The Katsikas family of four grows this time of year.
Most of the new additions are out on their Caseyville front lawn. Some are hanging from trees.
There’s Hanging Hank. Clap, and a scary head hanging near the front door comes to life. Sort of.
And Agnes, a dark-haired wench alongside the front walk.
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“She pops up at you,” said Amy Katsikas, 44. The mother of two can’t wait for October to roll around each year. That’s when she goes down to the basement to re-acquaint with her creepy characters.
“I’m not into pumpkins or blow-ups. I like the more authentic creepy creatures.”
Amy and husband Demetri live in a nice brick house on a corner lot in Far Oaks neighborhood. Near sunset on a weekday night, daughter Ella, 10, headed off with her team to play basketball. Daughter Ava, 9, was at soccer practice. Amy was out in front checking on her other family.
She grabbed a scary little creature from a tree.
“Agony Annie, come here, baby,” she said. “She actually swings in the tree. She’s motion activated.”
On Halloween, Amy may use her as a prop.
“When I open the door, sometimes I am carrying this baby. Most of the little bitty ones will stand back because they are afraid.”
She stepped over a shrub to inspect blue-eyed, bug-eyed Boris, all dressed up and tucked near the house behind a feathery red Japanese cherry tree. A swath of wild gray hair blows across his face. Two teeth protrude. What are those scratches on his forehead?
“Boris, he’s the original one and he’s showing his age,” said Amy. “He’s the first. We got him at an after-Halloween sale. … I went to market 12 years ago with a cousin who was a supplier. They only sold to haunted houses. I got a lot of animatronics.”
As if on cue, a character screeched.
“Halloween has always been my absolutely favorite holiday, more so than Christmas or Easter,” she said. “The kids as babies would name the characters. Agnes. Rose. The Butler. When the weather starts turning, they say, ‘When are you going to get out our friends in the basement?’”
There are so many friends in the basement that not all make it upstairs every year.
I’m not into pumpkins or blow-ups. I like the more authentic creepy creatures.
Amy Katsikas on her Halloween decorations
“Half of the stuff I didn’t get to yet,” she said. Bins of body parts wait for their turn to shine or scare.
“I’m going to do the inside now. We have a little party. We had a big costume party last year. This year, it’s a smaller scale.”
Amy dressed as a Day of the Dead figure, with a white face, black details and red jewel accents. Her husband isn’t as big a fan of the holiday as she is.
“He supports me but doesn’t want to be an active participant. He’ll wear a costume for Halloween. ... Putting things up is easy. Lighting is most difficult. It takes three or four nights to tweak the lighting to get it just right. It’s not uncommon for people to see me up on the roof, moving things around.”
She looked to the roof where more characters were lurking.
“Ralph is the one with horns. Brenda is lying down and she’s lost her arms. Calinda in the front window, she’s a really good one at night, too. Her head turns completely around.”
Some peek through windows.
“If I had my druthers, I would be boarding up all the windows to make it look truly scary.”
Or truly scarier.
A mass of Army netting drapes from above. A wreath of writhing snakes hangs on the front door. Yes, they jiggle and wiggle at times. Anyone who wants out has to duck beneath a filmy white spider web. A black cat arches itself over the mailbox. There are creatures in the trees and coming up from the neatly landscaped grounds. A scary mask perches atop a hydrant near the street.
“This corner is a bus stop,” Amy said. “Kids in the morning love it.”
So do her two daughters.
“I help with the spider web,” said Ella. “My favorite is putting up the swing.”
A scary lady is aboard.
When the mood strikes, Amy sets the scene with theme song from “Halloween,” the 1978 film starring Jamie Lee Curtis.
“If I forget to turn on lights, I will get several texts from neighbors. ‘Amy, your lights aren’t on.’ It’s a ritual for kids in the neighborhood.”
Amy has tried to figure out her affection for the haunting holiday.
“My father’s birthday is on Halloween. I sometimes blame it on that. Maybe, he gave me the genes.”
Halloween fun continues inside Katsikas home.
Motion activates a coiled snake, hiding just off the entryway.
“It will jump out and grab your leg.”
And be careful in the first-floor powder room.
“That’s Harry,” Amy said of the skinhead with the scary, dark eyes. He rests in a fancy dish near a hand towel.
Amy, a 1989 Belleville West grad, enjoys interior design as a hobby. She’s also a nurse practitioner who owns Pure 111 Medical Aesthetics.
“I help women to look their best to feel their best,” she said. “I do botox and skin care. I named it that because people are considered 1s, 11s or 111s, referring to wrinkles between the eyes.”
What scares Amy?
“There’s one character you will never find here — a clown with a white face.”