Diehard decorators build terror into haunted spot in Westwood

Saturday, October 31, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Martha and Larry Buchanan in the front yard of their Boudinot Avenue home.
(Ernest Coleman photo)

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You should see the characters hanging around Larry and MarthaBuchanan's house in Westwood. About 25 of them. Hanging from the windows and the roof. Hanging from a flagpole. Hanging by the neck. Hanging by ropes and wires.

You'll see Freddie Krueger and Jason Voorhees, from somebody's favorite movies, Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th.

Also, Frankenstein and Dracula and an assortment of bloody men and women, some with heads, some without. There are heads without bodies and assorted arms, legs and bones.

There are tombstones for those you don't see: Marty Graw, Fibber, Frank and Frank N. Stein.

"They're just names we made up," Mr. Buchanan says.

"We use all sorts of odds and ends and junk," Mrs. Buchanan says.
(Ernest Coleman photo)

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For one rough version of a tombstone, "We just dug a hole in the ground and poured Sakrete," a type of concrete, he says.

Then there's the real headstone for "Marie," the one that apparently never got used, the one a neighbor contributed to the Buchanan collection of Halloween fright-makers.

"We use all sorts of odds and ends and junk," Mrs. Buchanan says.

"If somebody doesn't want something, we'll take it," her husband adds.

Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan operate a costume shop, Buchanan Studios, on Harrison Avenue.

A retired artist, Mr. Buchanan has been creating and accumulating Halloween props for 35 years, adding to his front-yard display every fall. His sons, Scott, 25, and Rob, 23, help make life-size human and semihuman forms, mostly from 2-by-4s and chicken wire, some padded with foam rubber and draped in tattered black fabrics.

  • What: Halloween display.
  • Where: 3657 Boudinot Ave., Westwood. From downtown Cincinnati, take Interstate 75 north to Harrison Avenue exit. From Harrison, turn right on Boudinot.
  • Information: 481-7701.
  • On the front porch of their English tudor house you'll find gory laboratory scenes, Frankenstein's monster in an electric chair and a dangling severed hand that is raised and lowered by an overhead motor. Everything is lighted, including a second-story spider web complete with mama and baby spiders.

    The home's windows are covered with split and broken boards, many with bloody heads peering out.

    At one side of the display, the Buchanans have assembled a two-story Masonite tower, painted to look like stone and covered with dead vines.

    There's a witch with a cauldron of body pieces and a vampire that moves on a horizonal wire.

    There's also a wooden-plank ramp with a heavy rope guide at the front door, flanked by a homemade fountain with running water and dry-ice "fog."

    "Every year, there's a little more," Mr. Buchanan says.

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  • And more interest.

    "Last year, we counted about 1,500 kids on beggar's night," he says.

    From adults, there are honks from passing cars and notes from neighbors. "They thank us for putting up the nice decorations," Mrs. Buchanan says.

    There have been no neighborhood complaints, in spite of the eerie music and sound effects the Buchanans play over loud speakers. The Buchanans, who decorate their house extensively for most holidays, rent prop space (the equivalent of a four-car garage) at a self-storage facility.

    "It takes four long days, dawn to dusk," to put the Halloween decorations up, Mr. Buchanan says.

    But it's worth it, he says.

    "Halloween's always been a big family night for us," Mrs. Buchanan says.


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