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Haunted house in New Lenox inspired ‘Stranger Things’ display in Plainfield

Jeff Eggener: ‘I made my house the main prop.”

Jeff Eggener, a New Lenox carpenter, spent over a month re-siding his house, installing the plywood “haunted house” facade. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in New Lenox.

This is the time of year Jeff Eggener spends six weeks re-siding his house.

With Halloween approaching, the New Lenox carpenter installed a plywood “haunted house” façade so his home resembles “an evil dwelling,” he said. It takes Eggener three weeks to put it up and three weeks to take it down and store it, he said.

“Everybody’s got props in their front yard,” Eggener said. “I made my house the main prop.”

Eggener built most of the props at his “Haunted Mansion of Evil.”

“If it’s made of wood, I made it,” Eggener said.

A skeleton is lite up outside the home of Jeff Eggener, a New Lenox carpenter. Jeff spent over a month re-siding his house, installing the plywood “haunted house” facade. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in New Lenox.

Eggener’s facade inspired Plainfield couple Dave and Aubrey Appel to start decorating their yard four years ago. The Appels’ social media clip of Sadie Sink’s Max Mayfield from “Stranger Things” seemingly floating in the air went viral even before their Halloween display went up.

Eggener’s inspiration was his wife, Nicole. Her birthday is Oct. 30, and he said she encouraged him to decorate. Eggener installed just a few props until 2015. When he moved to a neighborhood with lots of children, he said he “wanted to do something bigger.”

So Eggener created a skull with columns that he thought looked “really evil” – until he stood back for a closer look.

“It didn’t match the rest of the house,” Eggener said.

Jeff Eggener, a New Lenox carpenter, built skull columns all throughout his yard and driveway. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in New Lenox.

The “Haunted Mansion of Evil” features a 9-foot tall, 3-feet wide web chair for photo ops. The chair holds up to 12 people, Eggener said.

“I’ve actually had kids grow up with that chair over the years,” Eggener said. “People send me pictures through my Facebook page or messenger of their kids every year. To see them grow up, it’s really cool.”

Eggener is hoping to use his wooden coffin for photos ops, too, maybe adding a wooden stake with “fake blood” that people can hold, he said.

The display includes three huge spiders, which Eggener bought, tore apart and then rebuilt. The spiders are suspended from cable wires to look as if “they are actually living,” he said.

One spider surrounds the web chair; a second spider is crawling off the first spider; and the third spider is crawling off the roof down the side of the house, he said.

“It’s a great place for a picture,” Eggener said.

A coffin sits in the driveway as a massive spider crawls down the garage of Jeff Eggener’s home. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in New Lenox.

Eggener also has a faux gable with a skull and a fog machine bellowing smoke out of the skull’s nose, he said.

He builds new props in the street throughout the Halloween season so he’s out of the way of spectators. But passerbys often stop to chat with him – when he’s not in one of his two costumes, that is. One is a simple costume: black cloak and mask, he said.

“But the other one I have – the kids love it – is where I’m on stilts. It’s huge,” Eggener said. “I made it out of crutches and electrical conduit. I’m like nine feet tall.”

Jeff Eggener lets his neighbors, the Lipuma’s, turn on the fog machine at his “Haunted Mansion of Evil.” Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in New Lenox.

Eggener said he starts putting up the siding Sept. 1. He installs every piece of the display himself, except for the skull and fog machine. He said people come out just to see what’s new this year.

“It gives me goosebumps, really,” he said. “Just seeing people enjoy it makes it all worthwhile.”

But the “Haunted Mansion of Evil” has a compassionate side.

Last year, Eggener collected donations for 3D Wildlife Rescue & Rehab, which helped Eggener’s daughter when they rescued a baby squirrel, he said.

Jeff Eggener built a decorated donation box that will go toward the Ronald McDonald House in Oak Lawn. Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in New Lenox.

This year Eggener will accept donations for the Oak Lawn location of Ronald McDonald House, which supported the family when Eggener’s son was batting a brain tumor when he was 18 months old, Eggener said. The son is now 15 and doing well, Eggener said.

But Eggener is not actively soliciting donations. The donation box is simply available, decorated like a prop, he said.

“There is no charge to look at anything,” Eggener said.