MILWAUKEE — Since 2003, A & J's Halloween House has set the standard for eye-catching Halloween displays. Crowds gather and cars slow down at 2943 S. Clement Avenue in Milwaukee's Bay View Neighborhood to take a look at the decorations. Each year they get bigger and bigger. 2020 is no exception. This year the theme was Ghostbusters.
"It probably took about six to eight weeks to build and then it took us about 6 days this year to put up," Jamie Beauchamp, one the creators of the decorations said.
Beauchamp builds these decorations with his husband Andy Reid. They call their creation 'A & J's Halloween House.'
"There’s a lot of fun aspects to Ghostbusters, and it's pretty easy to build off of all the things that they have in the movie," Reid said.
This year the display features many different characters from the movies including: four mannequin Ghostbusters, two terror dogs, Slimer, Gozer, and Staypuft. None of these are small figurines either, they are all large over-the-top decorations that beg passerby's to stop.
They sprinkle standard Halloween decorations into the mix as well, like skeletons, dismembered zombies, and a severed head.
Reid said that they get thousands of visitors every year which inspired him to start raising money for various charities.
"Every year we do a big Halloween display mostly because we enjoy doing it, but now over the years we have added the charity to it, so we have a fundraiser where we raise money for Pathfinders Milwaukee," Reid said.
"Pathfinders helps homeless and housing insecure youth find and sustain safe housing. Once housed, we offer support to youth as they work towards stability, mental well-being, education, employment and other personal goals," according to the organizations website.
A & J's Halloween House has raised nearly $17,000 for various charities over the years. This year there is a walk-up donation dropbox as well as one for people who stay in their car.
They have been doing this since 2003. Some of the past themes include Area 51, Wild West, 'Just Buried' (a play on 'Just Married') and Little Shop of Horrors to name a few.
The two usually come up with the theme as early as February. They said it takes about six to eight weeks to build and nearly a week to put up in the front yard.
If you are wondering what they do with all of these decorations, they store them in their two-car garage.
"Well we have a two-car garage and our tenant has just enough room to open up his car door," Beauchamp said.
To keep things safe in the era of COVID-19, markers on the ground dictate where crowds of people should stand in order to practice proper social distancing. To keep things sanitized, they have "slime" a.k.a green hand sanitizer for those who would like it. Plus there are placards placed in multiple areas asking people to abide by local and state guidelines about coronavirus restrictions. Those are listed in both Spanish and English.
While the response to these decorations is always positive, this year they take on an extra meaning.
"(We) recently received a letter from a family thanking us for doing it because its a sense of normalcy this year," Beauchamp said.
In a year where everything has been turned upside down, this Halloween decoration serves as a constant and a symbol of what Halloween is all about - having fun.
The decorations will be up until Nov. 1. Reid said the decorations come swiftly down after Halloween passes.