Shrewsbury – Most people don't want a cemetery in their backyard, but every October, Burt and Linda Taylor build one. They also fill their back shed with ghouls and skeletons, and their Walnut Street neighborhood joins the fun.
This year, the party took place Oct. 18. Newcomers received a "certificate of survival" for making it through the tour of the haunted train yard, the graveyard and the "Chop Shop," complete with wandering ghosts, grim reapers and a rooster armed with an axe.
Linda leads guests on the scary tour wearing a black cape and witch hat. Burt said, without her, the party and haunted house would never come together.
"We've been doing this about 16 years, and it's something we enjoy doing," Burt said. "We're lucky enough to have plenty of people in the neighborhood who help … I've got the best neighbors in the world, I really do."
Joseph Januszewicz, 9, and his sister, Antonia, 7, could hardly wait for their turn to go through the scary tour in their Halloween costumes.
"It is scary, sometimes," Joseph said.
"I got scared last year," Antonia said.
Their mother, Alicja, said they look forward to the party.
"I think it's really wonderful. Every year, it's diff erent," she said. "Burt prepares for months."
Burt said he couldn't accomplish all he does without the help of his "charter members," including Kenny Franz, who helps with the special eff ects and wore a frightening mask as he welcomed visitors to the "Chop Shop."
Next door, Ed Gringres was running his elaborate scale model train through its detailed scenery by lamplight for the party attendees. Then there were the costumed "ghosts" and "ghouls" in the graveyard.
"We think everybody is an adrenalin junky and they like to be scared and then they laugh," Burt said. "I think the scariest thing is people's imaginations running away with them. Everybody loves to be scared."
The Taylors have accumulated skeletons, costumes, decorations, sound effects and lights over the years to decorate the yard and the back shed, which looks like a small house.
It replaced an old barn, Burt said, and he had it built big enough to host a Halloween haunted house. It was decorated with tableaus of horror, lit in sequence and highlighted by sound eff ects.
"We believe in quality," he said. "It's a small-scale Halloween, but we can compare to anyone."
Up the hill, in the Taylor house, his neighbors crowded the kitchen and dining room enjoying snacks, laughter and conversation.
"Sometimes we have 30, sometimes we have 50," Linda said, "just however many can come."
Burt said the most they had was about 125 visitors, but they don't advertise or charge, because the party is all in fun.
"If I can see someone scream and smile and say, 'That was a heck of a Halloween party,'" Burt said, "I'm happy."