On Halloween, Robert Beech’s yard has no fake blood, chain saws, or decapitated children. But the “haunted attraction and art installation” outside his southeast-side home does feature plenty of gargoyles and warlocks, and a graveyard haunted by green-faced ghouls.
“Just about everything is built by me,” says Beech, whose garage is filled with paint, fog machines, rolls of wire and burlap, and rows of zombies and skeletons hanging from the beams. “I do this all for the kids who come by and say ‘Oooh, ahhhh,’ and to keep Halloween alive.”
Beech, who worked at Disney as an animator in the late 1990s, now sells his gargoyles online and works as a substitute teacher for the Ann Arbor Public Schools. He won’t say how much the attraction costs to produce, because he doesn’t want his wife to know how many fog machines he’s bought over the years or how much he spends on supplies. He picks up some items from curbs and thrift shops; others are donated by neighbors and supporters. His Brandywine Cemetery is free, but donations are welcome; this year they go to the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, which Beech hopes will provide some actors for the event.
Occupying a corner lot at Brandywine Drive and Donegal Court, the “cemetery” drew 396 people last Halloween, up from 384 in 2006. Last year Beech added a mausoleum and a green laser vortex. He says this year’s additions will include better lighting, more sounds, and a new area that people “will be running out of very quickly.”
“He keeps things inside of his head that I don’t know,” says his wife, Susan, who dresses up for the two-night event on October 30 and 31. “His mind is constantly thinking of Halloween . . . three hundred and sixty-five days a year.”