In the next week Duane Aamot's home on 911 N. Electric Avenue will disappear. In its place will be a haunted, possessed, old building engulfed in flames. Trees will come alive and strange figures moving about the landscape. Fog, broken stonewalls, and a burnt figure in a classic gown will float through the structure.
For the past 18 years, Aamot has transformed his front yard into a Halloween display of extravagant proportions. Jesse Chang previously spoke to Aamot about how he comes up with his themes, neighbors' reactions, and community support.
How do you come up with your ideas?
My goals are simple in the design: It should hide my house, people can get into it, and I don’t spend a dime. Old wood that’s usually thrown away can get another chance to be useful. What’s great is that as a set designer/stage manager for American Film Institute, I not only get ready access to lots of materials I need for each year’s piece, but I get to recycle most of this back into future sets.
From those goals I create a full-scale model beforehand. I start tinkering around starting in March and April to figure out how things will come together.
How did you get your job at the American Film Institute?
In 2006, I had to close down my family business (a machine shop) of 39 years. About a year later, someone I knew who saw my Halloween setups and knew my background recommended me to apply for their job opening and I started working for them in 2008.
How supportive have your neighbors and the community been about your annual Halloween project?
There’s been such an overwhelming response from everyone. (Councilman) Steve Placido and his wife came out to see it. The numbers of people coming to see it has gone way up. I’ve had people come from surrounding cities, even people out-of-state who come mostly by word of mouth.
Neighbors and even the city utilities department contributed stacks of old wood to me for this project. Another neighbor donated an old pulley they bought off of Craigslist. Neighbors from all over would come over on a Saturday to help me out. One of the most gratifying responses I get is seeing people and kids get inspired by their interaction with these pieces. They can’t believe someone would do this every year, and it’s become a regular tradition for many.
You can see pictures and video of Duane’s former creations at www.duamo.com.