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LIGHTNING PHOTOS: The scariest house in town

Jody Chandler created the scariest Halloween yard in Fletcher. Jody Chandler created the scariest Halloween yard in Fletcher.

FLETCHER — Standing amid skeletons, hand-carved jack-o’-lanterns, spider web-draped trees and grinning zombies covered in blood, Jody Chandler declares, “I’m afraid of the dark.”

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Jody Chandler created the scariest Halloween yard in Fletcher.

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Then he adds, “I don’t like no scary movie.”
So how did the mild-mannered Mr. Chandler become the mastermind of what must be the scariest house in all of Henderson County, the haunted Halloween destination for hundreds of children and thrill seekers, the zombie resort of Livingston Farms — or is it “Deadingston” Farms?
“Because everybody else likes it,” he says.
A landscaper by day, Chandler, 40, spends his own money and time to put together the elaborate and frightening production at the corner of Meadow Pathway Drive and Running Briar Road.
“There’s a lot to this,” he says.
Indeed. It’s impossible to appreciate the experience just through the windshield, though plenty of the gawkers who find their way here do it that way. On the ground, treading carefully along narrow pathways, you can see the jack-o’-lanterns — “they’re all hand-carved,” Chandler says — and jump out of the way of a zombie’s bony hand and watch a terrifying rabbit pop out from a top hat and veer away from a scary doll creeping out from a shrub.
The producer and director shops at Halloween Express — a seasonal vendor of fright supplies in Asheville — and relies on an indispensable partner.
“If it wasn’t for my wife, I would not have any of this. She does all the props,” he says of Melody, a 1993 West Henderson High School graduate who grins and then reminds her husband to tell about the Rugby Middle School fundraiser.
Oh, yeah. His son’s school was selling those $1 chocolate bars. Chandler figured if he had the best tricks he also ought to have the best treats. He bought $1,900 worth.
“We’ll have about 1,100 trick or treaters come,” he says.
Besides an 11-year-old at Rugby, the couple has twin daughters, age 14, at North Buncombe High School.
“People like it,” he says of his fright show. “I like to be creative. I get hundreds and hundreds of people come by. They get out and take pictures.”
Across-the-street neighbor Amanda Gunn confirms that.
“We love it,” she says. “The kids absolutely love it.” Her children, ages 4 and 7, enjoy seeing the production grow. “They watch him work. He adds something new every day. We've been enjoying watching people come by and get out. It gets bigger and bigger."
Chandler starts three weeks before Halloween.
“If I work as hard as I can go, it takes me 80 hours to get it set up,” he says. His investment? “Ten thousand dollars. I’m being honest.” That’s not counting the $1 candy bars or the light bill or the gasoline to run the generators that power the speakers and the motors and fog machines and the flashing lights.
So, some Grinch in the neighborhood association must be grumbling about the moans and groans and screams and scary music and the caravan of sight-seers after dark every night, right? Not exactly.
“They want me to leave it up longer and start earlier,” he says of his neighbors. Livingston Farms has a lot of young families.
So when he takes down his Halloween yard on Sunday, Chandler rests for the winter? No, that guess would be wrong, too.
His next production is also elaborate, if a lot more pastoral.
“I do a fall harvest,” he says, complete with hay bales and pumpkins and an 1890s hay wagon.