By Matt Mattei - [email protected]

Festive zombies are centerpiece of Christmas display for Forty Fort family

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A lion statue wears a Santa hat just near the front door of the Reilly residence on River Street in Forty Fort.
Sean McKeag | Times Leader
An old-fashioned sleigh sits underneath a wreath decorated outside of the Reilly residence in Forty Fort.
Sean McKeag | Times Leader
Zombie decorations outside the Reilly house on River Street in Forty Fort.
Sean McKeag | Times Leader

FORTY FORT — The Reilly household on River Street is noticeable. It’s a large, white, stately home with high-reaching columns and two lion statues that guard the threshold. This year, though, the property features unique Christmas decorations that make the house stand out more than usual.

In addition to their regular yuletide decor, which includes an antique sleigh from the early 1900s, a wreath on the front door, garland wrapping the columns, dressed up lions and lights in the bushes, the Reillys’ display showcases a troupe of rather realistic-looking zombies holding jumbo-sized Christmas ornaments and wearing Santa Claus hats and beards. According to the family, the merry dead were introduced as a joke but quickly began turning heads.

Bud Reilly, who started the display with the help of his son, Charlie, said the inspiration for the jolly zombies came when Bud’s wife, Linda, insisted he take down their Halloween decorations.

“She was screaming, ‘Get rid of those; my friends are calling,’” Bud said.

Bud said he set out to clean up the PVC and paper-mache zombies he purchased at an auction several years ago, but his sense of humor got the best of him.

Charlie became involved, he said, when his dad reached out for help with the joke.

“He called me the one day and said, ‘Hey, I need you to come over and help me decorate, but we have to do it when Mom’s not home. It’ll take five minutes,’” Charlie said. “My buddy and I came over … and just as a joke, I said, ‘Watch, I bet my dad’s going to make us decorate the zombies for Christmas. It turns out, that actually was his idea … mostly to get (my mom) upset, just to play a joke.”

Charlie said the prank, designed to annoy his mother, garnered immediate attention.

“Within 10 minutes of putting them in the yard, we had people pulling over and taking pictures of them, so they just stuck since then,” he said.

Linda appreciated the gag, she admitted, but is still a bit unsure of advertising the Christmas additions to those closest to her.

“I did laugh,” she said. “It is funny. Usually I would say, ‘You’ve got to see our decorations,’ but I’m almost a little embarrassed.”

While Bud insists the initial motivation was to playfully tease Linda, he maintains there was another reason for decking the dead.

“I think it’s a matter of laziness,” Linda said with a laugh. “They just didn’t want to put them away, so they thought they’d bring some balls and decorations and lights.”

“That’s all it was,” Bud added. “We thought it would tick her off.”

The Reillys’ sense of humor, Linda said, has been appreciated by onlookers well past that fateful day when the first zombie received a Santa hat … or perhaps when St. Nicholas rose from the dead.

“People stop all the time, and there are almost near accidents,” Linda said. “Or they call and they say, ‘Can we take pictures of our kids near your lions or near your display?’ I say, ‘Go right ahead.’”

Even the neighbors, Bud said, have approached him while he’s been doing yard work to compliment the ghoulish display.

“It’s in the Christmas spirit, no matter what’s out there,” Linda said.

According to Bud, the family hasn’t talked yet about whether the zombies will become a fixture during Christmas as they are on Halloween, but he said it is a possibility.

“Wait until you see our Easter display,” he joked.

Joke decorations gain popularity among passers-by

By Matt Mattei

[email protected]

A lion statue wears a Santa hat just near the front door of the Reilly residence on River Street in Forty Fort.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_ChristmasDecor3.jpgA lion statue wears a Santa hat just near the front door of the Reilly residence on River Street in Forty Fort. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

An old-fashioned sleigh sits underneath a wreath decorated outside of the Reilly residence in Forty Fort.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_ChristmasDecor2.jpgAn old-fashioned sleigh sits underneath a wreath decorated outside of the Reilly residence in Forty Fort. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

Zombie decorations outside the Reilly house on River Street in Forty Fort.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_ChristmasDecor1.jpgZombie decorations outside the Reilly house on River Street in Forty Fort. Sean McKeag | Times Leader
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Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or [email protected]