Gone are the days of ghostly pillowcases! Competitive costuming and Halloween lawn mise en scène have grown more elaborate by the decade and makers have delighted in the annual excuse to up the ante and use/learn real skills for maximum spookiness. Truly, Halloween holds an extra special place in the hearts of many makers. And few take it as seriously as Tony DeMatteo of Churchville, NY. You may have seen pictures of Tony’s believe-it-or-not worthy builds floating in all their ghostly glory around the internet, but we first caught sight of them when Rochester (ish) local and former Make: videographer/editor Tyler Winegarner posted some photos of his recent visit. Amazing as full fledged film sets, they are out of this world as super-sized lawn ornaments. This is nothing less than: “THE NATIONS LARGEST, 100% NON-PROFIT, “HOME-HAUNT” HALLOWEEN DISPLAY TO BENEFIT CRITICALLY AND CHRONICALLY ILL CHILDREN THROUGH THE DREAM FACTORY!”
Although DeMatteo–a co-owner/vibration (machinery health) analyst at 4X Diagnostics–has been creating elaborate Halloween scenes for about five years and raised thousands of dollars for local hospitals in the process. Each year the sets get more elaborate and more visitors come to marvel. It was in 2021 that he first built the pirate ships that have won him the title of ‘Spookiest House in America” (from Good Morning America) and his place in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not universe. Accolades and supreme attention to detail aside, what really caught our attention was the build process descriptions and pictures on his website. Unsurprisingly, when the show isn’t up and running, DeMatteo is conceiving, sourced, and built. Since 2021 the Pirates of the Caribbean theme has returned by popular demand, its parts going into storage during the off season. Maintaining this theme by popular demand for the perennially favorite pirates, DeMatteo obviously loves what he does but notes that the tiem and expense make it more like “a second job” than a hobby. The extent of this statement is evident in this video of the build of the Port Royal Stronghold (Fort Charles) with a Jail cell, Fire, Fog and Firing Cannons.
Halloween on Ambush 2023 live and in action on October 28th (filmed by Tyler Winegarner). This really shows the amazing light and sound display and programming that Tony starts putting together 8 to 20 months before Halloween. “My goal is to have the music, lights and effects tell a story and provide a memorable experience for the viewers.”
Tony talks about his process with Halloween specialists HAUNT COLLECTIVE who present THE HAUNT HOUR interview with Tony DeMatteo from Halloween On Ambush. Check out more “Behind the Scenes” pictures to see the build in action HERE.
Check out the Halloween On Ambush website for more pictures of the final set and build or go over to Tony’s social media, which does a lot of the heavy lifting to raise awareness and money for local hospitals. Get inspired by Tony’s mad skills, vision, and heart!