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This 16-Year-Old Decorates His Haunted Auburndale Yard with More Than 50 Animatronics 

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This 16-Year-Old Decorates His Haunted Auburndale Yard with More Than 50 Animatronics

by James Coulter

Zombies and skeletons rise out from graves in a cemetery. Werewolves hide inside a wooden barn. Creepy clowns congregate in a haunted carnival. And around the corner waits Jason Vorhees and other famous movie monsters.

This isn’t a nightmare. It isn’t a horror movie either. Rather, it’s a typical suburban yard in Auburndale.

Matthew Reynolds, 16, has collected more than 50 animatronic figures, as well as dozens of other Halloween decorations, ever since he could remember. Every year, on Halloween, he showcases them in his front yard with his Haunted Yard display.

Ever since he was a toddler, Matthew loved Halloween. His parents would often take him to the Spirit of Halloween store, and they would buy him a new animatronic every year.

As he grew older, he would save up his allowance to buy his animatronics and decorations. His collection now exceeds 50 animatronics and several more decorations including hanging skeletons and other props.

“Over time, I have grown a fascination with these animatronics,” he said. “I have everything to do with Halloween.”

Matthew has so many decorations and figures that he doesn’t know what to do with them all. His yard has several scenes where his figures are specifically designated. For example, zombies go in the cemetery scene, while werewolves are placed in the barn.

“This year, I am going all out,” he said. “Every year, with more animatronics, it gets harder to get places for all of my figures. So, every year we always do some expansion for a particular scene.”

He plans on expanding the cemetery scene this year, which will serve as a walkthrough attraction. He purchased 20 tombstones and several zombie and skeleton figures.

After walking through his graveyard, barn, and carnival areas, guests will be able to go inside an indoor haunted house, where children can take free candy afterward.

For three months, he plans his haunted yard display, and he spent $3,000 this year alone with additional decorations, lighting, and extension cords. He starts making most of his purchases in July, he said. Once everything is assembled, he sketches out where everything will go.

“The yard is a challenge in general,” he said. “I buy the animatronics months in advance. So it is not the end. The issue is finding a place for everything. We do not have a massive yard, but it is a large yard, we have the largest yard in our neighborhood… After three months of work, when we see hundreds and hundreds of people laughing and enjoying the props, it pays off.”

While many animatronics are brand new, others are several years or even decades old. Many of the older ones he purchased on eBay. Since then, he has gained a real knack for repairing and renovating vintage props and animatronics.

“I have gained the ability to repair these figures,” he said. “I started amateur repairing four years ago, but as time went on, I can repair any broken animatronic, whether it is a broken wire or gear or just a faulty circuit board.”

Most of his decorations come from the Spirit of Halloween store. He had always wanted to work at the store since he was five years old. Now that he is old enough, he has since been able to work his dream job at the store in Davenport.

“It makes it easier to pay for things, and I love being there at my favorite place every weekend,” he said. “On top of that, we have dibs on animatronics, so that is easier for the display.”

Matthew has been hosting his Haunted Yard for several years, and he hopes to continue it for many more years, even several more decades, to come.

“This is something that will stick with me for years to come,” he said. “Even when I am 50, I will have a display of some kind. Halloween has always been a part of my life, and I cannot see the display going away for years and years to come.”

The Haunted Yard will be on display on Oct. 31 between 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. It is located at 136 Patterson Dr., Auburndale, Fl.

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