JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Turn down Pinewalk Court in the Pinewalk subdivision and you will find out why neighbors call Laura Stalemark “The Cat Woman.”
You can’t miss the 35-foot inflatable black cat in her front yard. That is just a small clue to how much she likes to celebrate Halloween. One year, it made the Google map of her house.
Eleven months out of the year, Laura is as normal as apple pie. But come Oct. 1, her entire house goes through a transformation of vampire bats, zombies of all sizes, skeletons and dioramas of gore.
“I go along with it. But I won’t let her start putting things out until Oct. 1,” said her husband Greg. “Otherwise there would be two months of this.”
He gestures around the living room that has a skeleton sitting at the piano, bats on the wall and other blood-curdling little vignettes tucked in corners and on tables. Every room in the house (except upstairs) is decorated with ghoulish delight.
“I just think it is a fun thing to do,” said Laura, who makes a lot of the horrific stuff herself. “I have my own prop shop where I can experiment.”
Fortunately, she only experiments with plaster of paris, plastic and vegetable dyes.
She is also a bargain hunter, so she picked up her life-size $300 Hannibal Lecter for $75 because it was damaged. Honestly, who would know?
Her two daughters Sarah, 9, and Greta, 13, are remarkably undamaged by all of this, saying, “Oh, that’s just Mom.” Of course none of Sarah’s friends are comfortable coming over to her house in the month of October and Greta had to move her girls’ sleepover to a hotel.
Sarah said she doesn’t mind.
“I’m fine with it so long as there is nothing in my room,” Sarah said.
But for the kids who are brave enough, she has given two tours inside the house.
“It only really got extreme the last six years,” Laura said. “I got started when I was about 13 when I would decorate our basement for Halloween and charge a quarter to go through it. I raised $22 that I donated to the Buffalo, [N.Y.] Children’s Hospital.”
She still has a letter of thanks from the hospital. And gradually her decorating of the basement of her Johns Creek home crept upstairs. It is acknowledged that hers is the best Halloween party in the neighborhood.
Every year, she adds another scene, such as the zombie nursery, with some little tykes you definitely don’t want for play dates with your kids. To date, her zombie head count is around 20 – that’s just counting the heads.