'Dinosaur Man' and his prehistoric herd hang out in Las Vegas suburb

In Henderson, Nev., retired teacher's 'Dinosaur House' overflows with prehistoric creatures

It seems like a typical suburban street -- except for the Tyrannosaurus rex and 45 other dinosaurs of varying compositions and time periods.

The "Dinosaur House" overflows with prehistoric creatures, manifestations of one man’s vivid passion for life in the ancient past.

Steve Springer calls himself the "Dinosaur Man." The retired middle-school English teacher often can be found amid his front-yard friends in this Las Vegas suburb.

Springer pointed out his favorites, including Trixie the triceratops, Manny the woolly mammoth and Carl the caveman, who guards the front door with a wooden club.

The dinosaurs are named after neighborhood children, except for one long-necked beast called Brian -- in honor of a friend from the weekly bowling team.

Four stone turtles line Springer's driveway, each weighing about a ton.

Springer, 62, created what he calls Shangri-La Prehistoric Park in 2006, after the power company tore out the sidewalk in front of his house. He had retired from teaching by then. “What can I do to put a smile on everyone’s face and make their day better?” he wondered.

He decided to create a classic English garden, an oasis of tranquility -- but changed his mind when he saw a dinosaur in a design catalog.

“Everyone loves dinosaurs,” he said.

So he started buying cast-offs whenever and wherever he could. Some are made of stone, others of metal, concrete or polyresin.

After he had acquired about five, he could see where he was going.

Into the Jurassic era. Or maybe the Cretaceous.

Springer’s collection hails from across the globe, including a Hollywood studio, Mexico and the Philippines.

About 15,000 visitors a year stop by, Springer said. He doesn’t charge admission.

“Don’t worry about your wallet -- just smile,” he told one newcomer. “We don’t want anything, except for you to be happy.”

Curious visitors include regularly organized school field trips and tourists.

About two years ago, an Illinois couple turned up one day to get married in the front yard, Spinger said. They told him that they loved dinosaurs -- and each other -- and had found his house on the Internet.

Springer said he has never had a neighbor complain about noise, traffic or anything else.

“It’s made the neighborhood fun,” said Art Vivas, 48, who lives across the street. “It’s great that everyone gets an opportunity to enjoy it, and people respect it. Steve puts a lot of effort into it.”

Barbara Lombino lives next door. “I think it’s great,” she said. “The kids get to play on the animals. People come from all over Las Vegas to see it. It’s a neighborhood attraction.”

Springer’s most popular dino is Tex the T. rex, 27 feet from head to tail, 14 feet high and weighing a quarter-ton -- relatively light, since it’s made of polyresin.

Pointing to a severed hand hanging from Tex’s front teeth, Springer quips that Tex “forgot to floss.”

He never has to scrape droppings off his dinosaurs, he says, because birds are afraid of them.

The Dinosaur House changes according to the season. On Valentine’s Day, the yard glows red. On Easter, Springer puts a fake rabbit in the T. rex’s mouth.

But the biggest holiday is Halloween. Springer and 12 volunteers ensure that every child has a chance to see the statues and receive their candy, dino toy and secret surprise, offerings he changes every year. Last year, he said, 2,500 trick-or-treaters showed up. 

Halloween is a treat for Springer too.

“My favorite part is greeting all the people and making them happy,” he said.

After every holiday, Vivas said, Springer works through the night to update his yard for the next holiday.

“The next morning, we look across the street and everything has already changed,” Vivas said. “We’re always curious about how he does it. How many elves does he have helping him?”

Parents use a trip to the Dinosaur House to reward their children, said Springer, who taught for 30 years and still gives dinosaur puppet shows at local schools.

He posts bulletins on his garage door to announce upcoming events.

People leave bags filled with dinosaur toys at his doorstep, often with thank you notes, so Springer can give them away as gifts.

“It’s my park, but it’s also everybody’s,” he said.

The dinosaur motif extends beyond the front yard: Springer’s kitchen cabinet knobs are dinosaur figures, and his license plate reads, “DINOMAN.”

Springer has found his calling, and embraced it.

“It’s not what I had planned, but I’ll take it,” he said, leaning on his fence while gazing at his prehistoric lawn. “The Dinosaur Man will take it.”


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