SHAWNEE, Kan. — Skeletons and ghosts line the driveway of the Wendlandt’s Shawnee home. Several other skeletons are hanging out on balconies or in cages.
Visiting the home off 75th Street each Halloween has become a tradition for many families.
“Grandma lives down the street so when we come this way the kids are like oh that’s the cool Halloween house,” Nina Thornton said.
The Wendlandts didn’t always get swarms of trick-or-treaters.
“But I tell you once I started putting out those torches I’d get drive-bys from 75th Street,” Linda Wendlandt said.
Over the past 20 years the display has grown and grown.
“I bet you every year we add a $100 worth of stuff,” Wendlandt said.
We found Linda Wendlandt putting the finishing touches on her display Monday.
“A month before October we start getting stuff ready,” she said.
But when you go ring a bell trick-or-treating, seldom do you know the whole story of the person on the other side of the door, or in this case on the balcony.
“All right here’s your Halloween trick or treat,” Wendlandt bellows down wearing a witches hat.
After trick-or-treaters ring the bell, a cackling clown alerts her to drop the bucket of candy down to waiting children via fish hook. Linda Wendlandt’s husband Mark loved Halloween.
“He had a costume one year he made out of wire, really big like a dragon put lights all over it. We couldn’t drive the car, I had to take the two seats out of the back of the van to get him in and drive him to the party,” she recalled as she chuckled.
Mark was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer four months ago. The 72 year old’s goal was to make it home for Halloween. He and his son designed a new archway for trick or treaters from his hospital bed.
“I think it gave her and her son something to really focus on in decorating while he was still in the hospital. I heard they were out until 2:00 in the morning one night putting all this stuff out,” Wendlandt’s sister-in-law Debbie Schultz said.
Sadly, Mark Wendlandt never made it home to see the updated display. She laid her husband of 51 years to rest last Thursday.
“No matter what she was going to carry on with this,” Schultz said.
“He would enjoy it a lot and I think he’d be especially proud of me for putting the torches out,” Wendlandt said.
“It’s such a sad story but it’s so sweet that she wants to keep it going,” Thornton said after being informed of Mark’s passing.
For Wendlant a real treat at a time when little else has brought her the same joy.
“Have fun Happy Halloween,” she smiled as another child full of wonder at the display headed off to ring the next doorbell.