How Home Depot’s Huge Skeleton Became the Hottest Halloween Decoration


For the 22,400 members of the 12 Ft Skeleton Halloween Club on Facebook, a Code Orange message is not an exercise. It’s time to act or risk losing the hottest Halloween decoration from the past two seasons.

Many of the urgent messages read like police bulletins:

“Code Orange St. Louis” read one post. “1 Inferno in South County off Lindbergh at 9:30 am.”

“Code Orange… 1 Skelly Inferno located on the Beechmont site, Cincinnati Ohio! Hope this helps someone!

“CODE ORANGE. Inferno at the Deerfield store in Illinois! “

For the latter, group member David was stationed next to a huge cardboard box inside a Home Depot. The parcel weighed nearly 100 pounds and contained a giant skeleton which, when assembled, represents a mammoth 12 feet tall, roughly the size of an African elephant or two refrigerators stacked one on top of it. other.

Knowing how rare it is, David was ready to fend off any civilians who might want to grab it. He wanted someone in the community to have a chance. Some 20 minutes after his post he updated, “OK guys, this is member bought.”

These seasonal Halloween Home Depot dramas are taking place across the country, with the big box home improvement retailer offering a Halloween display that has people walking hundreds of miles and calling stores endlessly to check stock. When inventory arrives, it often doesn’t even make it to the sales floor. Finally, when the skeleton is theirs, admirers pose, personalize, and dress it in hundreds of creative ways.

Quickly and silently, the Home Depot skeleton became a Halloween version of the Beanie Babies phenomenon. People will do (almost) anything to get one.

Good bone structure

The origins of “Skelly”, as the skeleton is known to its fans, date back to the spring of 2019. Lance Allen, who holds the title of Decorative Holiday Dealer with The Home Depot and oversees all seasonal holiday decorations for the store, was at that time. of a trade show when he spotted a huge skeleton torso. No body, just a torso.

Allen was captivated by his size. The scale would stand out in Home Depot’s huge warehouse-style stores.

But Allen wanted to do more than just a torso. He wanted all the bony physique, and in dimensions that would make buyers stop their cart in its tracks. He insisted he go in at 10 feet before settling down to 12 feet, which knocked out his engineer’s mouth. But it worked: Skelly was easy to design because it was based on a human skeleton and only required deviating from anatomical accuracy because the scale didn’t look right.

Size was only part of it. When you look at Skelly, you’ll see a pair of blinking, moving eyes, the result of awesome LCD technology that Home Depot calls LifeEyes. “Our LifeEyes technology feature uses LCD screens that make the eyes appear to be moving and blinking,” says Allen. The pupils even dilate.

The massive skeleton was ready to roll and The Home Depot set a price tag of $ 300, but Skelly almost didn’t make it for the fall 2020 season: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the decor team has started having doubts about introducing a new product at the height of a public health crisis. But in the end, they decided to go ahead.

That summer, photos of the skeleton were posted online and immediately began to cause a stir. By the time the product hit the sales floor in August, it was selling nationwide and was becoming a viral sensation.

This year, The Home Depot added a companion: a 12-foot skeleton with a pumpkin head and a light-up torso. Dubbed the Inferno Pumpkin ($ 350), it’s part of a collection of decorations under the Rotten Patch label, which includes mutilated pumpkin accent pieces and weird gravestones. The Hellish Pumpkin has proven to be equally popular, with the only negative consequences being that the products are so scarce.

Once found, the biggest challenge is figuring out how to bring Skelly and Inferno Pumpkin home. “It was a big concern,” Allen says. “We knew we had designed one of the greatest Halloween items of all time. Our only trepidation was how our customers could bring it home due to the size of the box. It’s amazing the creative ways our customers have found to bring it home.

Skelly is perfect for a sedan. So some people had to unpack it in the parking lot and organize the parts, Jenga style, to fit. Then they return home with a car full of bones. Others enlist friends with SUVs or pickups.

Once they arrive at their final resting place, the thirty or so pieces take two people about an hour to assemble. But finishing Skelly is really just the first step in what has become a Halloween obsession for many.

