For this undertaking, Bernardoni anything but scary

Brian Bernardoni (left) as Svengoolie

Most IAR members will know Government Affairs Director Brian Bernardoni (Chicago Association of REALTORS®) from the serious work he does with local government officials on real estate issues. But when it comes to Halloween, at his home in the village of Justice, it’s all about fun, family and friends.

“The politicians who follow me on Facebook often ask ‘How’s Halloween coming along?’” says Bernardoni. “This year I can tell them it’s coming along very well. We won first prize in the village’s Halloween House Decorating Contest!” Those who have learned about Bernardoni’s passions – the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, old horror movies – were probably not surprised to see him take a serious interest in decorating his home for Halloween four years ago. Bernardoni started by discussing the idea with his neighbors, “just to see how crazy we all were.”

In their first attempt, they garnered a third place in the village contest. The following two years they earned two second-place finishes before this year’s triumph. And he is very quick to explain that he couldn’t do so well without the creativity, cooperation and muscle of his neighbors.

This year, his garage is divided into four rooms: an executioner’s chamber; a Dr. Frankenstein Laboratory with a Frankenstein monster; a tribute to Chicagoland television icon, Svengoolie; and a “Don’t wake the baby” room, made up of a variety of mysterious, sometimes grotesque, toy baby dolls.

The front yard looks like an old cemetery with a mausoleum, fog and large spider webs. The side yard has numerous places for people in costumes to hide, with several skeletons hung in different places. The back yard has an outdoor movie theater theme with a large canvas hung over a swingset and hay bales for seating.

Inside his home, he’s set up a real coffin, with the room decorated for an old-fashioned wake. He also has a rocking chair that he obtained from the Lizzy Borden estate. With four daughters (ages 16, 7, 5 and 3), Bernardoni says he resists the idea of making his haunted house scary for children who visit. In fact, his three youngest daughters will escort visitors through the yards and inside their home. “They aren’t scared of anything we have,” Bernardoni said. “In fact, they’re at the point where they ask ‘What kind of dumb things will Dad come up with next?’”

Over the years, their decorations have drawn the attention from WGN television and Univision (Spanish television). One of his favorite anecdotes is the closing comment from the Univision reporter who said, “That guy’s wife is a saint.” Neighbors also appreciate how quickly all the decorations are dismantled every year. This year, they will gone by Monday.

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