“What’s your favorite decoration?”
“That one!” says Salvatore. As do most 3-year-olds, he knows what he likes.
“The one in the cage right here? Or the big spider?”
“The one in the cage.”
“It makes noise,” his older brother, Mario, volunteers. “Except not right now. Mom has batteries for it, but we don’t know where.” Mario is 8 and quite matter of fact.
“And it has a black eye!” exclaims Sal.
These brothers, along with sister Mia, 2, and mom and dad Denni Layne and Mike Anzalone, have the privilege of residing at one of Midtown’s best decorated homes for Halloween. Layne and Anzalone say it’s not uncommon for people to slow down for a good gawk at their home at 35th Avenue and Leavenworth Street.
Can onlookers be blamed?
The front yard of the mustard-colored Victorian home is small but surrounded by a tall, ornate iron fence. Cobwebs drape over the rails and a good portion of the yard itself, while cornstalks serve as a seasonal front gate. Tiny corpses hang in little cages on the porch, a light-up spider is on the door, and a bat hides in the eaves. Zombie heads populate the space underneath a small tree, and large stone lions hold Barbie-doll-size skulls tightly in their jaws.
Of course, passersby will notice all those minor details after they’ve stopped staring at two life-size coffins propped up in front of the porch. They’re open so that visitors can admire the lighted skulls of the inhabitants.
Despite the fact that the yard and front porch are covered in all manner of Halloween fun and it’s right off of busy Leavenworth, nothing has ever gone missing. “Well, these things are heavy,” Anzalone says, pointing to the coffins. “I made them almost life-size.” As a wood and metal custom designer, Anzalone is no stranger to making some of the more exotic Halloween decor. He also made the home’s iron fencing. And a 12’-tall pumpkin reaper monster that may make a last-minute debut this Halloween.
“We try something new each year,” Layne says. “And we’ve been doing this for about four or five years.”
It takes the family a couple hours daily over the course of four or five days to bring Halloween to life at their home, and everyone is incredibly into it. Even Gigi, the family’s Italian mastiff, carries a plush pumpkin with her these days, short tail wagging furiously amid all the activity.
“The kids and Denni do a lot of the spiderwebs,” Anzalone says. One particularly enormous web gathers fallen leaves underneath a small maple. “At first I tried to pick them out, but I finally said, you know, that adds to it,” he says.
Because Leavenworth is such a busy street and their front sidewalk is right on it, Anzalone and Layne don’t get many trick-or-treaters. “We’ll leave a pumpkin out with some suckers and every now and then there’ll be a couple missing. We’ll have maybe one or two.”
Still, the family enjoys the notes of appreciation from the neighbors and the comments from pedestrians. “We’re glad that people love it,” Layne says, “because we really love it.”