Viral ‘Stranger Things’ Halloween display will go on in Plainfield


A “Stranger Things” character will continue to float midair outside a home in Plainfield for the rest of October after the owners decided to keep their viral Halloween display, despite opposition from a neighbor who was so incensed by the sudden influx of spectators that he chased some of them off with a bat.

After homeowners Dave and Aubrey Appel shared a TikTok video in mid-September of the preparations for their Halloween decorations, which included the character Max Mayfield, played by actress Sadie Sink on the hit Netflix series “Stranger Things,” levitating above their yard, more than 1,000 people visited the home over the first weekend of October, Aubrey Appel said.

But by that Sunday evening, some of the visitors were heckled by a neighbor with a bat, raising safety concerns and forcing the family to turn off the light of their display and remove Max to avoid more people from gathering, she said.

“We did go over to their house to talk to them, they were fearing for their lives, basically acting like there was looting and a home invasion,” Appel said.

Though the family considered shutting down the display for the rest of the Halloween season following the incident, they opted to keep it after conversations with other neighbors, their homeowners association and local authorities.

People visit the Apple family's

The Appels’ Halloween display is one more added to the list of homes in Illinois that have made headlines for their extravagant holiday decorations that most find amusing or entertaining. But some neighbors find the displays a nuisance because of the visitors they can draw, causing traffic or safety concerns.

But despite some complaints from annoyed neighbors, many Chicago suburbs don’t seem to have specific guidelines that limit homeowners from a putting up a certain amount of decorations in their front or backyard, according to various homeowners and suburban officials interviewed by the Tribune. In most municipalities, the sole limitation is that the public pathways aren’t blocked by the decorations — unless the houses are part of a homeowners association that may dictate otherwise.

So when police arrived at the Appels’ home, the family wasn’t ordered to take down the display, Aubrey Appel said. The family considered putting the display away for good, to avoid more issues and for the safety of both neighbors and visitors, she said.

“On Sunday we went to bed thinking: We’re not doing this. This is not what we wanted to bring to our community. We didn’t want to put anyone’s life at risk coming to see it,” she said. “But there was so much support from visitors and neighbors saying, ‘Don’t worry about one person.’”

The support from the public to keep the display encouraged Appel and her husband to seek a meeting with Joliet City Manager James Capparelli for some guidance.

“We wanted to make sure that we weren’t doing anything incorrect or illegal,” she said.

Turns out they weren’t.

In an email statement from Sgt. Dwayne English of the Joliet Police Department, he said the decision to open or close the display rests solely with the homeowners, since it is on their private property. The Joliet police also added that officers will patrol the area while the display is active to keep both neighbors and visitors safe.

“The Joliet Police Department is aware of the popular and viral response to the Stranger Things display,” the statement said. “We recognize that such a response may create an inconvenience for residents of this neighborhood. Those who wish to visit the display are encouraged to be mindful of where they park, and to respect the property of others.”

Aubrey and her family, all Halloween lovers, said they began creating larger Halloween displays about four years ago. This year, they spoke to their neighbors about the expected crowds, she said.

“They all understood,” Aubrey said.

Miles away, in Naperville, Nick Thomas was reminded of the journey of his own famous Halloween house, which went dark after 15 years in 2015, when his homeowners association modified its guidelines to allow homeowners to decorate only 50% of their yards.

Complaints about the traffic and noise created by the celebrated house decorations led the Ashbury Homeowners Association board to pass a rule limiting a person’s holiday decorations to 50% of the yard, excluding lights, and restricting the display to 30 days before and after the holiday.

After that rule was passed, Thomas opted to stop decorating his home entirely.

“It felt terrible. My decorations are still in storage seven years later,” Thomas said. “All because of a few neighbors, I feel for the family in Plainfield.”

Though Thomas decided to stop his displays after his homeowners association added the decoration rule, Naperville has no specific regulations, said Linda LaCloche, communications director for the city.

“The only thing we really regulate is the right of way — the public sidewalk and parkway — things cannot block the sidewalk or create a safety hazard,” LaCloche said.

Thomas said he still hopes to one day put up his display again. But for that, he would have to move, he said.

“I put up the fight once and I lost,” Thomas said.

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The story has been different for Bob Szajkovics, who has made his house and front yard in Homer Glen into a Christmas spectacle for nearly 12 years.

In all those years, a single neighbor has asked him to turn down the music, he said with a laugh. In Homer Glen, there are no specific regulations when it comes to holiday decorations, Szajkovics said.

But he’s learned of other homeowners who have had to limit or take down their decorations after causing traffic or blockages when visitors gathered by the houses. Szajkovics is a part of an online forum of people who decorate their houses for the holidays.

“It’s sad because it is only a month out of the year. It brings people together, helps to lift the sprit, but because of a couple of neighbors complaining, the village told them they shouldn’t do it,” Szajkovics said.

This December, he plans to keep the tradition going. Christmas is his daughter’s favorite holiday, he said. She has special needs and she could listen to Christmas music all year, he said.

The very first year that he added more lights with synchronized music to the front yard, he did it for her, and it made her so happy that he decided to gradually add to the display year after year, he said.

larodriguez@chicagotribune.com

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