HAWTHORNE, N.J. — A New Jersey man removed a popular Halloween display from his front lawn after his neighbors complained to police about traffic.
But the display is so well-liked that it is generating just as much attention now that it is gone.
Antonio Rodrigues said his attraction of 90 zombie statues was dismantled on Saturday night when police warned him that his visitors would be ticketed if they blocked the road in front of his home.
Editor’s note: Video and photos from the house were taken in 2018.
The “zombie house” is such a draw that visitors have traveled from as far as Vermont to see the display in Hawthorne, New Jersey, said Rodrigues, a native of Portugal.
The appeal for adrenalin junkies is that Rodrigues dresses up like his statues to blend in among the walking dead. He then leaps out to spook visitors when they least expect it.
“I don’t want people to have tickets because of me,” said Rodrigues, 50. “I don’t want them to be mad.”
The display was scaled back this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Rodrigues said. It was the 15th straight season that the zombies, each wearing ragged clothes and a scary mask, were put up.
As word spread that Rodrigues had taken down his display, local homeowners with their own decorations showed support for the “zombie house” by declaring a “Night of Darkness” on Sunday.
Salvatore LaTrenta turned off the flood lights and fog machine at his lawn display, which he calls the Summit Avenue Cemetery.
“We are a town, and we should not outshine each other,” LaTrenta wrote in a message to his fans on Facebook. “If the Zombie House is down, so are we.”
Support continued to build on Monday when Facebook users responded to an invitation to rally in front of the home. They planned to form a parade of cars at a nearby shopping center and to drive by at 8 p.m.
Police said multiple calls were received about traffic and that Rodrigues was spoken to about safety concerns. But, they said: “At no time did any officer, or borough employee, even suggest removal of the display.”
In fact, Hawthorne Mayor Richard Goldberg said he was sorry to see it go. “I used to enjoy driving past it,” he said.
Rodrigues said he is not sure whether the display will be back next year.
“Maybe, yes,” he said. “This is about smiles, about being beautiful. We’re supposed to be happy.”
Reach reporter Philip DeVencentis via email: firstname.lastname@example.org