State College-area couple's home offers happy haunts for Halloween

bmilazzo@centredaily.comOctober 31, 2013 

— On the corner of Park Lane and Park Hills Avenue East rests a home with the eerie spookiness of Halloween.

For many families in the suburban neighborhood behind Tom Tudek Memorial Park, in and outdoor Halloween décor consists of carved pumpkins placed on small bales of hay and seasonally scented candles that waft through their homes. Other decorations follow the orange, brown and red color scheme to match the fall foliage of the tree-heavy neighborhood.

The Marx family takes the holiday to the next level, transforming their corner lot into a haunted cemetery. Even inside the home, picture frames and mirrors are covered in spider webs, while a toy spider dangles from the ceiling of their foyer.

Outside, skeletons hang from a tree, while a faux dead body lies in the grass. Most of the front yard houses homemade tombstones and coffins made from scrap wood.

When the sun sets, the home is faintly lit so passers-by can see it from the streets.

“We both really liked Halloween even before we were married,” said homeowner Michael Marx, who last year moved with his family to the Centre Region from the Baltimore area.

Marx and his wife, Jennifer, celebrated their 17thwedding anniversary Monday. Somewhat ironically, 17 years ago, the two spent their honeymoon in Mexico during “Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead” — the Mexican holiday that honors deceased loved ones. The couple spent their first night in a graveyard, Michael Marx said.

The Marxes have two children — Gabriel, 12, and Eliza, 9. With two dogs, Trixie and Sam, and Lola, a black cat, Jennifer Marx said her whole family embraces the Halloween spirit. If the animals would let her, Jennifer Marx said she would dress them up as well.

“It’s become a nice little tradition,” she said. “And it’s a lot of fun. The kids love it. They kind of embrace it with us.”

Living in a neighborhood for the first time in 10 years, Michael and Jennifer Marx said they’re anxious for trick-or-treaters. They lived in Maryland on 9 acres encompassed by woods, where trick-or-treating was rare.

However, they keep up the theme of decorating their home for the holiday and dressing up to go with it. This year, the two will dress as Dog the Bounty Hunter and his wife, Beth.

“It’s been about a decade since we had trick-or-treaters,” Jennifer Marx said. “It’s exciting. We get to go out and dress up with the kids, and then come back home and pass out candy.”

Michael Marx said he tries to come up with a “spook theme” annually to scare guests as he plays dead on a bench and then jumps out when no one is expecting it. This year, he is taking a different approach, but is leaving it as a surprise until Halloween night.

“It’s not fun if you don’t scare someone,” he said.

The Marx family said that decorating their yard and planning for the holiday came earlier this month when Michael Marx saw other houses in the neighborhood gearing up for Halloween. Three weeks ago, Michael Marx said, everything was set up.

The couple said that for the past few weeks, onlookers have either slowed down or stopped to check out their yard. A few people have even been spotted taking photos of his home, Michael Marx said.

But by Monday, the decor will be taken down, Jennifer Marx added.

On Wednesday afternoon, Jodi Carpenter stopped for a moment to admire the home.

“It’s fun to walk or drive through the neighborhood and see what people have done to their property,” Carpenter said. “I’ve seen a few other houses all decked out. This looks nice. It looks like they put in a lot of work.”

Carpenter said that she and her two children, Lucy Sankey, 8, and Brady Sankey, 7, carved pumpkins and put up leaf stickers on the screen window of their home. By the end of the week, she said, she would hit the grocery store to stock up on Halloween candy.

“It’s hit-and-miss when we decorate,” Carpenter said. “Sometimes we go all out, other times we just do little Halloween touches.”

Michael Marx said they spent about $400 this year on Halloween items. However, a lot it was left over from years prior, including the gravestones and coffins that he crafted from wood about 12 years ago.

“We accumulate a lot,” Michael Marx said. “With a new home for this season and a big front yard, you’re able to really take advantage of the space.”

According to the National Retail Federation, nearly 158 million consumers will participate in Halloween activities this year, with the average celebrant expected to spend $75.03 on Halloween goods. Average spending on Halloween has increased 54.7 percent since 2005, with total spending estimated to reach $6.9 billion in 2013, the report said.

The Marxes said they’re going to keep their Halloween tradition for years to come.

“We just always liked Halloween,” Jennifer Marx said. “It’s kind of our thing, and we have a lot of fun as a family.”

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.

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