Mike Mitchel's front yard is covered in fake head stones, ghosts, goblins and other monsters. Skeletons hang from trees. Even his garage has a crypt-like facade that Mitchel built himself.
This is the kind of attention-to-detail neighbors have come to expect from Mitchel's elaborate Halloween display.
But the Plant City homeowner, so accustomed to providing shocks and thrills for the 700 or so trick-or-treaters who visit every year, received a surprise of his own Saturday: neighborhood thieves stole a large statue from his display, along with several other items.
"I noticed that the fence was broken down and that I have a big animatronic caretaker that I built six, seven years ago, and he's been part of this scene every year, and he was gone," Mitchel said.
It takes about three weeks for Mitchel to put the display together piece by piece. Someone broke down the temporary fence that surrounds his display, loaded the caretaker into what he thinks was a pickup truck and drove away.
He found the statue's hat down the street.
While the stolen belongings total about $2,000, that's not what bothers Mitchel the most
"The community seems to enjoy it, and I enjoy it, too, and I don't want to have to think that there are people out there that would do this just for the sake of being malicious," he said. "Surprise was my first thought, and then real disappointment because it's sad that for something like this that I have to worry about vandals coming in and doing damage.
Mitchel has been putting the display up for at least the last 12 years. Neighbors said it's something they look forward to, and they're furious someone would do this
"We love it. We can't wait for him to put it up," said Debbie Cross, who lives down the street. "When I found out that things were stolen and that big statue was stolen, I was like, 'oh, I don't know what I can do.' I felt helpless.
The statue stands roughly 6-and-a-half feet tall. Despite the theft, Mitchel, who is offering a $500 reward for any information that leads to an arrest, doesn't plan on stopping the tradition
"This is a one-time deal. It's not going to stop me from doing this," he said. "We'll be back next year bigger and better, but with a security system."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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