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For five years, Darrell Cunningham has built elaborate Halloween displays designed to entertain and scare trick-or-treaters

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FARMINGTON — A love of Halloween and homemade props has led Darrell Cunningham to construct elaborate displays every year to scare trick-or-treaters eager for candy.

The idea was born several years ago when Cunningham looked at starting a career in the fun house or haunted house business. That didn't materialize, but it led him to host a small display at his Farmington home. That's when Cunningham learned he loves making props and watching people's reactions when they pass through his displays.

"I just love the looks on peoples’ faces when they are going through our yard," he said.

For the last five years, he has worked on the displays with his father, James Cunningham.

The first three years, the display was at Darrell Cunningham's home, but he moved it to his parents' home last year to make use of the enclosed front yard. The display this year will again be hosted at the home of his parents, James and Wanda Cunningham, at 2308 E. 14th St. on Halloween night.

In an interview at his parents' home last week, Darrell Cunningham showed off the collection of props he has amassed over the last five years.

The first prop he built was a witch spell book. As part of the display, three witches are stationed around a black cauldron to look as though they are brewing a potion. A Grim Reaper and angel statue are among the more recent props.

Standing at more than 7 feet tall, the Grim Reaper prop was constructed using plastic PVC pipe, chicken wire, paper maché and "monster mud," a mixture of paint and drywall compound. Cunningham soaked paint tarps in the "mud" and draped them over the chicken-wire frame of the Grim Reaper to make the hood and cloak.

"I’ve always loved Halloween ever since I was a little kid," said Cunningham, who works as a software programmer for a water treatment consulting company. "I still get to act as a kid."

Late last week, he was still planning the layout of this year's display, which will take over his parents' front yard, driveway and carport. He was determining where to place several columns and walls to build a castle-like structure. Most of the display work, he said, is finished in the two days leading up to Halloween.

Last year’s display featured multiple video projectors, including one that played Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" music video on a loop. Several tombstone props were installed in the front yard with spider web displays throughout the property.

Wanda Cunningham said the family buys some of the props for the annual display, adding that the family spent about $1,000 last year on props and supplies. This year, the family purchased a large four-level clock tower display from the temporary Spirit Halloween store.

During the event, James Cunningham dresses as Santa Claus and stands in front of the house to keep trick-or-treaters safe from car traffic. He also hands out candy to children who are frightened by the display.

"I had four children give me hugs last year," he said.

For more information on the Halloween display, visit facebook.com/cunninghamhaunthouse

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story contained the wrong address for the Halloween display. The correct address is 2308 E. 14th St. 

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