BONE YARD: Skeleton shenanigans take over at New Pal home

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One of Mindy Smock's displays this week depicted her skeletons trying to decorate the Smock home for Christmas. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

NEW PALESTINE — No bones about it, Mindy Smock really loves Halloween.

So much so that she and her family have been creating a different scene of skeletons in their front yard every other day through the month of October.

These aren’t your typical spooky skeletons, mind you. These smiling, life-size characters are intent on having a good time.

Some days, they’re playing “Twister.” Other days, they’re gathered around a campfire toasting s’mores. Some nights, they’re sprawled out on a blanket for movie night.

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The comical scenes have become the talk of the New Palestine neighborhood where the Smocks live on Bridgewood Boulevard. Many neighbors make a point of walking past their house each night to check out the latest creation.

“We first started doing this for us, but now we’re doing it for the neighborhood too. It’s great seeing so many people enjoy it,” said Smock, who has had a lifelong passion for Halloween.

When she was a kid growing up on the east side of Indianapolis, her mom would create a haunted house in the garage for her and her brother each year.

Smock came up with the idea of the rotating skeleton display last year as something fun for her and her 15-year-old daughter Sammie to do together.

“She’s the creative one and I’m the builder,” said Sammie, a sophomore at New Palestine High School.

“I’m good at building things, so I get to use my dad’s tools,” she said.

It’s the teen who comes up with most of the ways to prop up the skeletons so they appear to be acting just like people. She uses “a whole bunch of zip ties,” dowel rods, PVC pipes and just about anything else she finds in the garage.

She’s made a skeleton push a lawnmower, and another push a wheelbarrow with the upper half of another skeleton inside. She’s made a couple skeletons in the act of throwing a Frisbee, and a skeleton dog that appears to be leaping into the air, catching the Frisbee in his mouth.

Building the comical displays are great fun for the mother-daughter pair, who often get help from Mindy’s husband, Jim.

“It makes her happy, which makes me happy,” Jim said of his wife.

Mindy occasionally buys items through Amazon to spruce up the displays, but mostly uses things they have around the house. She has five life-size skeletons so far, and lots of extra pieces, but says she’d love to acquire more. Smock often clicks through the Pinterest website to find new ideas, which she keeps in a special binder.

“I spend all year trying to collect stuff,” said Smock, a fourth-grade teacher for Indianapolis Public Schools.

The key to a great display is in the details, she said.

For the movie night scene, the skeletons are sprawled across a blanket, their hands thrust into buckets of popcorn, engrossed in a fake movie screen set up on the Smocks’ front porch.

For the campfire scene, skeletons wrapped in flannel shirts and blankets are sitting in chairs circled around a fake fire pit made of bricks. A stack of wood sitting atop red and orange tissue paper is wrapped in orange string lights that appear to make the fire glow.

“She even toasts the marshmallows before putting them on the sticks,” said Jim.

Scheduling the seasonal display is serious business. Mindy devised a calendar of rotating scenes which the family creates every other day, from Sept. 30 through Halloween. Each creation takes about an hour to put up, she said.

On Monday, two skeletons dressed in costumes from the musical “Hamilton” were standing at the center of the yard, with a sign that read “Skeliton,” as they appeared to be performing a scene from the hit Broadway production.

On Tuesday, the Smocks created a Christmas light scene in which a family of skeletons worked together to hang Christmas lights on the house. One stood atop a ladder while others helped, and one unlucky skeleton was tangled up in lights.

The Smocks then switched them up to create a jack-o’-lantern carving scene, and finished up with a trick-or-treating scene for Halloween.

Given the health safeguards put in place for this year’s Halloween, the family plans to get creative with the way they pass out candy. The skeletons will use a 10-foot-long PVC tube to safely pass candy to socially distanced trick-or-treaters.

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Trick-or-treat times

Cumberland: 5 to 8 p.m.

Fortville: 5 to 8 p.m.

Greenfield: 5 to 8 p.m.

McCordsville: 5 to 8 p.m.

New Palestine: 5 to 8 p.m.

Shirley: 5 to 9 p.m.

Wilkinson: 4 to 8 p.m.

Unincorporated parts of the county: 5 to 8 p.m.

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