New Castle News

October 13, 2012

Photo Gallery, Story: Lifelong friends create Halloween display to fight breast cancer

Dan Irwin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Most folks will buy a plot of land to build a home.

But when Tom “Mud” Fee purchased the lot next to his mother’s Loraine Avenue house last year, it was have a home to put his plots.

Fee and his lifelong buddy, Brian “Bart” Sizer, both 27, are the architects of the Croton Cemetery, a Halloween display of lights and sound, mist and the macabre that each year lures passers-by two blocks off Croton Avenue for a bit of spirited fun.

It all started in the yard of Fee’s childhood home with one coffin, a guillotine and a handful of headstones, but has grown annually as the two spend their own cash and off-hours building new displays each Halloween. It wasn’t long before the pair were expanding, with permission, into an adjoining lot.

Last year, the owner of that piece of ground wanted to sell, and Fee jumped on it like a vampire on a jugular.

“When it went up for sale, I said, ‘I can’t stop doing this,’ so I went and made a move on the property – just for Halloween,” the East Side resident said. “We’d had permission to use it before, but I didn’t want to take a chance on losing it.”

Included among all the carnage and creepiness are more body parts than you can shake a broomstick at, such as the ones browning nicely, thank you, on a charcoal grill right next to Frankenstein.

Still, there’s really only one part that is at the heart of the display. And it’s why the mix of graves and ghastliness is called “Haunting for Hooters.”

“We’ve been doing this for years,” Sizer said. “About three years ago, we started accepting donations. A lady came down and told us, ‘You should collect.’ We said, ‘Alright, but let’s donate it,’’ and it being October, we came up with breast cancer.”

Last year, the pair said, they donated $350, adding that they’re already off to “a good start” this year. The display – complete with Fee, Sizer and a few friends adding a live ghoulish component – is open for viewing from 7 to 10 p.m. every night during October. A donation box is on a post near the eastern end.

The two say they take about a month-and-a-half building and organizing the display, and two days to set it all up.

“Two days, with a lot of help — family, neighborhood friends,” Sizer said. “The cemetery probably takes the longest to get up with all the tombstones to put in the ground.”

Set construction is done “after work, weekends — from when we wake up to dark,” noted Fee, whose mother-in-law is a breast cancer survivor. “We do everything in Brian’s garage. He has all the tools and everything, then we bring it down here and we set it up.

“Storage is the big thing. Last year, we had to rent space to have room for it all.”

Though the street generally is quiet, Fee said, neighbors don’t seem to mind the nightly parade of cars and screams. One family, he added, actually sets up lawn chairs across the street from the cemetery to watch the fun.

The whole thing builds to a climax on Halloween, “when it’s just out of control,” Fee said. “Cars up and down the whole street, and kids everywhere.”

So what happens when October finally turns to November?

“People have said we should do Christmas,” Fee said. “But I don’t think so.”