St. Charles East student puts together elaborate Halloween animatronic display

Miles McCabe has thousands of YouTube followers

It’s easy to understand why St. Charles East High School freshman Miles McCabe has thousands of people following his YouTube channel.

McCabe puts together an elaborate animatronic display every year at his house on Lehman Drive in West Chicago. The display is appropriately named Lehman Manor.

For those who want to check it out themselves, Lehman Manor will be open from 3 to 9 p.m. Oct. 30 and 31.

The 15-year-old McCabe goes by the nickname Brick Thunder – a reference to the video game Minecraft – on YouTube and Facebook. His YouTube channel has more than 37,000 subscribers.

One of his latest videos in which McCabe is showing off all his props has more than 174,000 views. A video from last year showing off his 2020 animatronic collection has more than five million views.

McCabe has followers from all over the world.

“With his YouTube channel kind of taking off, it’s given more opportunities for him to acquire more props,” said his father Jesse McCabe. “It’s almost on a weekly basis that we are getting new props.”

Miles McCabe hopes to be an engineer some day and make his own props. He gets some of his inspiration from Distortions Unlimited, a Halloween prop, animatronic and mask company and online store based in Colorado.

“They do movie quality stuff, professional haunted house stuff,” he said. “If you walk through a haunted house, you’ll probably see one of their props.”

Company officials invited McCabe to tour their factory. His dream job is to work for the company someday.

He is putting his engineering skills to good use at his school as well.

“He was one of 30 high school students picked for the Synergy program at East, which is an engineering program,” said his mother Rachel McCabe. “He can fix all these things and he knows how to tweak things. It’s kind of cool to see him be able to take things that often break and he’s able to fix them. He enjoys that part, too.”

Miles McCabe always is hunting for new props, which he will sometimes customize to fit his needs. Part of the family’s front yard has been transformed into a cemetery full of animatronic displays such as a realistic looking Edgar Allen Poe prop, complete with a raven on his shoulder.

“He’s definitely one of my favorites,” McCabe said. “He’s just super realistic.”

The yard also is filled with several animatronic zombie props, including one called Berzerker Zombie.

“They all have their own names,” McCabe said, pointing to the props. “This is Berzerker Zombie and that’s Punctured Pete.”

McCabe made his own animatronic prop this year, a jack-in-the-box.

“And it’s all air-operated,” he said.

Fellow St. Charles East freshman Josh Kennedy enjoys helping the family with the display.

“I love Halloween and it’s just really fun,” Kennedy said.

Miles McCabe’s sister Mia also lends a hand. For Mia, that’s more important than trick-or-treating on Halloween night.

“It’s more fun here,” she said. “I like to see the little kids as they are coming up to the house. It’s so cute. They point out everything and I like to see their reaction.”

The family is in the process of transforming the garage into a haunted house featuring live actors who will try their best to scare people as they enter. To keep everyone safe during the ongoing pandemic, only one family will be allowed in the garage at a time.

“We have it kind of set up like that anyway,” Jesse McCabe said.

They will go from the haunted house to the family’s backyard, which will be filled with animatronic props as well.

The family never has charged for admission into Lehman Manor. This year, people are being asked to bring items such as dog food, toys, blankets, dog collars and leashes for St. Charles-based Tiny N Tall dog rescue. A donation box will be placed by the display.

The neighbors appreciate the time and effort the family puts into the display.

“We were just out there and a lady in her car slowed down and said, ‘I just want to thank you guys for doing this every year,’ ‘’ Rachel McCabe said. “I think that’s the coolest part of it all. They really enjoy coming here and have a good time. It’s pretty cool.”

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf covers St. Charles and writes entertainment stories for the Kane County Chronicle.