By Lisa Capobianco
What started out as several hand-carved tombstones for the Burke family in 2002 turned into “Spooky Kingdom,” a local Halloween event filled with 15 different animated attractions.
Howard and Bonnie Burke have invited residents statewide to their home at Lovley Drive in Plantsville for the past nine years to experience a Halloween adventure. From the graveyard to a horse-drawn hearse to a breathing gargoyle, Spooky Kingdom offers a variety of Halloween attractions for everyone who attends, young and old. Motion sensors and pneumatic actuators activate the props, and multiple fog machines create a “creepy” atmosphere.
Howard Burke said he enjoys adding dimensions to props, and to create the “unexpected.” He even shares his ideas with other people on online forums.
“My husband was driven by the technology,” Bonnie said. “He loves to make everything move.”
Every year the Burke family adds a new attraction to their Kingdom. This year, the event will feature a crypt area and new feature of the animated show that takes place in the garage.
Bonnie said the event is always a great turnout because it serves as a family-oriented environment for people of all ages.
“It is a casual, friendly environment,” Bonnie said. “We are welcoming, and it is not as scary as other haunted houses or graveyards.”
The Burkes also invite guests to make a donation to the Connecticut Alzeheimer’s Association, a cause that hits home for them.
“My husband’s father had Alzheimer’s, and his mother had it too,” Bonnie said.
Howard said the cause also brings comfort to other families who may have relatives with the disease.
“It is close to us, and it is a sad way to lose people,” said Howard, who lost both parents a few years ago. “A lot of people connect with the cause.”
Last year, the Burke family raised $1,700 even though Hurricane Sandy forced them to hold the event for only one weekend.
In 2011, they raised over $1,300 for the cause even though Winter Storm Alfred in late October forced the Burkes to cancel the event for the rest of the month. Bonnie said their goal this year is $2,000 with the hope that the weather cooperates.
“Finding a cure is the long-term goal,” Howard said.
This year Spooky Kingdom will take place on October 19, 20, 26, 27 and 31 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 14 Lovley Drive. Admission is free, but the Burke family encourages donations to the Connecticut Alzheimer’s Association.
For more information, visit www.spookykingdom.com.
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By Lisa Capobianco