Terrorizing talents on display in Oak Lawn
BY MIKE NOLAN firstname.lastname@example.org October 25, 2012 5:24PM
Part of the "The Bone Yard," a Halloween display done annually by Doug and Donna Carvelli at their Oak Lawn home. | Supplied photo
Oak Lawn haunts
Homes in the village that annually have elaborate Halloween displays, according to www.hauntedillinois.com:
Spirits on Sproat: The Gallery of the Dead — 9028 S. Sproat Ave.
The Devil’s Playground — 6646 W. 87th Place
Terror on Tulley — 8729 S. Tulley Ave.
The Bone Yard — 5904 W. 97th St.
Midnight Terror — 5755 W. 97th St.
For hours of operation and a complete listing of Halloween displays, visit www.hauntedillinois.com
Updated: November 27, 2012 10:17AM
When he was 10 years old, Justin Cerniuk set up some fake tombstones and a couple of coffins in the yard of his grandparents’ Oak Lawn home.
That humble start eventually morphed into “Midnight Terror,” a Halloween display that annually draws big crowds to the house, 5755 W. 97th St., in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
“Each year it gets bigger,” Cerniuk, now 23, said.
The only times “Midnight Terror” didn’t make an appearance were during Cerniuk’s four years with the Marines, which saw him deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, people drove by the house and wondered what had become of the display, he said.
Throughout the Southland, there are lots of people like Cerniuk who won’t settle for sticking a couple of store-bought Halloween decorations in the yard and calling it a night. They’ve garnered a reputation for having the go-to places for those seeking a spooky thrill, and the people who construct the displays know they’ve got to top last year’s effort to keep the crowds coming.
“It’s a whole new layout,” Cerniuk said. “I dropped about $4,000 into it. There are a lot of things that are pneumatic and computer-controlled.”
Cerniuk, who said 3,000 people visited “Midnight Terror” last year, actually garners sponsors for his elaborate display, and he also puts out collection boxes each year to raise funds for the Autism Society of Illinois.
The front yard of the home resembles an old cemetery, and a walk-through haunted house of nearly 1,000 square feet is set up like a slaughterhouse, he said.
“We’ve been building it for the past two months,” Cerniuk said.
There will be eight costumed characters inside, but Cerniuk doesn’t recommend it for kids under 12.
The display is activated from dusk to 10 p.m. on the weekends, and those same hours during the final week of the month.
So impressive is Cerniuk’s display, he’s gotten high praise from his neighbors on 97th Street, Doug and Donna Carvelli, who have their own Halloween extravaganza.
The Carvellis first created “The Bone Yard” when they lived in Chicago Ridge, then carried the tradition over to Oak Lawn when they moved to the village a dozen years ago.
“It started with me building some stuff,” Doug said. “It had a skeleton type of theme; bones hanging off the tree.”
Today, the display, 5904 W. 97th St., takes weeks to assemble and incorporates animated features, music and fog machines, he said. Still, seeing the work Cerniuk has put into “Midnight Terror,” he bestowed on him the title “the new king” of the neighborhood.
Overseas visitors a regular feature
Carvelli said “The Bone Yard” draws a big crowd, and that he recommends visitors park across the street at Columbus Manor School.
“We have people who used to bring their kids here when they were little, and now their kids are grown,” he said.
Helping the turnout is the Carvellis’ tradition of handing out full-size candy bars to trick-or-treaters, Doug said.
The display is also viewed every year by people who live well outside the Southland.
“We get people from different countries every year. We’ve had them from Sweden, from Germany,” he said. “Every year, we get a couple. They’re in town to visit relatives.”
But not everyone who shows up is there to enjoy the display, he said.
Several years ago, vandals did a number on “The Bone Yard,” pilfering some items “and what they couldn’t steal they trashed,” Doug said. The Carvellis had to install fencing as well as security lighting and cameras to monitor their investment.
After the Halloween revelers depart, however, the Carvellis and some neighbors dismantle “The Bone Yard,” working through the night so there’s no trace of it come the dawn of Nov. 1. He said former neighbors who’ve since moved away pitch in to help.
Come December, the Carvellis’ house and yard will again be festooned.
“I do a fairly elaborate Christmas display,” Doug said. “I’m no slouch.”