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Graveyard in His Front Yard : Prop Builder Hopes to Give Kids Halloween They’ll Never Forget

Community Correspondent

Up and down Corley Drive, neighbors are saying that Bob McKee’s graveyard is one of the best things that ever happened to this quiet, cordial neighborhood.

Folks who merely exchanged “hellos” for decades are assembling on front lawns to speculate about the goings-on in the McKee garage.

Some say McKee can make a skeleton sit bolt upright in a coffin, a worm-eaten hand pop out of nowhere, and ghosts fly weirdly over the street. He is reputed to store corpses and grave markers in the garage and a skull on the kitchen table.

Free-Lance Builder for Movies

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McKee, 30, is a free-lance prop builder who grew up on Corley Drive, and has returned to the family home to give the neighborhood kids a Halloween they will never forget.

It almost did not happen. First McKee and his co-worker/roommate Kelly Mann had to finish building a squad of 14-foot mechanical alligators for a Japanese film studio.

By the time they got the last tail swishing, Halloween was only four weeks away.

Since then, they and four others have been working day and night carving Styrofoam ghost heads; designing, pouring and painting gruesome rubber face masks; rigging a remote control airplane engine to make a skeleton’s eyeballs and jaw move; converting an automatic car antenna into a moving arm.

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So far, McKee says, he has spent $3,000 on the haunted graveyard, which he calls “Fright Nite.” The scene will include live actors and left-over horror movie props, lit by a professional lighting technician. McKee’s sister, Christine McKee-Clark, who has a degree in acting, will greet guests in an Elvira costume, lounge on a chaise and ridicule a videotape of the original “Night of the Living Dead.”

Free Fun Starts at Sundown

McKee, who has worked on 10 other haunted houses and has a history of celebrating Halloween in a big way, is expecting 500 to 800 trick-or-treaters tonight. But he is hoping for 1,000.

Admission will be free. At sundown, people will simply line up in his driveway in the 10300 block of Corley Drive--and probably the next-door neighbor’s, too--and look at the roped-off display on the front lawn.

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“My angle is that I want people to come and enjoy this,” he said. “The one real holiday that was based around children has been denied them by a degenerating society. This is the kid in me trying to give the kids around a safe way to celebrate.”

McKee, also is trying to establish an organization to promote the safe and enthusiastic celebration of Halloween. Next year, he would like to find a civic or charitable organization that would sponsor a similar exhibit. They would supply the site and pay for supplies and he would donate his time.

“We are thrilled,” neighbor Lois Stegman said. Stegman, a grandmother who moved into the neighborhood 29 years ago, said she cannot remember seeing her neighbors so excited, and united.

“It just gives us all a good feeling to know that they are here, and working so hard to give the kids something safe and meaningful.”

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She and others have been buying candy for the big night. They will turn it over to McKee, who will pass it out on their behalf.

With the trick-or-treaters taken care of, Stegman plans to spend Halloween on a lawn chair in her front yard, enjoying the fun. A dry run earlier this week attracted about 30 spectators. Said Stegman: “We are joking about renting lawn space.”


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