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Whistling past the graveyard

If you’ve been procrastinating about going to see this year’s Davis Graveyard display on the corner of Southeast 43rd Avenue and Johnson Creek Boulevard in Milwaukie, be warned: It is all coming down on Friday, Nov. 1.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: JEFF DAVIS - Milwaukie High School's dance team, the Pony Prancers, shambles to the beat of Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' at the Davis Graveyard again this year.Davis Graveyard is open for viewing from the street from dusk till 10 p.m. Oct. 30 and 31, and Milwaukie High School’s Pony Prancers will begin dancing to “Thriller” at 5 p.m. on Halloween.

“They’ll perform every 15 to 20 minutes, and this year they are mimicking a version of ‘Thriller’ from ‘Glee.’ It is ‘Thriller’ with a mash-up of other popular songs,” said Jeff Davis, who along with his wife, Chris, has been creating the graveyard for 14 years.

Dancers will sell hot beverages and snacks at the event on Halloween, and money raised helps support the team. The yard spectacle, which is mentioned in the documentary “American Scream,” features a ruined mausoleum, monuments and a large, redesigned, life-size ruined abbey display.

“We’ve been working on the abbey for three years, and we are using a new foam technique on it that gives us new details and opens the possibility of doing new projects,” Chris Davis said.

The graveyard display also features special effects like sound, video, fog and animations. When the display is running, road closures on 43rd Avenue between Johnson Creek Boulevard and Roswell Street will be in effect for safety.

For years, the Davises have created an eerie yard haunt that has attracted people from all over the Pacific Northwest. On the 14th anniversary of the yard display, this year their modest 1930s-era home sports a traditional haunted-graveyard theme.

Nearly every prop is handmade by local artists, and in 2006, the Davises won an international Yard Haunt video award.

The annual open house at the graveyard held Sunday, Oct. 13, gave the public a behind-the-scenes look to meet the people who helped create the display.

“Because the weather has been so great, we had about 400 people come to the open house, and there were a lot of new people,” Chris Davis said.

She added that people kept telling her they had no idea of the scope of the display, because photos just can’t do it justice.

“We have 10 new tombstones this year, with a lot of pop-culture references. One new one is for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s died a bunch of times, so we have multiple death dates,” Jeff Davis said.

People who have not seen the display before should do so, because it is “a unique experience with a lot of detail. There is nothing in Portland quite like this. Lots and lots of people come back every year to see what we’ve done differently,” he added, saying that because the weather has been so good, the display has stayed intact, undisturbed by wind or rain.

He also said that every year he and his wife field questions from people about the graveyard, asking how they make the props, and if they are for sale.

“We teach classes in the summer, because we prefer to teach people how to do what we do, so they can add their own creativity,” Jeff Davis said.

They charge for the classes, and he noted the money helps pay for material costs so they can keep the graveyard going from year to year.

“This all comes out of our pockets, and the classes help offset the cost. We are not making any money,” he said.

Boo!

What: 14th annual Davis Graveyard display

Where: The corner of Southeast 43rd Avenue and Johnson Creek Boulevard in Milwaukie; some nearby streets are closed for safety.

When: Wednesday, Oct. 30, and Thursday, Oct. 31, from dusk to 10 p.m.

Dance Team: The Pony Prancers will begin to perform “Thriller” at 5 p.m. on Halloween, and will continue to dance very 15 to 20 minutes.

Details: The display is seen from the street only and is free. Donations gladly accepted. Hot beverages and snacks available on Halloween — proceeds benefit the dance team.

Website: Visit davisgraveyard.com for information about the origins of the display and more.



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