Brent Ross, 33, and his family and friends have spent nearly two decades perfecting the display. Ross admits that the time and money he spends on it would be "extremely excessive for a normal person," but Ross has gone on to become a professional prop-builder for haunted houses and amusement parks, and written books on the topic.
"It's amazing what he's able to do with the sculpting and the welding," said David Frerichs, a friend of Ross who designed the display's computer controls eight years ago. "That's why so many people come from everywhere to check it out."
The display draws such a crowd that the city has to grant Ross a permit so the street in front of his house can be closed for the event.
This year Ross decided not to have a walk-though portion, as the line was getting too long. But he's added a new prop, a coffin that opens with a skeleton rigged to jump out. Relentless improvement and attention to detail is why Ross won the 2007 Fearnet.com's competition for best "home haunt," and a $50,000 check presented to him on NBC's Today Show.
Uniquely, the DC Cemetery uses "MIDI" technology that's commonly used in music recording to run the various characters. "We can actually play each character like they were an instrument," said Frerichs, an engineer and an executive in the music industry. Every year, the show is created by someone playing a keyboard to ensure that every movement is "organic," Frerichs said.
Last year Ross took a break to spend some time with his wife and their newborn daughter. He's starting to feel the financial pinch of the whole thing, which costs as much as $10,000 a year to put on, including $5,000 just to store the props.
The display will run from Friday, Oct. 28, through Tuesday, Nov. 1, starting at 6 p.m. each night. "Child friendly" hours, when volumes are lower and props move more slowly, are set for 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.
For more information, visit dccemetery.net.
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