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Couple treats public to front-yard Halloween spectacle Elaborate and interactive fright show is product of unusual hobby in Gowanda

Annette and Kevin Kramer can't get enough Halloween -- whether the calendar says it's June or October.

The couple stays on alert all year for nightmarish decorations to haul home for use in their now-famous annual front yard Halloween display at 120 N. Chapel St. in Gowanda.

They say it now draws visitors to their rural village straddling Erie and Cattaraugus counties from as far away as Niagara Falls and Rochester.

"We bought a truckload of Halloween stuff this year and a truckload last year," said Annette Kramer, who was busy Thursday helping her husband finish assembling a mammoth tableau of moving, bleeding and "dead" creatures on the lawn of their 19th century home.

"It's hard to put a dollar amount on it, because we don't save the receipts."

It's also getting so the Kramers have trouble storing all these ghoulish goodies after packing them up when Halloween is finished.

Tonight, however, the jaw-dropping display that includes full-size, remote-controlled and motion-sensitive "action figures" will come to life for visitors to enjoy.

The Kramers say they take turns sleeping and guarding the display all night every year during the two days it remains in place. Like Halloween's magic, this year's show will evaporate at the stroke of midnight tonight.

The couple now recommends parking and walking to the home display, because last year the police closed off both ends of North Chapel to assist in crowd control.

The Kramers were both avid fans of Halloween before they met, but once they married three years ago, the collecting of rats, bats, spiders and an assortment of creepy figures became especially intense.

Annette Kramer is a certified nurse's assistant at Fiddler's Green Manor in Springville. Her husband works as a carpenter with the McGuire Group.

The couple enjoys working themselves into the front yard display on Halloween night, when Annette Kramer says she gets a kick out of standing like a statue and letting guests wonder whether she's real or one of the mechanical figures, like the full-size mad scientist and Frankenstein's monster her husband brought home from a shopping spree last year.

Kramer's wife said she will be dressed as a witch tonight and will carry candy out to the sidewalk from time to time for trick-or-treaters too frightened to pass by the black metal gates and skeleton angels that lead to the gruesome yard display and its makeshift cemetery.

Her husband refuses to say what his costume will be this year, preferring it to be a spectral surprise.

"We just love Halloween," said Annette Kramer, who noted that she worked a double shift at her nursing home job in order to have enough time to be ready for Halloween night.

"We're a country community," she said. "Times are tough, and people don't have a lot of money to do things. This is something free and fun for people to do."

And there will be more to come in 2010.

"Next year, my husband wants to build a crypt," she said proudly.

e-mail: iliguori@buffnews.com

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