Big Rapids couple enjoys setting up elaborate Halloween display each year

TRICK OR TREAT: Trick-or-treaters always love getting tours of the Coveys cemetery every Halloween. The couple is hoping for good weather this year so that tradition can continue. (Pioneer photo/Mary Mattingly)

TRICK OR TREAT: Trick-or-treaters always love getting tours of the Coveys cemetery every Halloween. The couple is hoping for good weather this year so that tradition can continue. (Pioneer photo/Mary Mattingly)

BIG RAPIDS – Sounds of chains clanking, thunder rumbling, lightning flashing and spooky beams of light emanate from a house sitting innocently on Northland Drive near Rogers Heights.

Is it a haunted house? An overgrown, abandoned cemetery still frequented by tormented spirits of the dead? Not quite — it’s just the Coveys’ annual Halloween display.

“We love Halloween,” said Julie Covey. “You can scare people. You get to dress up. I always dress up to greet trick-or-treaters — we get a lot of trick-or-treaters each year.”

The Coveys have been setting up their elaborate Halloween display since 1995. Each year, they enjoy adding and expanding their decorations, which always includes a cemetery, hangman and plenty of spooky special effects. They enjoy entertaining the hundreds of trick-or-treaters who come through their yard each year and have become locally known for the extensive display they put up.

“We’ll keep the cemetery the same, but always add something new and then take something down that we’ve had for a while,” Julie said.  “A lot of our trick-or-treaters like to walk around the yard – our grandson Caleb loves giving tours of the cemetery. We always give the trick-or-treaters a little flash light because you can read some of the grave markers.”

THE COVEY FAMILY: Scott and Julie Covey, who live on Northland Drive near Rogers Heights, enjoy decking out their house each year for Halloween. The spectacle typically attracts dozens of passerby a month. (Pioneer photo/Mary Mattingly)

THE COVEY FAMILY: Scott and Julie Covey, who live on Northland Drive near Rogers Heights, enjoy decking out their house each year for Halloween. The spectacle typically attracts dozens of passerby a month. (Pioneer photo/Mary Mattingly)

The couple first began putting up the spectacle when their son Nicholas was 10 years old. Setting up the display has become a family affair, with their now-grown son’s children helping to do things like scatter snakes and bones all over the cemetery.

“Our first year, we put out the coffin,” Julie recalled. “And we only had just the few grave markers. And the hangman.”

Julie’s husband Scott built many of the signature decorations the yard features each year, including the grave markers and the original coffin. He’s also made a fog chiller. The couple starts setting up during the last week of September, which takes about two weeks. The display then stays up through the month of October and into the first week of November.

The Coveys get ideas from movies and the internet. New this year is a tree that features dozens of dolls tacked to it.

“We get ideas from here, there and everywhere. The doll tree was actually inspired by this small island down in Mexico,” Scott said. “People have been leaving old dolls for years for the spirit supposedly of a young girl who died in the canal. There are thousands of dolls all over this island. They say it’s haunted. So that’s where that idea came from.”

When the weather is nice, the display becomes even more interactive, with the Coveys dressing up to scare trick-or-treaters as they walk through. The couple already has a few volunteers who want to help scare the trick-or-treaters this year, Julie said.

“One year, we had my son and his wife who dressed up as scarecrows,” Scott said. “They would just stand out here motionless until somebody got close and then they’d jump out at them. I’ve also had little kids who get scared by the thunder and lightning.”

The Coveys will have the display lit and play the sound effects on the weekends until about 11 p.m., and keep the lights on during the weekdays until 10 p.m. The display, though waterproof, is weather-dependent.

The decorations have attracted a lot of local attention over the years, with trick-or-treaters coming from as far south as Howard City and as far north as Reed City.

One year, the Coveys recall they had 500 trick-or-treaters.

“We’ve had people come down year after year,” Scott said. “People come in here and say, ‘Oh, this is so neat! I want to try something like this.’”

“They’ll also want to know – what have you got new this year?’” Julie added.

The Coveys start planning for next year’s display when they take this year’s down in November based upon what trick-or-treaters liked. The couple doesn’t mind the numerous passerby who enjoy touring the display during the month.

“We always have people either walking or driving by who want to come in and take pictures,” Julie said. “People will honk as they’re driving by.”

The Coveys are once again looking forward to Halloween this year.

“Decorating like this is just for fun,” Scott said. “Everybody has their own ideas about Halloween – what it is and where it came from. It’s just for fun. We just want people who stop by our house to have a good time.”

ENTER IF YOU DARE : The graveyard comes alive at night, with ghouls and tombstones lit and sometimes obscured by fog from the Coveys' fog machines. (Pioneer photo/Justin McKee)

ENTER IF YOU DARE : The graveyard comes alive at night, with ghouls and tombstones lit and sometimes obscured by fog from the Coveys’ fog machines. (Pioneer photo/Justin McKee)

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