Skelly Mania

Jennifer Penelope Corcoran first noticed Skelly in the summer of 2020, when she was mentioned in some decorating groups she belonged to on Facebook.

“Some of the decor groups weren’t fans of it and wouldn’t even let people post it,” Corcoran told Mental Floss. “We always said ‘Welcome to the club’ when someone had one, and I had pitched the idea of ​​starting a group but I didn’t know if anyone would join.”

Corcoran launched its Facebook group, 12 Ft Skeleton Halloween Club, in August 2020, and it has grown exponentially. It has become one of the best ways to exchange ideas, get tips on locating a Skelly, and share photos from Halloween exhibits.

“There are so many answers to what the call is,” Corcoran says. “With everything that happened last year, I think we needed something to brighten our spirits. The 12 foot skeleton was completely above, especially with the eyes, and it was something extraordinary that stood out. The heart wants what it wants and the skeleton just has that “wow” factor that makes children and children at heart happy. “

Skelly enthusiasts usually go through stages to become a display keeper. After locating it, sometimes via Facebook group tips, sometimes by calling stores, and sometimes just by being in the store when new stock arrives, it is expected to be named. (Among them: Indiana Bones, Captain Jack Marrow, The Big Leboneski, John Bone Jovi and Marvin.)

Skelly often becomes the centerpiece of outdoor dioramas, where he can be found mummified, drinking beers, or dressed in sportswear. A giant 5ft 5in spider can sometimes be seen lurking around. Home Depot also released several costumes, including a witch dress. If Skelly wants to relax, fans can purchase a Bone Throne, which can accommodate her lanky body. Advice is often sought on how best to ensure that the Skellys stay upright. (The product comes with a stand and ground stakes, although owners often choose to secure it more with zip ties or even concrete.) One fan proposed the wedding in front of their screen. Some even migrate indoors.

The facilities are sufficiently elaborate, and Skelly remains an acquisition rare enough that a person’s house can become something of a tourist attraction. “I bought one last year and bought another 12ft this year and the 12ft Inferno pumpkin skeleton as well,” Corcoran said. “The local response has been enormous! I work from home and I could hear the kids go by all day and most of them were taking pictures with it. I can’t wait to see their reaction this year.

Attention to skelly displays has also inspired collectors to get involved in a charitable cause. After enthusiastic Jeff Robertston put up a sign near his display in Holly Springs, North Carolina, encouraging people to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 2020, Corcoran jumped at the chance and made a Created Skeletons for St. Jude: Members posted QR codes near their skellys for visitors to donate. The effort has raised more than $ 22,000 to date for the hospital, which focuses on the treatment and research of childhood illnesses, including cancer. (Non-members or those not near a participating posting can donate here.)

Grave robbers

There’s a lot of happiness in Skelly’s fandom, but a guaranteed way to lower the buzz is to float the idea of ​​scalping. As with most rare consumer products, enterprising dealers have gotten into the habit of grabbing Skellys and offering them on the aftermarket for two or three times the retail price.

Some pay; others see it as bad form and lousy Halloween ethics. “I’m not a fan of it and I can’t stand it,” Corcoran says. “Home Depot has intentionally kept the price at the same level as last year to make it affordable for more people, despite the addition of an AC adapter. [for the LCD eyes]. I constantly get messages from people trying to locate them, such as first responders with COVID, parents of children with special needs, or people who cannot afford dealer prices. “

Scalpers are not allowed in the Corcoran Facebook group. When sales do occur, it is usually only for the cost of the item plus any gasoline or shipping costs involved in obtaining it.

Theft and vandalism are also concerns. Some owners install motorcycle alarms on their Skellys or add Ring Doorbells to monitor footage. The latter, which can transmit audio, has the added bonus of being able to scare passers-by.

As Halloween quickly approaches, some Skelly devotees are wondering if they’ll ever get their hands on one. Inventory is unpredictable and Home Depot has not said whether the shortages are due to supply chain issues, runaway popularity, or something else. But as long as Code Orange exists, there is always hope.

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