Auburndale High School Student Decorates Haunted Yard with More Than 40 Animatronics for Halloween Night
by James Coulter
Werewolves and zombies and killer clowns, oh my! These are just some of the frightful sights you can see on Halloween night when you pass by the yard of one Auburndale high school student.
Matthew Reynolds, 15, has collected more than 40 animatronic figures over the past five years he has been decorating his family’s yard. Every year, he sets up the animatronics, decorations, and other special effects, including lighting and a fog machine.
The end result are 40 animatronic figures, all packed in a single front yard, and activated with lights and fog and other spooky sounds culminating in a haunted yard display that needs to be seen to be believed.
Many animated props were purchased over the years from Halloween stores. However, a few were custom-made by Matthew himself. While they are not as advanced or complicated as the store-bought variety, his animatronics prove to be just as impressive once they come to life.
“A lot of jump scares and surprises await you,” Matthew said. “Most every year, it gets more advanced, and it grows every single year. There is something new to see when you drive by.”
Matthew’s father always decorated their house as a haunted house during Halloween. His parents soon allowed him to start his hobby of collecting Halloween decorations and animatronics. He soon started buying his own animated figures and creating his own Halloween yard hunts.
“So for the past five years, I have been going to their Halloween store every single year and buying out their whole stock of animatronic props,” he said. “It started simple enough with only one or two animatronic figures and some hanging decorations…Now there are about 40 of them in one yard, it is complete chaos, but it is seriously one hell of a night to see.”
Matthew loves animatronics. Ever since he was young, he has been fascinated by the technology and craftsmanship. So aside from simply buying animatronics from the Halloween store, he has also created his own custom figures, albeit not as complex or advanced as the store-bought variety.
“Animatronics are my passion,” he said. “I am very interested in how they work and how they are made…I love spending time outdoors and spending day after day just decorating and setting up the haunt to put a smile on their face….A lot of dedication goes into it, but there is so much reward in it to see people smile and scream on Halloween.”
This year, he has expanded some of the set pieces on his lawn. He spent half of his yearly savings on animatronics and decorations and the other half on overall theming. From Pennywise the Clown to Scream’s Ghostface, this year’s haunt has nearly every happy haunt from your favorite horror movies and franchises.
Matthew spends at least a week decorating his yard, setting up the decorations, and hooking up the lights, fog machine, and sound system. The hardest part, by far, is hauling out all of the animatronics from the family shed, with many figures being over eight feet tall. But the hard work more than pays off once the yard comes to life.
He expects to use his set design and animatronic skills to good use one day, as he dreams of working at either Universal Studios or Disney World. Until then, he will continue his yearly hobby of setting up the Halloween Haunt in his front yard.
“People should drop by because days and years’ worth of animatronic go into this yard haunt that I pull off,” he said. “Seeing 40 animatronics out there at a time, and they are all going off at once, it is noisy, it is chaotic, it is scary, and it is amazing.”
Matthew’s Haunted Yard will be hosted on Sun. Oct. 31 from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m, though he plans on hosting the Haunted Yard for several days after. His yard is located at 136 Patterson Dr., Auburndale, Fl.