Every October, an eerie scene unfolds in the front yard of the house at 2943 S. Clement Avenue in Bay View. Traffic slows down and passersby can’t help but stop and gawk at A & J’s Halloween House, a next level decoration job. The A and J are Andy Reid, a real estate broker, and his husband Jamie Beauchamp-Reid, a florist.
“We started around 18 years ago, it started small but in the last 8 years it’s gotten much larger,” Beauchamp-Reid says, pointing toward this year’s yard, themed after Tim Burton’s classic 1988 horror-comedy Beetle juice. It’s dusk and there’s already a crowd of admirers gathering on the sidewalk to take a closer look. The yard is lit up in purple and blue hues and filled with vignettes from the movie. There’s the memorable “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” seance, complete with mechanical shrimp ghoul hands, the afterlife’s waiting room, a sandworm, and of course, an animatronic version of the ghost with the most himself, Beetlejuice, among many other details.
“We have several ideas to pick and choose from,” Beauchamp-Reid explains on the annual planning process. “We don’t always do movies, we sometimes just do something that’s Halloweeny, but we found the 80s movies are pretty popular.” A couple years ago the yard was an action packed tribute to Ghostbusters, another year the theme was Little Shop of Horrors.
Beauchamp-Reid says that idea sketching starts in spring, followed by constructing decorations in August. It takes about six weeks to make everything, with finishing touches added as it’s assembled in early October.
What makes A & J’s Halloween House truly wonderful, though, is the fact that they’ve used the spectacle as a fundraiser, collecting over $35,000 for charities via an onsite dropbox and online links over the years. Last year, they made a creepy clown carnival display and broke their record by raising an astounding $10,400. That money, as it has for the past eight years or so, was donated to Pathfinders, a local nonprofit.
Pathfinders offers a variety of programs, including runaway and homeless youth services, supportive housing, street outreach, education, and anti-sexual violence and clinical services. After Andy and Jamie took a tour of the Pathfinders facilities, they knew they had found a good fit.
In addition to supporting Pathfinders, Baeuchamp says the most rewarding part of their annual project is the love and support of the neighborhood.
“The community really looks forward to it,” Beauchamp says. “People will message or stop and talk to us and say ‘you know we were here when we were 8 years old and now we’re adults and bringing our kids.’”
That type of community building has got to warm the heart of even the coldest, creepiest ghoul.
A & J’s Halloween House will be on display through Halloween. You can find out more about Pathfinders and make a donation at: pathfindersmke.org/ajshalloweenhouse.