BAXTER -- Bob Musielewicz of Baxter seems like a mild-mannered banker.
But there's another side to the vice president and business loan officer at Wells Fargo Bank in Brainerd.
Musielewicz loves Halloween. He lives for the ghoulish holiday. In fact, he's taken off work today from the bank in preparation for tonight's festivities as he does every year.
"It's kind of like my unknown wild side," Musielewicz said with a smile.
Musielewicz is what people in the Halloween industry call a home haunter, a person who goes to a greater extreme than most homeowners to decorate for Halloween. He builds animatronic creatures, ghosts and werewolves and creates a yard display that would rival any commercial haunted house.
Musielewicz travels to Chicago every March to attend a Halloween convention to find the latest animated creatures designed by commercial Halloween outfitters. He places an order for a custom-made creature, then receives the rubber body during the summer. He typically buys the rubber arms, legs and head and builds the rest of the creepy creature's body.
From when he receives his custom-made order until a couple of weeks before Halloween he builds the innerworkings of his creatures, designs the animatronics to make them move and develops a haunted scene in his front yard in Baxter to display the creature. He also has a CD of scary background sounds created for him each year by Music General in Brainerd to go along with his front yard display.
Musielewicz has been doing this for the past four years.
"Obviously it's my favorite holiday," said Musielewicz. "I grew up watching all the old movies -- 'Frankenstein,' 'Dracula' and the werewolf. It was a time you could dress up, go out and get candy. It was a holiday I never outgrew."
The 13-foot-high Halloween creature, as Baxter resident Bob Musielewicz has been calling the animatronic creation in his front yard, has a spotlight shining on it at night. Tonight scary, growling sounds will be coming from the creature, providing a fun surprise for trick-or-treaters in the Kentwood-Wedgewood neighborhood of Baxter.
Musielewicz helped start the YMCA haunted houses about a decade ago and built the backdrops and props. When the YMCA stopped hosting the fund-raising event about four years ago Musielewicz began to work on his own front yard. One year he built a set for scary witches stirring a cauldron. He's had vampires and werewolves, too. The creatures now are stored in his basement, waiting to be on display years from now. He wants to create a totally new theme each year, but may recycle his other creatures several years from now.
This year Musielewicz has constructed his biggest -- and his neighbors say it is his best -- Halloween offering yet. In his front yard is a 13-foot scary creature, with a movable head and hands. The giant monster can been seen perched above a wooden fence he constructed on his property. He built the creature about two weeks ago. A lot of motorists have been driving by slowly to check it out. A spotlight shines on the creature, which is surrounded by about 30 lighted large pumpkins, three glowing ghosts and other Halloween decor.
The Halloween creature, as Musielewicz calls him, is downright spooky.
"The neighbors told me this was their absolute favorite display," said Musielewicz. "When I finished it, they were standing at the end of my driveway, clapping."
Musielewicz said before he bought the Halloween creature, he told his wife, Pam, he wanted a large creature that rivaled Paul Bunyan. He found it at this year's Halloween convention. The creature cost about $1,500 but that was only for the top torso and arms of the animatronic monster. He said it would have cost him about $7,000 to buy the entire body of the creature. The creature will be accompanied by growling and breathing sounds from a CD on Halloween night.
"You can compare this a lot to Christmas," Musielewicz said of his fascination with Halloween. "You can't wait to open your presents and for Santa to come. I can't wait for Halloween when the kids come."
Musielewicz always decorates his yard about two weeks before Halloween. Then on Halloween night, around 9 p.m., he takes everything down. His Halloween decorations have been vandalized in the past and he doesn't want anything to happen to his Halloween creations.
Musielewicz said on Halloween he and his wife dress up and sit on chairs in their driveway, passing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Last year they had about 300 children visit their home on Halloween. It was warmer the Halloween night two years ago and they had about 500 trick-or-treaters.
He said he will be dressed as a vampire this year, complete with Hollywood movie-style costume make-up.
"On Halloween night, it'll look like rush hour in downtown Minneapolis here, with cars lined up and kids running around," said Musielewicz. "I just love it."
Musielewicz said visitors are welcome to walk in his front yard and view his Halloween displays. He's already working on next year's display. His front yard will be transformed into a cemetery, complete with spooky skeletons and other ghouls popping out from behind the gravestones.
"They're almost like a work of art to me," he said. "I create them like Frankenstein."
To find Musielewicz's home and view his Halloween creature tonight, take Country Road 48 in Baxter from the Highway 371 North Brainerd bypass. Keep in mind County Road 48 is closed at the Highway 210 entrance because of road construction and is inaccessible from there. Drive to the end of the road and take a right on Kentwood Drive in Baxter. Musielewicz's home is located to the right, on the corner of Kentwood and Wedgewood drives.
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