The Harrsion Report, November 5, 2004
By Alex Malecki
WEST HARRISON - This Halloween, Jennifer Carpenito was a cute white bunny rabbit. Little did she know that a visit to the Mancini home would turn out to be a hare-raising experience.
"Oh my God, get away!" she screamed as the chainsaw revved and the unearthly creatures drew near.
OK, so maybe she did know better. That still could not stop the Mancini family from making the little white rabbit wish she had taken the pill the makes her small.
"It's a lot of fun," Carpenito she said in between shrieks.
That is the beauty - figuratively speaking - of a Mancini Halloween. You know it is not real, and yet...
"When I jumped at him, he took three steps back into a car," said Marc Mancini, describing one of the best scares he has ever unleashed.
Friend Mike Bellantoni said the key is to scare some of the adults, because then the kids really freak out. In reality, however, the Mancinis take their cue from John Travolta and the movie "Swardfish" - misdirection.
Quite simply, there is so much to look at when you frequent the Mancinis' 311 Gainsborg Ave. home on Halloween, that you don't see the Mancini - Jon, Marc, Melissa and Mike - or one of their costumed friends creeping up behind you.
"Every year we do something different," Melissa said.
On Sunday, that list included a 16-foot Frankenstein monster, mock graveyard, floating head and entrails-gushing skeleton. Aside from the obvious blowup items, everything else is handmade.
Frankenstein's face - paper mache; the skeleton - a mixture of bacon, chicken and sausage; and the floating head - an idea Mike Mancini picked up at the store. After seeing talking heads from a Halloween DVD playing on television, Mike used Plexiglas to give them their floating appearance.
Last year they had a guy in an electric chair, using a generator that created live sparks. When the O.J. Simpson trial was in full swing, the Mancinis drew chalk body outlines on their front walkway and left a glove nearby.
The shenanigans started in 1981, when Marc stuffed some old clothes to make scarecrows. At 10, even a grounding from Liz and Tony Mancini could not stop him from trying to string to one of the scarecrow's arms and running it through his window to make it move.
"It was just the bench and me," Marc said of the display's early stages with him jumping out at people.
Then some friends joined in. By high school, they were doing haunted houses in the gym at Preston Elementary for the PTA. Today, Lauren LaMance said people tell them it is better than Playland. Bellantoni, who works at FredŐs Barber Shop on Lake Street, notes that residents begin to question him in anticipation as Halloween nears.
Even the neighbors help out. One resident brought by some CPR dummies that were being thrown out, figuring the Mancinis would put them to good use.
"The neighbors also had to stock up because of us" Rich LaMance.
Face it, when upward of 1,200 people visit 311 Gainsborg Ave. and your are house next door, you had better have enough candy. Liz puts together some 400 bags every year, running out each time.
"It's like Disney World," noted Lauren LaMance with her best banshee woman grin, as everyone wants a picture with one of the characters.
But do not think for a minute that it is all fun and screams. The Mancinis and company begin brainstorming in August. Come October, they visit every haunted house then can looking for freshly foul ideas.
Rich LaMance said the group is currently putting together all its old pictures and video footage for a DVD to use as a resume of sorts. The plan is to make a pitch to Moose Lodge 294 on Harrison Street to use the facility for a haunted house.
As Trick-or-Treaters begin heading home, a tired yet satisfied gaggle of ghouls make their way inside for some freshly arrived pizza. Lagging behind, Tony Mancini made some final adjustments to the characters on his lawn before joining the ones indoors.
"This year is the best," he said.
Until next year.