Standing in the front yard of his Corsair Court home, Johnson, a life-long Halloween enthusiast, takes care to cover the more fragile of his 30-plus homemade characters from Saturday's rain. The life-size Frankenstein in a coffin, a graveyard with plenty of ghosts, tombstones and a witch's brew made potent with the left over bones of a victim chosen to spice up the recipe, Johnson and wife Pat collect tidbits throughout the year to add to the variety of ghoulish splendor that draws crowds every year.
"We go to flea markets and antique shops" gathering signs, hats with potential for a scary adaptation and more.
During the summer, the 61-year-old kid at heart works on his creations in the garage. "I change it out. It evolves every year. Some things get old, and you have to replace them."
Despite the intricacy of the graveyard, Johnson said he has no real plan in place for the design. There's certainly nothing put on paper. "I've been doing it for years. I know where everything is going to go."
One of his newer additions is a white haired lady that stands at the entrance to the graveyard. She's situated next to an official funeral home podium. Her job is to welcome guests to sign-in before entering. She gets no takers on her offer though.
The faces are realistic looking. "You can buy the heads," said Johnson. But he makes the bodies out of blousy material that hides the wooden stakes. Some of the goblins are simply old clothes stuffed to make them bulge.
While the Johnson's two children, 27-year-old Aaron, and 31-year-old Sheila, aren't around to go trick-or-treating anymore, the family had always enjoyed Halloween. Carving pumpkins and setting up scarecrows were part of the tradition.
These more expanded displays didn't begin until about 10 years ago. The Johnson kids were a little embarrassed then, but it didn't bother the creator. He loves it when families pull up in their car and step out for a closer look.
With a wide smile on his face, he said, "It's something just to watch when people come. They get startled or scared when the recording comes on. Then they laugh."
One character that Johnson dubbed the "jeans guy" is crafted to look like he's tied up. The head and upper body is covered. The legs, a stuffed pair of jeans, are all that's visible. A hidden line connected to a switch makes the legs appear to be kicking. Then Johnson flips on a recording of the man saying, "Climb over the fence 'cause the witches are going to boil me."
Opening night for the Johnson's display is Friday, Oct. 19, in the 800 block of Corsair Court. By then, he'll have all the electrical work completed. The whole scene lights up and the characters move, he added.
When the Johnsons moved to New Lenox five years ago, they brought with them their zeal for the annual autumn festival. Halloween has always been a big celebration for the Johnsons. "People take life too seriously. …This is a time to have fun," he said as he moved around the graveyard display.
Scroll through the photos to see other displays around New Lenox.