Every year for the last 15, neighbors have noticed a transformation around the middle of October at 404 Foxlair Lane in Havelock
That’s because Ray Gates has a passion to put on a scary show every Halloween.
“It gets bigger and better every year,” Gates said last week as he carried out one of more than a dozen creepy, animatronic creatures into his front yard.
“This is my hobby,” Gates said. “I started with a grave digger, and then a mausoleum and then the mind starts working.”
Ray Gates’ mind is in a place where others may not want to go. He is constantly churning out ideas that are the stuff of nightmares, all in an effort to put on quite the show for Halloween.
“I’m old school, not blood and gore” Gates said. “I was raised on Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Bella Lugosi and Lon Cheney Sr. and Lon Cheney Jr.
“I’ve Einstein’s brain in a jar. I just have a vivid imagination because of my childhood.”
Gates explains that his father was an over-the-road truck driver and his mother worked the night shift. As a child, Gates would stay up late at night watching classic films, many of them horror movies.
“Those were the classics that got me interested,” Gates said.
He spent Saturday getting ready for his big night tonight.
“I’ve got to make some repairs,” he said. “I’ve actually got a witch on a trolley system but she got hung up last night and decapitated herself.”
Such are the problems in Ray Gates’ world.
“I’ve still got an insane asylum to build,” he said. “It’s an engineering nightmare.”
But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This is what I do all year for enjoyment,” he said. “My wife loves me and lets me do it.”
A retired Marine who works as a contractor at Cherry Point, Gates describes himself as “a tinkerer.”
He has four daughters, two who are married and two in school here. He claims that they’re normal.
“As normal as four daughters could be having two Marines as parents,” he said.
He said people are always asking him why he puts so much work and effort into just one night. The answer is simple. He said he does it to bring enjoyment to the kids.
As he worked on his assembly on Saturday, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, better known as the theme from “Phantom of the Opera,” played in the background.
“I always have the music,” he said.
He and his wife Cindy will both be dressing up this Halloween to add to the animatronics, which include characters that move and talk. His neighbors usually come by and hand out candy by the driveway.
“It can almost seem like a neighborhood block party at times,” he said.
While some may go all out with fancy Christmas decorations and lights that flash to the music of a favorite carol, Gates keeps his Christmas decorations simple. But for Halloween, it’s a different story.
“You can do so much with Halloween, depending on how far your mind wants to take it,” he said. “I do this just to keep my mind active. For me to just sit and relax is a hard thing to do, unless you keep me interested in something.”
He does such a good job with the yard that some actually think it’s real, he said.
“I just want the kids to enjoy themselves,” he said.
The free freak show will begin when the sun goes down tonight.