Nightmare on Elm Street: A Zombie Tradition

Come October 1, this Oakwood Couple pulls out all the stops for its spooky Halloween decor
by Ayn-Monique Klahre | photography by Joshua Steadman

“We moved here around Memorial Day in 2008, and had no idea Halloween was a thing,” says Laura Krabill. “We bought two bags of candy, put up a couple ghosts and carved pumpkins.”

But Krabill and her partner, Michele Ledo, live on Elm Street in Historic Oakwood, a neighborhood that typically attracts thousands of trick-or-treaters. Needless to say, the candy was gone in 15 minutes, and in retrospect, the decor seemed a little “paltry,” says Ledo.

So the next year, they stepped it up — and their spooky scheme has grown every year.

Inspiration came in the form of four prisoner costumes left over from a prior Halloween. They stuffed the striped jumpsuits with leaves, scarecrow-style, and topped them with zombie masks for faces. The next year, Ledo and Krabill nailed together scrap wood to help them stand up.

Then one year, a new material upped their game: chicken wire. “We got it for a house project, but accidentally ended up with about 20 times more than we needed,” says Krabill. “Then Michele got the idea to sculpt it into bodies.”

Over the last 10-plus years, they’ve added and innovated; neighbors have donated materials, and the kids who live nearby offer suggestions.

Now 227 Elm Street is known for its display, which hosts over a dozen grisly figures, plus ghosts, skeletons, rats, and witches. “It’s definitely gotten scarier!” says Ledo.

One year the prisoners were “breaking out” of the house, climbing out the windows and down the front porch; another, Ledo and Krabill built a “jail cell” to trap them.

Last year, the undead could be spotted “driving” a van parked in the driveway. “That’s totally Michele — she tells me what her vision is and I help execute it!” laughs Krabill.

“It’s become so rewarding because we have a couple of kids on our street who really pay attention and try to figure out what’s new,” says Ledo. 

Eleven months out of the year, the couple stores everything in an old carriage house on their property. “Laura’s made a rule that we can’t start before October 1; it’s hard to get everything up in time!” says Ledo.

As to the scare factor of their yard? “Some children get frightened, and we feel bad,” says Krabill. “But most of the kids know it’s all fun.”


This story originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of WALTER magazine.