Halloween magic: Poland’s yard delights neighborhood

LAURA AND RICK POLAND stand behind a witches’ cauldron with contents that appear to boil and steam. For the past 17 years, the couple has been changing their yard into an interactive Halloween scene. (De Busk Photo)

LAURA AND RICK POLAND stand behind a witches’ cauldron with contents that appear to boil and steam. For the past 17 years, the couple has been changing their yard into an interactive Halloween scene. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer
CASCO — Certainly, asking for the devil isn’t on the typical honey-do list.
But, that is what Laura Poland asked her husband, Rick, to try to accomplish. He was willing, too.
After all, she wanted a devil in the yard as a Halloween decoration.
That year, when she got home and saw the end result, Laura was very impressed. Still, she found it creepy because it looked so real. Rick had found real fur and two hooves for the devil’s feet, she said.
Ever since their daughters were teenagers — 17 years ago, the Polands have been lavishly and ghoulishly transforming their yard for Halloween. This tradition encompasses the whole month of October, and has involved children of all ages who live in the Lakewood Road neighborhood.
“We’ve always had Halloween. The first character was the man holding a severed head and an axe,” Laura said, referring to the mannequin in a blood-spattered rain slicker.
“I wanted a pirate, and Rick made a pirate with a peg leg. He built the characters; and I did the makeup and the costumes,” she said.
Even the black iron fencing is Rick’s doing. The gravestones, too, are pieces of Styrofoam grouted to look like rock headstones. The inscribed epitaphs are ones found on real gravestones in cemeteries around the nation.
In October 2013, Rick built a 10-foot tall guillotine. Without so much as blue print, he reconstructed the horrible tool from the French Revolution. The blade is made from Styrofoam; and the victim’s head is attached to the body with a large magnet.
This year, a more modern form of execution came to life — The electric chair. Rick created two circuits — one for the battery-operated strobe light under the victim’s helmet and another for the sander and Sawzall that make the dummy convulse from the imaginary electrical current.
Then, there is the heart-jumping moment a fog horn goes off from underneath a coffin with its lid ajar. Most visitors are expecting the lid to open so the blast of loud noise catches people off guard, Rick said.
This holiday has always had a special place in Laura’s heart and it goes back to her childhood. Halloween was the birthday of her sister, Jackie.
“It is quite a holiday. My sister was born on Halloween. My mom, who is now 97, always had wonderful parties. My mom always had homemade fudge and popcorn balls and caramel apples,” she said, adding she grew up in Windham as Laura Bryant.
“My first memories of Halloween — It was always a celebration,” she said.
Laura’s love of Halloween is a part of her personality that she shares with her spouse. In fact, Rick, who retired from the United States Post Office two years ago, used to take his vacation during the month of October. It’s his birthday month, too.
According to both Laura and Rick, the process of decorating the yard and building from scratch new scares each year has taken on “a life of its own.”
One of the more memorable compliments the Polands heard was from a neighborhood boy who was 15 years old at the time.
“He said to Rick, ‘Boy, I hope you are still doing this when I have children because I want to bring them by your yard for Halloween,’ ” Laura said.
Now, the boy is in his mid-20s with a little boy and girl of his own.

THIS CANINE SKELETON exits its doghouse on a pulley system designed by Casco resident Rick Poland. (De Busk Photo)

THIS CANINE SKELETON exits its doghouse on a pulley system designed by Casco resident Rick Poland. (De Busk Photo)

They estimated that between 80 and 100 children visit their home on Halloween night.
For the neighborhood children who live off Lakewood Road, the weeks before All Hallows’ Eve are a big treat.
“It is a lot of fun for the children on this street,” he said.
One year, everyone made really gross guts from Styrofoam and spray paint. Other times, children have asked Rick to make a sword or a sickle for their costumes.
It seems people don’t outgrow Halloween.
Every year, a group of senior citizens from Casco Village Assisted Living takes a field trip to the Poland’s yard. Laura sets up chairs and blankets and serves them hot cocoa and homemade sweets for their visit.
Also, people just stop by the yard sporadically.
“One woman told me it was a treasure to find this place,” Laura said.
“One man stopped and said my husband must have an engineer background. I said, ‘No. No. He just does it in his head,’ ” Laura said.
“He is just very creative,” she said.

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