But after complaints from a neighbor, the Appels have taken down Max and won’t be installing the rest of their exhibit either. They were thrilled their clip of “the most groundbreaking show since 2020,” Dave said, has gone viral and can’t wait for people to see their entire yard display.
That’s not going to happen now.
“We do not want anyone in our community to be threatened or get hurt,” Audrey said in a Facebook message on Monday morning. “We are devastated.”
Dwayne English, spokesperson for the Joliet Police Department, said officers did respond to a complaint about increased traffic due to the display about 9 p.m. Sunday.
“Officers spoke to the owners of the display who indicated that they would take it down if problems persisted,” English said in a written statement. “No further enforcement action was taken or needed.”
The Appels had spent 1,500 hours creating Max, Dave estimated. With just a “quick trip to Menards,” Dave said and “five boxes of pool noodles,” Aubrey said, the couple began building and twisting wire on July 24 and Max up on Aug. 2, she added.
Dave said the inspiration for the “Stranger Things” display was a “light bulb moment” where he truly “saw it all” – not the way creativity normally strikes him.
“I told Aubrey, ‘Just trust me on this.’” Dave said.
Dave said this is the fourth Halloween display he and Aubrey has installed. It’s also the second time they’ve undertaken such a “massive redesign,” he said.
Surprisingly, the Appels have a small front yard – except it “doesn’t feel like it once we put the stuff in it,” Dave said.
“We started with just one small clown and now we have five,” Dave said. “Every year we add something different. We want to make people think they know what they’re getting. The setup never looks the same.”
The “Stranger Things” element is just one part of a larger exhibit that includes features from “Pet Sematary,” “Beetlejuice,” “Predator,” “Arachnophobia” and “The Ring” to name a few, he said
“We follow pop culture, horror and fantasy pretty closely,” Dave said.
Their inspiration for creating their own displays came from admiring other Halloween setups in the area. They were especially impressed with Jeff Eggener of New Lenox, who even added a façade to his house.
“He brought you into a whole other world,” Aubrey said. “All these people came out and he brought smiles to their faces.”
Dave said, “I was smiling and I’m 36.”
“He’s really the main inspiration why we started,” Dave said. “We wanted something for our community and to put smiles on people’s faces.”
Dave said he was just 23 and six months into dating Aubrey when he learned her family loved Halloween as much as he did. The couple enjoys Halloween-style movies all year long and are planning displays for other holidays during the year, too.
“We want to keep it fun and show every holiday can be a little special if you add a little horror to it,” Aubrey said.
Their ultimate goal is to open their own haunted house, Dave said.
The couple attends TransWorld’s Halloween & Attraction show in St. Louis, Missouri, every year, where they get ideas for designs, props and network with other “haunt builders” like themselves. They said the official Chicago Haunt Builders group is another good resource, too.
“We all have the same mindset,” Dave said. “We just want to scare people.”