By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter
MARLBOROUGH – It started with pumpkins.
Specifically, David Adams’ wife asked him if he could put a couple of pumpkins around a tree in the front yard of their home at 89 Donahue Drive.
So, Adams bought the foam pumpkins, carved them and placed them around the tree.
“I thought, ‘That’s cool,’ because I hadn’t done any of that sort of crafting,” Adams said in a recent interview.
Now nearly 10 years later, Adams’ front yard is filled with an elaborate display entitled “The Haunted Borough.” Half of it is decorated as a pumpkin patch. The other half is a cemetery.
“It evolved year by year,” Adams said. “I’m sitting around for 11 months thinking, what am I going to do? Before you knew it, I was working 11 months of the year making things for that one month of glory.”
The man behind the pumpkin
Adams is a lifelong resident of Marlborough. When he went trick-or-treating as a kid, he made his own costumes. He said he even once won a costume contest at the old Marlborough theater.
“But, then, that was all put away, and it was away until my son came along and I made his costumes a couple years,” Adams said. “Then he was done with it.”
Adams has time on his hands ever since his retirement from the Marlborough Fire Department. He likes working with his hands.
“I’ve done all kinds of crafting now that I never knew existed,” Adams said.
Adams starts assembling his display on Oct. 1 each year. It takes him about two weeks to get the display up. He then continues to fine tune it until Halloween.
Come Nov. 1, he begins tearing it down.
Display features recycled items
Adams likes recycling items into decorations that he can use for The Haunted Borough.
Bicycle rims are mounted in trees to make ghosts “fly” above the display. Motor vehicle wiper motors are used for the decorations that move.
Near the entrance to the graveyard is a large black sign bearing the name “Haunted Borough Cemetery” along with the phrase, “Come rest your bones awhile.”
The sign is made out of a recycled headboard that Adams saw in a neighbor’s trash. Adams drove past it for two weeks until, one day, his wife suggested that he could make something out of it.
Cemetery display offers nods to literature, ghost stories, horror films
One of Adams’ friends who is a retired school teacher previously suggested adding a cemetery.
She emphasized, though, that “should be related to literary things — writers and old stories,” Adams said.
One of the graves at Adams’ display belongs to Edgar Allan Poe. There’s a “Pet Sematary” like the one in Stephen King’s famous book.
“But I love horror movies,” Adams said.
One of the headstones belongs to Carlotta Valdes from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”
Some of the headstones also belong to Massachusetts historical figures and the subjects of local ghost stories, like Martha Keyes, who is said to haunt the base of Mount Wachusett looking for her lost child.
‘I never had a vision of doing besides a couple of pumpkins for my wife’
Adams estimates that last year was his biggest year, giving out 500 bags of candy.
Meanwhile, nearly 10,000 people follow Adams’ Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/daveshauntedborough.
That has spread Adams’ conversations about building Halloween props across the world.
A video of his skull lamppost went viral with nearly two million views.
Photos of his pumpkin tree decoration, which Adams made out of chicken wire and expanding foam, have recently been shared by Halloween lovers in the Netherlands and Haiti.
Adams never expected this when he began.
“I never had a vision of doing [anything] besides a couple of pumpkins for my wife,” Adams said.