Halloween soulmates crank it up for their ‘Nightmare on College’

Barb and Wendell Koedel stand amidst the huge Halloween display in their yard at 1557 College Ave., preparing to receive Halloween trick-or-treaters on Saturday evening. This is the fourth year for the display, which grows bigger each year, they say.
Barb and Wendell Koedel stand amidst the huge Halloween display in their yard at 1557 College Ave., preparing to receive Halloween trick-or-treaters on Saturday evening. This is the fourth year for the display, which grows bigger each year, they say. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

When grade school sweethearts Barb and Wendell Koedel reconnected several years ago, they knew it was a match made in heaven — or maybe the ghoulishly eerie atmosphere on earth, especially around the autumn month of October.

When Wendell discovered Barb had been putting up a Halloween display every year he knew he had found his soulmate.

“I’ve always liked doing this, and I just never got a chance to, until we got back together,” says Wendell Koedel, a die maker. “I’ve always loved Halloween.”

Since they got married they’ve more than doubled Barb’s display of creepy, crawly, scary and altogether “ookie” decorations. The couple is looking forward to welcoming a plethora of trick-or-treaters who will visit their display on Saturday night, located at 1557 College Ave., at the corner of Kintz Street.

“We call it the ‘Nightmare on College,’” Walter says, adding that some years they have as many as 100 kids daring to ring their doorbell, seeking candy and a thrill from touring the sights of ghouls and goblins taking up nearly every space on the couple’s property.

A row of pumpkins with lights inside illuminates the walkway to the Koedels’ front door. After the kids get their treats, they can linger to get a good look at the haunts and goblins as they make their exit.

What can be seen now in the Koedels’ front, side and back yards amounts to everything from the weird to macabre, with some eerie “celebrities” thrown in. There is Jack Sparrow, the Headless Horseman, Little Red Riding Hood chased by the Big Bad (were)Wolf, Frankenstein’s monster, a dead bride and groom, the Grateful Dead — and even Elvis, for those who find him a chilling specter.

The exhibit got so big that Wendell had to install extra electrical outlets around the outside of their home to light up the display.

“When the lights go on, (Barb) can’t turn anything on in the house because it’ll kill the main power,” says Wendell. “If she turns the TV on, it kills it.”

The display is sectioned off into two sides — a less gross and gory side for the younger trick-or-treaters, featuring a pumpkin patch with Charlie Brown, along with Buzz Lightyear, Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz,” an American Indian doll with a tipi and Sylvester the cat, among others.

“They’re not scary; they’re just cute,” says Wendell.

The other side, appealing to more grown-up kids, is not for the faint of heart. Some of the display has been animated, keeping trick-or-treaters on their toes. A large graveyard with its numerous headstones is also not to be missed.

And that’s not all — the couple adds more attractions every day, taking an entire month to fully decorate their yard.

“There’s a lot of stuff that’s not out here because we only bring it out on Halloween night, because we don’t want things to ‘walk off,’” adds Barb.

The Koedels are constantly adding to their display, with Wendell presently working on a two-headed creature he dubs “biohazard” man.

“We’ve got Charlie,” says Wendell — who didn’t elaborate on who, or what , “Charlie” is.

“We’ve got a life-sized Dracula in a coffin,” Barb says.

There is also a Mrs. Frankenstein’s monster, made out of Barb’s mother’s antique wire dressing mannequin. In fact, the Koedels say nearly everything in their display is made from stuff they find at yard sales, such as cosmetology mannequin heads and doll parts.

“We look forward to making new monsters each year. We’ve got tubs and tubs full of parts that we’ve got planned for in the future,” Wendell says.

“It’s just fun to go to yard sales and we’ll look and we’ll see just some strange object, and we’ll know what we can build with that,” Barb says.

Some of the attractions are also a tongue-in-cheek salute to the macabre. Their next monster project will likely be a pizza chef who looks a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Koedels say they get the inspiration for their Halloween hobby from their love of Fright Night — and each other.

“It’s fun — it’s a fun hobby,” says Barb.

“It’s something we both do together,” adds Wendell. “We do it for the kids. We do it for the grown-up kids as well … We don’t have any separate hobbies; we like doing things together. We put up this Halloween display and then at Christmas we put up a huge Christmas display.”