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A neighborhood haunt

Marie Havenga • Oct 30, 2018 at 12:00 PM

SPRING LAKE TWP. — Tom Nitzsche grew up on a sprawling farm in Hastings. But with expansive acreage comes a lack of nearby neighbors.

When Nitzsche and his family moved into the Briarwood subdivision in Spring Lake Township several years ago, he loved spending time with his new neighbors.

“I just really enjoy having neighbors and getting along with everyone,” he said. “It's a little bit different than how I grew up.”

Nitzsche hosts a Halloween party every fall and a pig roast every summer. But this year, he upped the game on the Halloween theme.

He built a haunted house in his garage, while his son, Evan, 11, and his friends decorated a wooded trail behind the house with skeletons, ghosts and ghouls.

“I thought it'd be fun for everybody,” Nitzsche said. “It was one of those crazy things I decided to put together one day.”

The display includes a parlor room with creepy dolls and old-fashioned photos, a black light room with scary glowing signs, and a morgue room.

Nitzsche started construction on the attraction in August and finished it just hours before this past Saturday's neighborhood party. The display is not open to the public.

Nitzsche purchased almost all of his supplies at the local Habitat for Humanity Restore stores. He aged the siding and shutters to add to the haunted aura. He shopped Goodwill for old items, where he landed a 1906 diploma and old-fashioned dolls.

“I tried to make it realistic to make it feel like you're in a real house,” he said. “I didn't want it to feel staged.”

Nitzsche, an engineer by trade, said he spent less than $1,000 on the project and plans to build an even bigger haunted house next year.

“This was my first attempt at it,” he said. “I'm kind of creative. I like to do things a little differently. I've got quite an imagination.”

Nitzsche dressed as a nun for Saturday's party, complete with an intense makeup job.

“I always wanted to get the neighborhood together,” he said. “I thought it'd be cool to have all the neighbors and kids know everyone.”

Neighbor George Keefe said he appreciates Nitzsche's efforts. Keefe said he enjoyed watching the haunted house project come together.

“It's amazing what he does,” Keefe said. “There are perks to living in this neighborhood that we didn't know about.”

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