Almost 24 years ago, Joe Allocco dressed up as Leatherface from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and revved his chainsaw when neighborhood children stopped by his Norbay Street home on Halloween, not knowing that he was starting a Franklin Square tradition.
The children told their friends, and by the following year, Allocco said, 1,500 people made their way to the dead-end street to see the Franklin Square Horror on Halloween night. As the spectacle grew, he created his first miniature haunted house in 2001. It has since attracted nearly 2,800 people to the neighborhood each year.
“I still can’t believe it got as big as it did,” Allocco, 54, reminisced.
But this year will be his last erecting the popular haunted house, for which he has won several awards. Allocco recently had a mini-stroke, he explained, and his doctor told him to “take it slow.”
“It’s too much work,” Allocco said of building the haunted house every year. He starts putting up L-brackets beside his home at the end of July, and continues to build it up until Halloween night.
Then, when Halloween finally rolls around, he, his family and his neighbors get ready inside his home and eat dinner, sponsored by King Umberto in Elmont and Carmela’s in Massapequa. By 7 p.m., the streets are lined with spectators, and everyone jumps into action.
The neighbors, his wife, Linda, and son, Joseph Tyler, walk down the street to scare the guests in their costumes, and throughout the night, Allocco will emerge through the fog in his signature Leatherface costume to scare spectators once again. He will then return to his lair in the backyard to relax for five minutes, he said, at which time he hears the crowd chant for Leatherface.
“I’m in awe,” Linda said of seeing the spectacle each year, “like my husband really erected this.”
The inspiration for Franklin Square Horror originally came from Allocco’s experiences growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. There, he previously told the Herald, one of his neighbors dressed up as Dracula, stood on the roof of his house and threw candy to the children. Another, he said, dressed as a skeleton and stood in a garage that looked like a torture chamber, and chased children down the street.
“As a child, my neighbors left their mark on me, and I always wanted to take Halloween to that next level,” Allocco said. “I knew in my head that it could be so much more than just throwing candy off the roof. As great as that was — and as much of an impression as that left on me — I knew I could up the ante. I think I have.”
Every year, he said, he chooses a new theme for the house, usually based on popular horror movies that were released that year. When “It” came out in 2017, he had one of his neighbors dress up as Pennywise and hold hands with a young neighborhood girl who was dressed in a yellow jacket and held a red balloon. Last year’s theme also featured Valak, the demonic sister from the film “The Nun.” Other themes have included a “Tomb of Madness,” “Leatherface’s Lair,” a “Zombie Quarantine Zone” and a funeral, in which guests walked through an embalming station and into a funeral complete with zombie mourners.
This year, however, Allocco said he will not do a theme, and will instead incorporate the best props and scare tactics from the past 23 years. Additionally, he said, he will project scenes from previous Franklin Square Horrors onto a screen near the entrance. “They’re going to get scared in there, definitely,” Allocco said of this year’s house, calling his actors “top notch.”
Admission into the haunted house is free, although Allocco puts out a donation box for autism and cerebral palsy organizations. Joseph Tyler, he explained, has both, and as the annual event continued to grow, he wondered how much money he could raise for different organizations. Since then, he has netted several thousand dollars each year for local charities such as the Center for Developmental Disabilities in Woodbury, Camp ANCHOR in Lido Beach and United Cerebral Palsy of Long Island.
Allocco credits his charitable donations for the five Bethpage Best of Long Island awards he has won, the citation he received from the county in 2015 and a Town of Hempstead Make a Difference Award last year. His efforts also earned him seventh place in a FEAR-Net competition of the Best Home Haunts in the country, a Hero of the Island Award from FiOS1 News and a recent spot on the “Rachael Ray Show.”
He said that while this year may mark the end of the award-winning haunted house, “it’s not the end of The Franklin Square Horror,” adding, “I’ve got things up my sleeve, yet.”
The Franklin Square Horror will only be open on Halloween night from 6 to 10 p.m. at 1148 Norbay St.