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Macabre display catches the eye, helps animals

October 11, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- It doesn't seem to fit.

Debbie Pletz comes across as an easygoing, lovely, sweet woman. She lives in an aging, white stucco Victorian on East Washington Street and, like many people, she likes to display her "creativity" on her front lawn.

But Pletz's creativity careens to the macabre when Halloween rolls around. Her yard becomes home to zombies, witches, warlocks, severed heads and body parts strewn about with bloody stumps and innards exposed. Plus, there are skeletons and monsters galore.

A particular ghoulish touch, one of Pletz's new creations this year, is a couple dining alfresco at a small table, their plates filled with human remains. The source of their meal is a nearby electric chair, where victims line up to be "cooked" for the diners.

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"I see this as a way of me expressing my creativity," Pletz said. "Nothing seems gory to me. It's art, just decoration."

On a quiet recent Wednesday afternoon, a half-dozen folks stopped by to gawk at and photograph the results of Pletz's dark imagination.

One, a neighbor, told Pletz that she liked "scary stuff" and that she thought that Halloween was getting "more cutesy every year."

Pletz said she has been putting up her display for seven years.

"I have no idea how it got to the point it's gotten to now," she said of the growing display.

In 2007, vandals destroyed some of her figures, prompting her to leave her monsters in the attic last Halloween.

"I was disheartened about the damage," she said.

She decided to try again this year because "people kept asking me to put it back up," she said.

For the first time this year, Pletz put a sign on a wooden bucket seeking donations for the Animal Welfare Society of Jefferson County.

A woman who stopped by Wednesday to photograph the yard dropped money in the bucket as she left.

Pletz said she makes about half the figures that dot her lawn in a variety of gruesome poses. Some require wooden frames, while others are based on mannequins. Their finished features come from a combination of joint compound, paint and burlap.

"Dead brides" is this year's theme, she said, pointing to a corner near the house occupied by eerie women in white gowns, their bloodied, craggy faces anything but beautiful.

Lights -- spotlight, flood and mini -- illuminate the display after dark, making Pletz's multitude of monsters as foreboding as a scene in a "B" horror movie.

Hardly noticeable at first among the larger characters are the numerous smaller rats, snakes and spiders, not to mention the maggots and flies feasting on a clot of blood oozing from a dismembered body.

Some of the creatures are animated. There's the half-man with a noose around his neck hanging from a porch beam trying to pull himself off the rope and the cackling witch stirring her cauldron. 

And no one would want to miss the human slaughterhouse on the side porch.

A few signs warn visitors: "Enter at your own risk," "I'd turn back if I were you."

Then there's the one on a gravestone that wishes one and all a happy Halloween.

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