News & Politics

Halloween Bone-Anza: These Giant Skeletons Are Haunting Yards Around DC

We know where the bodies aren’t buried around here.

Photograph courtesy of Jesse Wells Wrede.
Halloween Hunter

About Halloween Hunter

Reporter Hunter Spears haunts the DC area looking for the delightfully demented and the spectacularly spooky.

You’ve seen them online—perhaps dressed as Taylor Swift—or giving neighborhood kids a good scare. The 12-foot skeletons from Home Depot are so beloved, there is even a Facebook group dedicated to the decor with more than 250,000 members. But what about the massive skeletons in our own front yards? Let’s meet the giant skeletons of the DC area and their undertakers:


Big skeleton, bigger heart

Leland, Jesse, Paisley, and Jesse II. Oh, and Freddy of course! Photograph courtesy of Jesse Wells Wrede.

Name: Freddy Feld Funnybones
Undertaker: Jesse Wells Wrede
Home: Rockville
Hobbies: Keeping a ghoulish eye on three little skeletons

Two years ago, Jesse Wells Wrede was helping his neighbor trim some trees. Instead of taking a cash payment for the task, Wells Wrede accepted a giant skeleton. He’s always loved creating fantastic Halloween scenes—which he says allow us to entertain our own inner children—and he’s recently doubled down with the decor.

Before Freddy came into his life, Wells Wrede came face to face with his own mortality when he suffered a widowmaker heart attack. Fortunately, the Rockville resident survived, and the health scare made him realize he wanted to leave a legacy of fun memories for his three teenagers.

This year, the same neighbor who gifted the original skeleton helped 3D print a giant heart to symbolize the struggle and survival Wells Wrede has gone through. The huge heart is fastened inside Freddy’s ribcage. There, with help from a lighting kit, it can glow and pulsate—a symbol of life shining through the autumn night.


A skelly for all seasons

Name: Skelly
Undertaker: Alex Yedenekachew
Home: Fairfax
Hobbies: Staying on trend with the latest holiday fashions

When Alex Yedenekachew was growing up, her parents weren’t big on decorating for the spooky season. She’s making up for lost time with year-round Halloween decor. Skelly’s fashion changes with each holiday: showing off his pot of gold on St. Paddy’s day, displaying the American and Ethiopian flags on Flag Day, and donning a red bow to guard presents at Christmas. This Halloween, he’s got a pet spider to fit with the rest of the house’s arachnid theme.

Skelly has become a beloved member of the family. Three-year-old Xela can’t remember life before the great skeleton, while one-year-old Dreya loves waving at her marrowy friend.

Yedenekachew thought the interaction between the girls and the skeleton was so sweet, she wrote a children’s book about it that she hopes to publish one day. Elly and Her Skelly tells the story of a young girl and the giant skeleton toy that comes alive on Halloween to play with her.


Brews and bones

At Eavesdrop Brewery, this Skelly roots on his favorite team. Photograph courtesy of Sam Madden, Eavesdrop Brewery.

Name: Skelly
Undertakers: Sam Madden and the Eavesdrop Brewery staff
Home: Manassas
Hobbies: Photobombing your beer Instagram

Although Eavesdrop Brewery’s tallest employee may be a bit of a bonehead at times, general manager Sam Madden still keeps him around—even when it’s not Halloween. Skelly may not be the greatest bouncer (it’s hard to check IDs without eyeballs), but he excels at marketing: When the brewery teamed up with Capitals player Nicklas Bäckström, Skelly was outfitted with a Capitals flag to show his support.

Skelly is also a sartorial snob who only wears custom crafted fabrics, so Madden is now on a first name basis with an Etsy creator who specializes in crafting clothes solely for the skeletons. In the end, despite having such expensive taste, Madden says Skelly is worth it because the boney behemoth seems to brighten everyone’s day.


A symbol of death to honor a life

Toby Radzik dressed as Skeleton Jack in front of “Pumpkin Head”. Photograph courtesy of Mindy Shipman.

Name: Naughty Boh and Pumpkin Head
Undertaker: Mindy Shipman
Home: Parkville, Maryland
Hobbies: Playing footsie with the worms

Despite all the tricks and treats associated with the season, Halloween is about human connection for Mindy Shipman. She’s always loved decorating, but the practice has new meaning this year: Last February, Mindy’s younger sibling Toby Radzik passed away. According to Mindy, Toby was the biggest Halloween fanatic in the family. She honors their memory by creating grand spectacles for all to enjoy. “It keeps my Toby here,” says Mindy.

Beyond the connection to Toby, the skeletons have helped Mindy make friendships through the Facebook group. Each October, Mindy and her family meet up with another skeleton-having family in Dundalk, Maryland, to check out each other’s Halloween set-ups.


Finally, a transparent politician

Homer Skelly and his running mate, Skelly Skelly, at a grassroots event in Vienna. Photograph courtesy of Susan Niebergall.

Name: Homer Skelly
Undertaker: Susan Niebergall
Home: Vienna
Hobbies: Advocating for skeleton rights

When you live near the nation’s capital, not even the undead can escape politics.

When Susan Niebergall first laid eyes on a giant skeleton at Home Depot, she knew she had to have one. There was just one problem: They were all sold out. Fortunately, her son was working at the store in 2021, and tipped her off when a new shipment came in. (In this town, it’s all about who you know.)

During the 2020 presidential race, Susan says she saw a lot of hostility in the political scene. To lighten the mood, she decided that Homer (named after Home Depot) should run for president and advance the skeletal agenda. He joined the race too late to make it on the ballot, but there’s always 2024 …


Holy matri-bony

“Steve the Skele” waves at passersby. Photograph courtesy of Alex Newcomb.

Name: Steve
Undertakers: Alex Newcomb and Dan Bassett
Home: Frederick County, Maryland
Hobbies: Offering a spooky welcome to town

Alex Newcomb was born on October 31, so Halloween has been part of her identity since birth—her mom even affectionately calls Alex her “little witch.” Perhaps that’s why Newcomb and her fiancé Dan Bassett walked out of Home Depot last year with a 12-foot skele-friend instead of the refrigerator they intended to buy.

The couple erected the 60 pounds of steel and synthetic bone in their front yard, in view of the town’s main road. Skeleton Steve welcomes all visitors with a toothy grin that is equal parts welcoming and haunting.

This year, however, the real spectacle is not the giant skeleton out front, but rather the smaller ones out back. Newcomb and Bassettare are getting married this October, and they’ve arranged a macabre marriage with the skeletons—a new spin on “til’ death do us part.”

Editorial Fellow

Hunter is a cat-loving Coloradoan who enjoys history, Halloween and board games. He studied audio production and radio storytelling at Hofstra University before moving to DC in 2022. During his editorial fellowship with Washingtonian in the fall of 2023, he ran Halloween Hunter, a section featuring local stories for the spooky season.