Is This Halloween Display Too Gruesome to Be Near a School?


A gruesome Halloween display at a home near an elementary school is causing controversy this week, as some parents believe the lifelike figures are too scary for young kids.

The display, which is on the front lawn of a home that’s less than one block from Dentzler Elementary School in Parma, Ohio, shows bloody bodies hanging upside down from trees, some with daggers in their necks or mouths.

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Jackie Anselmo, a mother who passes the display daily with her 9-year-old daughter, posted pictures of the display to the City of Parma Facebook page, asking the city to get the homeowners to modify their display. “This ‘creative’ Halloween display is within an elementary school zone,” she writes. “Yes, you are seeing bodies mutilated, strung upside down from an inverted cross and the tree. Parts [missing from the picture] are the bloodied impaled bodies … As I said, this is in plain view of 5-10 year olds at the elementary school. They, and many younger siblings, have to walk past this daily to get to school.”


This display, in the front yard of a home less than one block from an elementary school, is upsetting some local parents. (Photo: WOIO)

Anselmo’s daughter told WOIO that the display was too lifelike. “I felt scared [because] I thought they were real people,” she said.

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But the City of Parma responded to Anselmo’s Facebook request by saying the display is the homeowner’s right. “Unfortunately there is nothing we can do about this display,” city officials wrote in response to Anselmo’s post. “Per the Law Dept. it is freedom of expression.”

That seems unreasonable to Anselmo, she says. “[Since] when does one’s freedom of speech or display trump a child’s right to a tear- or fear-free education?” she asks Yahoo Parenting. “It’s not making ‘wussies’ out of children to want them shielded from it. It’s about not wanting little ones desensitized.”

Anselmo has received plenty of support from other parents who agree the display is over the top, but some think she’s overreacting. “This is a great display! It’s Halloween … scary … teach your kids about the traditions and customs of the holiday just like all of us grew up with,” writes one user. “It’s Halloween. That’s the fun of it. Get a grip,” added another.

Vicki Barrett, the homeowner and mom of two who put up the display, told WOIO that upsetting children was never her intention. “We don’t want to scare kids. We just want to do the Halloween fun of it and but definitely no ill intent,” she said. “If it’s scaring some kids and we know they’re having a hard time leaving school, yeah, we may tone it down.” So far, the display still stands.

Similarly scary displays have raised eyebrows across the country over the past couple of years. Last October, a mom in New Jersey hung three baby dolls covered in fake blood from nooses in her front yard. In 2013, an Oklahoma home showed the bloody bottom half of a body sticking out from the family’s closed garage door — as if someone had been cut in half by its force. A New Jersey home that same year featured a fake pregnant woman in a wheelchair, covered in blood with a baby coming out of her stomach, among other gruesome characters. In each case, neighbors complained but the homeowners claimed the decorations were all in good fun.

Anselmo says she is all for holiday fun, but doesn’t want kids terrified in the process. “I love a good Halloween display,” she wrote on Facebook. “But a 5-year-old should not have to process this while sitting in a classroom.”

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