The Berkley Boneyard's creator said he has scrapped the popular Halloween display this year after large crowds forced the Public Safety Department to close it early in 2011.
Don Weiner said he cannot justify the time, effort and expense that go into the Berkley Boneyard only to let down fans.
"It's pretty sad I'm not doing it this year," Weiner said. "I know a lot of people are disappointed."
The 39-year-old Troy resident, who grew up in the home on the 3700 block of Cummings that his grandfather built in 1937, said he began putting on the show there in junior high.
"It just got bigger every year," Weiner said. "It got so big that the last few years, we put up a fence around the perimeter."
The display – which he said cost a couple thousand dollars to put on each year – included fog machines, pneumatic and electronic props, 16 sound systems, complete scenes, holograms and miles of wires.
"As you walked through, things would jump out at you and pop out at you and scream," he said.
Weiner built many of the props himself, including a central control station from which an operator could see visitors and manipulate the ghoulish creations to jump out at just the right time.
"Scaring people is really fun," he said. "When else can you do this?"
Weiner said it took him approximately 7 weeks to set up the display, which he usually turned on Friday through Sunday nights beginning the first week of September and then every night during Halloween week. He said the Boneyard would be on until 9 p.m. during weeknights and 10 p.m. on weekends.
Approximately 10,000 people visited the Boneyard last year, Weiner estimated.
"The traffic got to be an issue because there were so many people," he said, adding that 2 years ago, the Berkley Public Safety Department dropped off barricades to help control the traffic. "Last year, a couple of nights, police came by and asked us to turn it off for 10 minutes so people would disburse."
Weiner said that on Halloween, the Public Safety Department asked him to turn off the display for a few minutes at approximately 7:30 p.m.
"It was already packed," he said. "We turned it off. Everybody was booing the cops."
After 5 minutes, Weiner said he turned the display back on and the crowd immediately swelled again. Eventually, he was asked to shut down the display at 7:50 p.m., Weiner said.
"All that work and effort just to make people happy, just to be shut down, it was heartbreaking," he said. "The cost is tremendous, but even that wasn't an issue because we love doing it."
Public Safety Deputy Director Robert North said the Boneyard was shut down closer to 9 p.m. and that the problem was not Weiner or the display but the size of the crowd.
"We disagree on the times, but he was very cooperative and he did shut it down," North said. "A lot of people were up there enjoying it.
"We tried to facilitate it by providing some cones and closing off the streets, but there was such a crush of people," he said. "When the crush got too big, you've got to do something about it."
North said the sheer number of people and kids in the nearby streets mixing with cars posed safety risks. He added that one child was briefly lost in the crowd.
"I also had four moms come up and thank me for closing it down early," because it was a school night, North said.
But Weiner said his neighbors enjoyed the display and even planned their Halloween parties around it so they could show their guests.
Weiner said he kept all of the more than 1,000 comment cards that people left at the Berkley Boneyard over the years and the feedback was positive.
"It's fun to read the comments and see where people came from. That's what we look forward to. We turn off the lights, lock up, go inside and read the comments," Weiner said. "No one believed me when I said I wasn't going to do it this year, not even my family."
Weiner said he has sold many of the props, thrown away others and still has some sorting out to do.
"I miss it a lot," Weiner said. "Although, I do look forward to taking my kids trick-or-treating for the first time ever."