Every Halloween there are traffic jams with people from around Queens waiting to get a glimpse and take pictures of Patrick Kenniff’s house in Middle Village.
And on the sidewalk an estimated 500 little trick-or-treaters line up for hours to view — and nowadays take selfies with — his horrifying home, known as the “Halloween House” by many in the neighborhood.
Kenniff, a musician who goes by the name “Swan,” started decorating his house on 75th Street near 68th Road for Halloween 10 years ago with a simple pumpkin head prop with an orange dress-like body. But ever since, he obsessively continued to add new decorations every year until there are now more than 100 decorations possessing the residence like a zombie parade. Viewing the house has become an annual attraction for families in the neighborhood and around the borough.
“I don’t know what it does for the neighborhood, but [my daughter] loves it, and now it’s like a tradition to come here and see it,” said Elizabeth Wilson, who comes by each year to see the “Halloween House.” “It’s nice to see at least someone cares about the holiday.”
A REAL-LIFE ADDAMS FAMILY
For other families, Christmas or Thanksgiving may be the most special days of the year, but that isn’t the case for this real-life “Addams Family.”
Halloween is Kenniff’s favorite holiday. He usually dresses in all black with shades and his ringtone is the theme song from the horror-movie “Halloween.” When he was younger, he celebrated the holiday with his 10 siblings, and after his first year of decorating his house he continued each year to pass on the spirit of Halloween to his daughter, Skye.
Skye, 9, loves to watch horror movies such as the “Child’s Play” series and builds her own scary decorations. Her mother said it would be “cool” if she found a career in that field, such as being a director of make-up design for shows like “The Walking Dead.”
Even Skye’s grandmother looks forward to Halloween each year, because every Saturday a week before the holiday they throw a massive, backyard party for nearly 50 family members.
SETUP AND COSTS
Many people just put spider webs and pumpkins outside their houses or apartments for Halloween, but Kenniff goes above and beyond because it makes him feel good.
“It’s therapeutic for me,” Kenniff said. “Some people take Prozac, I have Halloween.”
It takes him approximately two weeks to set up the “Halloween House,” putting up a few decorations each day. The transformation takes so long that he sometimes has started in September.
Although Kenniff has more than 100 decorations and figures, he can’t give an exact figure, because he lost count. And during the year the props, dolls, figures and lights are stored behind the house, after another two-week process of “breaking down.”
Kenniff spends a lot of money on Halloween, but he finds ways to cut costs as well. He estimated that his decoration collection is worth “thousands of dollars.” Some, such as one of the giant cats, which was $200, he bought more cheaply by waiting until after Halloween when stores slash prices. He also makes some of them himself.
He uses energy-efficient lights and only puts them on only for a couple hours a day as the special day draws near. His electric bill is only about $50 more, he said.
But what really kills him for Halloween is batteries, because many of the decorations and props need them. So, he said, he spends about $150 on batteries alone.
Finally, he buys hundreds of pieces of candy for the inevitable flock of children that will pass by his house for the holidays. But the money isn’t an issue for him, because just seeing the excited children enjoying Halloween with his house puts a smile on his face.
“It makes me feel like all this was worth it,” Kenniff said.
OUTSIDE IS SCARY, BUT STAY AWAY FROM THE BASEMENT
Even Kenniff’s family is amazed by his “Halloween House.”
His front yard is littered with dozens of creepy creatures, included the Headless Horseman, a Shrek doll, various moving witches, wizards and bloodied figures, and this year a ginormous, inflatable Frankenstein sits on the house along with two 20-foot black cats, blended all together with orange lighting.
It’s a terrifying sight for many children, but those who are easily spooked should stay away from the basement.
Kenniff’s basement is a bonafide haunted house. It’s dark and filled with dreadful screams from glowing ghosts, ghouls and goblins blanketed in spider webs and surrounded by recognizable figures such as Scream, Chucky, and Michael Myers from “Halloween,” which is his favorite prop.
One neighbor even suggested he started charging the hundreds of kids that line up to see it every year. But he keeps it open for free for everyone to enjoy.
“The year before last year, the line was so insane to go down there, I said, ‘You should charge a buck’ and he was like ‘I can’t do that,’” said Teresa Hinkler, who lives next door. “I mean hundreds of hundreds of people come and he’s got to be like a doorman, because he can only let so many people in at a time. So he really gives his time to Halloween day.”