Evesham man's Halloween display saved by vocal supporters

Dave Newman of Evesham, in full fright gear, bounds down the steps of his elaborately decorated farmhouse,a two-decade Halloween tradition that almost didn't happen this year. DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer
Dave Newman of Evesham, in full fright gear, bounds down the steps of his elaborately decorated farmhouse,a two-decade Halloween tradition that almost didn't happen this year. DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 22, 2012

Halloween almost didn't happen at Bonehead's haunt this year.

Bonehead is Dave Newman, 58, a postal worker who for about 20 years has turned the exterior of his family's Evesham farmhouse into a kitschy monthlong celebration of All Hallow's Eve.

The corner property, on a rural Pinelands road with few neighbors in sight, is festooned with ghosts floating from trees, heads on pikes, skeletons on mini-motorcyles, tombstones, a headless man, spiderwebs, snakes, you name it.

Sometimes there's a dark figure with a skull's face dancing out front in a top hat. That would be Newman in his Bonehead costume. At night, he gyrates before strobe lights against the eerily lit backdrop.

But one afternoon a few weeks back, as he danced around his yard, pointing at passing cars - something Newman does as often as possible before the big day - a police car stopped at his place on Hopewell Road and Raymond Avenue.

The officer, he recalled, said authorities had received "numerous" complaints that his display distracted drivers.

"I couldn't believe it," Newman said.

In all these years, not one complaint had come his way, said the father of two, who has a 2-year-old granddaughter. He was so angry he started to yank up some of his skeletons and tombstones.

Just the week before, Newman said, he had discovered an anonymous, handwritten note in his mailbox. Halloween had been declared "National Kill a Pit Bull Day," it read. The author warned Newman to keep his pets inside.

Newman has three dogs - including an American bulldog, a breed often mistaken for a pit bull - that frequently join him outside. He keeps the pooches in the house on Halloween, when scores of trick-or-treaters come by.

The day after the officer's visit, Newman put up signs announcing, "I'm done." Someone had complained that he was distracting traffic, he wrote on the signs. He was selling his decorations.

But he changed his mind a couple of days later after a Facebook campaign by his daughter Ashley, 27, and a TV news report generated a surge of support, including a $500 donation from a local businessman that Newman plans to spend on Halloween candy.

Words of encouragement also were delivered in person, some by fans of the extravaganza whom Newman had never met.

Maryann Wallingford, of nearby Berlin, took up Newman's case in a letter to the editor in the Daily News. The "unknown perpetrator" of the Halloween display she had so frequently visited over the years was "a good-hearted soul," Wallingford wrote.

So this year, as in years past, the century-old farmhouse is as frightening as ever.

Evesham police say they have no record of a formal complaint against Newman's display, and no reports of the display causing traffic problems. But they are investigating the note in Newman's mailbox.

"We are not discouraging Halloween celebrations," said Sgt. Joseph Friel, a police spokesman, who noted the department's Facebook page had received two posts blaming police for the threatened end of the display.

Newman insists the officer told him there had been a complaint about "distracting traffic."

"I don't know if it was formal or informal, but that's what he said," said Newman, who has "no beef with the police."

"I blame people who don't know how to smile anymore. Somebody had a bad day," he said. "It's all about fun, remembering Halloween from when you were little."

Newman, who sports two feather earrings in his left ear and says he doesn't watch sports or use a computer, launched the display with three tombstones - one each for him and his children.

Each year, more were added - things that he picked up at flea markets or that others gave him.

"I've gone a little nuts," he acknowledges.

His goal each year is to have the display up in time to entertain the thousands who pedal by on the MS 150 City to Shore Bike Tour, usually at the end of September. It comes down on Nov. 1.

Other holidays inspire him, too. The Navy veteran marks Memorial Day and the Fourth of July with flags and posters, and he works to turn his house into a Currier and Ives postcard at Christmas.

As Newman spoke in front of his house about the near-dismantling of his beloved house of horrors, a red Silvestro Landscaping truck stopped, and Mike Silvestro leaned out the window.

"He's awesome. He shouldn't stop," Silvestro said to a reporter.

At his Berlin Township business, John Carroll confirmed that he had handed Newman an envelope containing $500 to help Bonehead go on with the show. Carroll, owner of Superior Contract Cleaners, had never seen Newman unmasked before. "I've been taking my kids past his house for 20 years," said Carroll, whose youngest is 12. "Every Halloween, he goes all out.

"I couldn't believe someone complained," he said. "I just wanted to help out and let him know he's appreciated."

"It totally floored me," Newman said of Carroll's gesture. "It brings me to tears even now."

Contact Joseph Gambardello

at 856-779-3844 or jgambardello@phillynews.com.

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