Produced by the Bit & Grain team
Bones and severed body parts lie scattered in the wake of an ax-wielding headless horseman. Decayed, bloody zombies claw upward from shallow tombstoned graves. A ghastly pack of teeth-gnashing werewolves snarl and howl at the edge of a 19th century neoclassical home. A weeping, murderous-looking ghost bride peers down on the chaos from a second story window. Children peer with guarded caution from around the block. They’re looking toward 504 Oakwood Avenue, a place where bloodcurdling, fear-induced screams spill into the street and thousands of people make a pilgrimage to every year. It’s Halloween at the Joneses.
What could very well be a movie set is the ghoulish brainchild of Raleigh resident Jesse Jones and his forbearingly patient wife, Sue. Jesse, a criminal defense attorney, has been striking fear in the hearts of Raleigh children, adults and dogs for over six years. Growing up, Jesse’s family thought Halloween was a foolish waste of time and money. Making up for lost time -- one lifesize velociraptor, grim reaper, werewolf and goblin at a time -- Jesse pulls out all the stops to transform his home into a community spectacle every Halloween.
Jesse, a former NC State football player, creates a distinctly North Carolina nightmare. Werewolves, a nod to the NC State Wolfpack, abound. One bloodstained wolf feeds on the beheaded carcass of UNC’s Rameses. In good-spirited jest, Jessie explains, “Now about the UNC athlete...it took us a while to catch him because they don’t ever go to class, but he was subpoenaed to testify in a deposition for not going to class, and that’s how my wolf got him.” But, consider yourself warned, a sign prominently gives notice that Jesse’s wolfpack “Eats Children and UNC Fans.”
In the weeks leading up to the October 31st premiere, cars roll by slowly so spectators can peer into the yard and groups gather to watch Jesse’s progress. He takes the week of Halloween off to put the finishing touches on the other-worldly wonderland, and says, "I do this all by myself." As of Monday, he was working on putting in the aerial features. They’ll be there in full force on Saturday, as will Jesse. Come All Hallows Eve, the street will be blocked off and throngs of folks will descend onto the corner of Oakwood and East. Thirty “actors” from your worst nightmares, donned in costumes, some of which are designed by the same crew who bring AMC’s Walking Dead to life, will prowl the property making it difficult to know man from machine; the line between animatronic and costumed demon is a blurry one.
Jesse prides himself on his Oakwood Halloween House being a free and safe place for children of all backgrounds, including many of the city’s underprivileged youth, to get a good scare. Last year, he estimates over 5,000 people came by and is expecting even more this year. That’s a lot of shrieks, screams, costumes, and candy.