, Hawkins and his dad made wooden headstones for the family displays. During his teen years, he was part of the display, jumping out of caskets to scare young kids.

Today, Hawkins’ display is about 30 by 50 feet. Each year he adds more pieces.

While his “creepy guys” are store-bought, he made many of the larger pieces for the display, including a graveyard entrance, a mausoleum and several caskets, he says.

Hawkins also made a breathing grave using a windshield wiper motor and tarp. His rocking skeleton is powered the same way.

“Some people just put out a pumpkin. I try to cover all of the bases.”

A grand display

It started with a cool ghost wind sock Susie Vahala made for Halloween more than 20 years ago. The sock still is one of Mark Vahala’s favorite decorating pieces.

Today, the Vahala’s Halloween display is much grander.

Parts of it are on the lawn, the back and front porches, along the curb, on the roof and just about everywhere else.

To say the couple likes Halloween is to deal in understatement. The home is a holiday wonderland designed to amaze everyone.

“We added something each year and now it’s kind of crazy,” Mark Vahala says. “The porch is all decked out like a pumpkin patch. We sit there and give out candy. It’s not chain saws and blood and guts. It’s more fun than scary.”

The Vahalas still make some of their decorations, including skeletons that hang from trees.

Vahala gets into costume each year, but would not say what he will wear this Halloween.

In the recent past, he has dressed as a pirate and as an astronaut, he says. He has an area set aside where visitors can pose with him for pictures.

His costume usually complements the overall theme of his decorations.

“This year, there is no set theme,” Vahala says.

As in previous years, kids will enter the yard by passing through a haunted house. A fogger and Halloween music will contribute to the mood. Many will find familiar pieces.

The gorier, the better

This year it’s zombies, gypsies and a graveyard at Claudia and Randy Kent’s home. Last year, there was a mad scientist, a lab and body parts.

One other year Claudia Kent “dug” candy from the belly of a corpse while pressing a hidden screamer button.

“The gorier, the better,” she says.

The couple’s children, now adults, have never shared their parents’ enthusiasm for Halloween, she says.

Randy Kent always gets into costume and blends into their display. One year, as the grim reaper, he had fun sneaking up on unsuspecting kids. Another year, he ran around wielding a fake chain saw.

“We have always enjoyed Halloween,” Claudia Kent says laughing. “We are not well-wrapped.”

The Kents made 80 percent of the stuff they use to decorate, she says. “We’ve gotten real familiar with chicken wire and duct tape.”

The couple strip and redesign pieces to support a new theme every June. They get ideas from various websites. Each Oct. 1, a new display starts taking shape on their lawn.

This is the couple’s 10th year of over-the-top decorations, she says. When Halloween falls on a Friday or Saturday, they attract about 200 kids and 300 adults. When it falls on another night, they get about three-fourths as many.

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.