Stephanie Valgos knows the exact moment she realized that she was more than just a Halloween enthusiast. She was a professional cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders at the time and her team was performing a dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" during a Halloween game. While her teammates donned skirts with artfully placed rips, Valgos took her costume to another level.
"I was a total serial killer crazy lady with a wig and fangs," said Valgos.
She has pictures of that performance and the original costume — a freezer suit complete with eyeball kabobs and a severed head — is now a part of the creepy items currently in residence in her front yard.
Every other October for the past eight years, Valgos has transformed her north Turlock home into a spine-chilling display of all things spooky. Her entire front yard is now home to a cemetery, with a few of the undead attempting to rise, while a party of skeletons and severed body parts hang mysteriously on her front porch.
For those with nerves of steel, Valgos has erected a haunted tent in her driveway that gives guests a walk through ghostly saints, a witches' lair and a carnival ran by evil clowns.
It takes Valgos and a crew of helpful friends three to four weeks to put every tombstone, floating skull and spider web in place.
"My hot glue gun is my best friend," said Valgos, who creates every scene from her imagination.
"I'm never done. There's always one more spider or skeleton or more blood that can be placed."
She buys miles of wire for her creations and about "2,000 safety pins" are used to keep everything together.
Valgos started her Halloween display with the purchase of life-sized bride and groom skeletons, and it just grew from there. She now spends close to $400 each year adding new items.
Her signature look, however, is a throwback to her college days.
"When I was in college, we would move all the furniture out of a room and have black light parties," said Valgos.
She now covers all her creepy creations in liquid Tide laundry soap so they glow brightly under the many black lights that are strategic placed around her porch and yard.
From the tiniest fake spider to the towering grim reaper, Valgos strives for spooky perfection.
"My daughter has a lot of spirit," said Valgos' mother, Leontina Pereira. "It's a lot of fun."
Valgos' 11-year-old daughter Paris is also a fan of Halloween.
"When I was younger, I had a skeleton toy named Bones and I always slept with it," said Paris.
Valgos enjoys sharing her gruesome creations with the community. The haunted tent is open every night this week, and on Friday and Saturday the queen of Halloween will welcome trick-or-treaters from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. with cotton candy and treats.
Valgos' haunted house is located at 4215 Merchant Lane.