By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – Creating a Halloween spectacular is a tradition for Kurtis Primm and his sons, who annually turn his mother’s front yard in the 18600 block of Reed into a spooky showcase.
Primm said he has loved Halloween since he was a child, and has a special affinity for the visual style of the holiday.
“Halloween’s magical to me,” he said. “I can just feel when it’s October, when it’s Halloween coming. I’ve just always been into it.”
As a child, he started out with pumpkin carving and making stuffed dummies. When a neighbor put out pneumatic decorations, Primm was moved to try it as well.
Even though he lives in Allen Park now, Primm returns to his mother’s house each year to create a Halloween haunt he calls “Primmsylvania.”
He said he starts at 5 a.m. on Halloween, with the help of his family, assembling and putting the finishing touches on the front yard display.
“We all meet over here and we just hang out the whole day,” he said. “When people come by and you see them smiling, seeing the people liking what you do is the main thing.
“I love it, and I am going to do it whether I am the only one here, but luckily it’s gotten big and a lot of people come by, and when somebody stops and says, ‘Thank you for doing this,’ that just pushes me even harder to want to do it even more.”
His display has many moving pieces, from characters that jump out from behind tombstones to a coffin creature triggered by a sensor, that sits up when people walk by.
“He says, ‘You shouldn’t have buried me. I’m not dead!’ and he does an evil laugh,” Primm said. “I’ve got a pneumatic scarecrow that’s on a scissor prop (mechanism) where he’ll sit back and then he shoots forward towards the people.”
He said they have many motor-driven props. Car wiper motors are a favorite to use, as are motors repurposed from Christmas decorations. He said he once turned reindeer into werewolves.
“I get the idea in my head and work on it until I get it,” he said. “As long as you have a light motion or you have your balance right, where you don’t have to have too much force, they work really good.”
He said simple motors work well for back and forth motion, while pneumatic devices, operated by air or gas under pressure, provide “jump” and “startle” motion.
Storing the Halloween display items requires his mother’s garage, cellar and two rooms in her basement, his cellar and part of his basement, and two sheds in his yard.
While he does decorate his house in Allen Park, and his neighbors admire his handiwork, he said it pales in comparison to his Melvindale display, which has incorporated motors and pneumatics for the past 10 years.
“I’ve always had something here, even if it was just the old Beistle cutout decorations on the windows and a couple dummies, and me dummied along with them out there dressed up in a costume, and pumpkins on the porch,” he said.
He said both his sons, Christopher, 22, and Brandon, 20, help him, with Brandon helping extensively with ideas and building the display.
Brandon Primm said he has been decorating for Halloween with his father as long as he can remember, graduating from window decorations to the big display ideas.
“We just kept going every year, getting more Halloween props, retiring old props for new ideas,” he said. “Every year we just try and keep building more and more to it.”
He said building the props and display pieces is the most satisfying part of the process to him.
“I enjoy working with my hands and being able to build and actually see the improvements of what you are creating,” he said. “I also like the dressing up part of it, too.”
He said he dressed like a werewolf three years in a row, with custom-designed stilts with arched legs. This year he built mechanical wings for himself.
“I have a six-foot wingspan,” he said. “I have it on a switch so that when I hit the button my wings will open up to be a huge wingspan.”
Brandon Primm said they do a couple days of pre-building before Halloween, and on Halloween Day they do all the finishing touches, and they take the display down that night after the flow of visitors ends.
“Everybody else will poop out, but if I see one alley cat on this street, I will be there until that cat is gone,” Kurtis Primm said. “I don’t get home until 1:30 a.m., 2 a.m. If people are out here and they are coming to see me, I’m here. I don’t stop until they stop.”
To see past displays and more, go to primmsylvania.webs.com.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])