HOLLY SPRINGS — At Bob Echeverria’s house, the tricks are the treat.
Candy still beckons from his front porch, of course. Getting to it without having an aneurism might be the hard part.
This is Echeverria’s 33rd year as neighborhood ghoul, dating to when he lived in New Jersey. Every Halloween, he decks out his Holly Springs home with a different scary theme.
This year’s theme: clowns.
He has clown windows, a clown costume and a dozen demented-looking clown mannequins scattered about his yard and porch. Six or seven family friends will also dress up for the occasion.
So on Halloween, a cast of clowns – some real, some fake – will be strategically positioned to scare those brave enough to approach 812 Skymont Drive.
Sharon Echeverria, Bob’s wife, says the decorations alone already are starting to freak her out.
“She made me unplug everything before I went out of town last week,” Bob Echeverria said.
His setup could pass for commercial-grade goulishness, as if Echeverria hires professional decorators or buys a Halloween kit to assemble. But that’s not the case.
Echeverria, 62, starts planning for Halloween on Nov. 1. The process involves finding the right accessories – a few mechanical undead, strobe lights, costumes, masks, even scary trees – at the right price. He puts hundreds of dollars into each project.
“I search Spirit of Halloween, Halloween Warehouse, Fright Catalog,” Echeverria said, using his fingers to count off the stores he visits. “It takes a while because I’m picky about what looks good and what doesn’t.”
He also puts in plenty of physical labor. Echeverria built the fence around his front yard “cemetery” with wood from discarded construction pallets. He used the same wood to build a ticket booth, which will flank the front entrance of his clown tent on Halloween.
Neighbors walk by every day to check on his progress.
“It looks great,” Debbie Wysocki told him one afternoon. “We’ve certainly gotten a lot more Halloween traffic on this street in the last few years.”
Wysocki’s 5-year-old daughter, Ashley, held her mom’s hand as she peered at Echeverria. The man in the clown costume was pretty scary as a zombie last year. But Ashley gave Echeverria a high-five before trotting home for dinner.
Echeverria’s love for kids is evident when he talks about his own. He has three daughters and two sons, and they usually help him in some way.
His 21-year-old daughter Courtney lives in New Jersey and helped find the right “scary clown music.” Last year, his 18-year-old son Sean built the guillotine that’s now in use as a clown-beheader. Sean is a freshman at East Carolina University, so he’s not around to help dad this year.
Echeverria’s other son, Robert, plans to transfer from Wake Tech Community College to ECU next year, making the Echeverrias empty-nesters. After that, they might downsize and move out of Holly Springs, maybe to Apex.
By then, someone in their Holly Springs subdivision may be ready to take Echeverria’s place.
Lynn Denoy, who lives two houses down, says her husband, Steve, is well on his way. Following Echeverria’s advice, they have a theme: creepy crawlies. Spiders hang from their two-story house, and trick-or-treaters will feel the tickle of shredded twine on their shoulders as they walk up the front steps.
“We used to just put stuff out,” Denoy said. “But Steve and Bob have gone Halloween shopping together.”
She said of her husband: “And this year, I think he’s taken it up a notch.”
Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht