St. Charles East student puts together elaborate Halloween animatronic display

  • St. Charles East High School freshman Miles McCabe, who goes by the name Brick Thunder on YouTube, creates an elaborate animatronic Halloween display each year at his house in West Chicago.

    St. Charles East High School freshman Miles McCabe, who goes by the name Brick Thunder on YouTube, creates an elaborate animatronic Halloween display each year at his house in West Chicago. Sandy Bressner/Shaw Media

 
 
Updated 10/5/2021 11:33 AM

It's easy to understand why St. Charles East High School freshman Miles McCabe has thousands of people following his YouTube channel.

McCabe puts together an elaborate animatronic display every year at his house on Lehman Drive in West Chicago. The display is appropriately named Lehman Manor.

 

For those who want to check it out themselves, Lehman Manor will be open from 3 to 9 p.m. Oct. 30 and 31.

The 15-year-old McCabe goes by the nickname Brick Thunder -- a reference to the video game Minecraft -- on YouTube and Facebook. His YouTube channel has more than 37,000 subscribers.

Miles McCabe, who goes by the name Brick Thunder on YouTube, shows part of his elaborate animatronic Halloween display at his West Chicago home. The display is called Lehman Manor.
Miles McCabe, who goes by the name Brick Thunder on YouTube, shows part of his elaborate animatronic Halloween display at his West Chicago home. The display is called Lehman Manor. - Sandy Bressner/Shaw Media

One of his latest videos, where Miles is showing off all his props, has more than 174,000 views. A video from last year showing off his 2020 animatronic collection has more than 5 million views.

He has followers from all over the world.

"With his YouTube channel kind of taking off, it's given more opportunities for him to acquire more props," said his father, Jesse McCabe. "It's almost on a weekly basis that we are getting new props."

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Miles hopes to be an engineer someday and make his own props. He gets some of his inspiration from Distortions Unlimited, a Halloween prop, animatronic and mask company and online store based in Colorado.

Miles McCabe, who goes by the name Brick Thunder on YouTube, is setting up an elaborate animatronic Halloween display at his West Chicago home. The display, called Lehman Manor, will be open from 3 to 9 p.m. Oct. 30 and 31.
Miles McCabe, who goes by the name Brick Thunder on YouTube, is setting up an elaborate animatronic Halloween display at his West Chicago home. The display, called Lehman Manor, will be open from 3 to 9 p.m. Oct. 30 and 31. - Sandy Bressner/Shaw Media

"They do movie-quality stuff, professional haunted house stuff," he said. "If you walk through a haunted house, you'll probably see one of their props."

Company officials invited Miles to tour their factory. His dream job is to work for the company someday.

He is putting his engineering skills to good use at his school as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He was one of 30 high school students picked for the Synergy program at East, which is an engineering program," said his mother, Rachel McCabe. "He can fix all these things and he knows how to tweak things. It's kind of cool to see him be able to take things that often break and he's able to fix them. He enjoys that."

Miles is always hunting for new props, which he will sometimes customize. Part of the family's front yard has been transformed into a cemetery full of animatronic displays such as a realistic-looking Edgar Allan Poe prop, complete with a raven on his shoulder.

"He's definitely one of my favorites," he said. "He's just super realistic."

The display includes several animatronic zombie props, including one called Berzerker Zombie.

Miles McCabe, who goes by the name Brick Thunder on YouTube, is always hunting for new props, which he will sometimes customize to fit his needs.
Miles McCabe, who goes by the name Brick Thunder on YouTube, is always hunting for new props, which he will sometimes customize to fit his needs. - Sandy Bressner/Shaw Media

"They all have their own names," Miles said, pointing to the props. "This is Berzerker Zombie, and that's Punctured Pete."

He made his own animatronic prop this year, a jack-in-the-box.

"It's all air-operated," he said.

Fellow St. Charles East freshman Josh Kennedy enjoys helping the family with the display.

"I love Halloween and it's just really fun," he said.

Miles' sister Mia also lends a hand. For Mia, that's more important than trick-or-treating on Halloween night.

"It's more fun here," she said. "I like to see the little kids as they are coming up to the house. It's so cute. They point out everything and I like to see their reaction."

The family is also in the process of transforming its garage into a haunted house featuring live actors who will try their best to scare people as they enter. To keep everyone safe during the ongoing pandemic, only one family will be allowed in at a time.

Part of the front yard at Miles McCabe's home in West Chicago has been transformed into a cemetery full of animatronic decorations.
Part of the front yard at Miles McCabe's home in West Chicago has been transformed into a cemetery full of animatronic decorations. - Sandy Bressner/Shaw Media

"We have it kind of set up like that anyway," Jesse said.

People will go from the haunted house to the family's backyard, which will be filled with animatronic props as well.

The family has never charged admission into Lehman Manor. This year, people are being asked to bring items like dog food, toys, blankets and dog collars and leashes for St. Charles-based Tiny N Tall dog rescue. A donation box will be placed by the display.

Their neighbors appreciate the time and effort they put into their display.

"We were just out there and a lady in her car slowed down and said, 'I just want to thank you guys for doing this every year,'" Rachel McCabe said. "I think that's the coolest part of it all. They really enjoy coming here and have a good time. It's pretty cool."

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