'Midnight on Morton': Batavia Halloween house collects donations for Huntley animal shelter
People are drawn to the house by an unseen force, a feeling from within that cannot be denied.
They walk quietly, single file on the narrow sidewalk, eyes focused on the light, ears focused on the creak of opening caskets and the unnerving music coming from the darkness.
They need to see the spectacle at 714 Morton St. in Batavia. The colors grow stronger as the night grows longer. Visitors stand with mouths open, as their eyes wander from one figure to the next. The journey ends when one of the youngest speaks: "Thank you, that was cool!"
So goes each evening this time of year for Zachary and Andrea Sage, proprietors of the "Midnight on Morton" Halloween house.
"Halloween is so much fun for us," says Zachary. "We want to see all the smiles on the kids' faces."
For several years the couple has been adding handmade figures and lights to their front yard to celebrate Halloween, and for the second year in a row, they are asking for donations to Animal House Shelter in Huntley, where they adopted their orange cat, Finnegan Pumpkin.
Near the front door of their home is a "Coffin for a Cause" box to collect cash and donations for the shelter, as well as a list of items that Animal House always needs.
"Last year we ended up giving them cat food, dog food, toys, towels and other stuff," Andrea says of the donated items. They also collected about $100 that went to the shelter.
Most of the family-friendly yard display is handmade from pieces of discarded building material and other trash Zachary recycles.
"On garbage day I'll go scrapping," he says. Tombstones are made from pieces of plywood left on the curb. A werewolf is made from an old car seat. A hollow tree trunk was once PVC pipe. Recycled wiper motors power the movement of at least five ghouls in the yard.
"I said, 'Build as much as you want as long as I can get my car in the garage,'" Andrea told her husband when they bought their house four years ago.
"I build it, she tells me where to put it," he says.
The couple takes about two weeks to pull everything down from the rafters of the garage and arrange it on the lawn. Neighbors and strangers start to show up each night around 7 p.m., and Zachary turns the lights off around 9:30 p.m. Every night a young child will thank them for the fun.
"We have a good relationship with our neighbors," he explains. Social distancing rules apply to the sidewalk this year.
They are also participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project, which promotes safety, inclusion and respect for individuals managing food allergies. They will have nonfood items like glow sticks and bouncy balls for children with food allergies to take.
The couple are members of Chicago Haunt Builders, a group of Halloween enthusiasts who help each other build and trade props for display. Like the Sages, many collect donations for charities. You can find details on the group's display locations and on "Midnight on Morton," as well as a list of items needed at Animal House Shelter, on their Facebook pages.