KOSHKONONG — The whooshing wind made Wishing Well Cemetery haunted indeed, as the stones of the crypt crashed down and a gargoyle literally flew at visitors.
Wednesday’s apparent poltergeist attacks were caused by high winds, but visitors can expect only planned hauntings in the future as the resecured Wishing Well Cemetery, its stones made of cunningly carved and painted Styrofoam, continues to attract visitors from near and far.
Just down the road from Jellystone Park in the Town of Koshkonong, Wishing Well Cemetery actually is the Halloween-themed creation of Larry Klietz, who for many years worked on the “Dr. S. Cary’s” Haunted House at Jellystone.
The extensive “cemetery” is located in the Klietzes’ front yard at N635 Wishing Well Lane, south of Fort Atkinson.
Klietz said he always has loved the Halloween season — the crisp air, smell of fall leaves and all of the spooky decorations and costumes.
A cook at The Fireside Dinner Theatre and a former taxidermist, Klietz always has been very creative and “crafty,” his wife said.
However, he didn’t used to decorate because he would go hunting in the fall.
Then he became involved in Jellystone Park’s “Dr. S. Cary’s Haunted House.” He started out doing groundskeeping, and within a few weeks, Klietz was in charge of setting up the haunted house.
“I was passionate about it, whereas for some others, it was just a job,” he said.
While the Jellystone haunted house originally was open just for campers, Klietz said, he convinced owner Steve Cline that it was “too good not to share” and that he should welcome the general public, as well.
Through the years, Klietz; his wife, Mary Beth; and their son, Marty, all served as actors at the haunted house.
The Halloween attraction became a big hit throughout the area and was getting lots of positive feedback, gaining recognition as Southeastern Wisconsin’s #1-rated haunted house in 2013 and 2014.
Leasing issues since led Jellystone to close the haunted house, Klietz said.
Around 2015, inspired by the work he was doing at Jellystone, Klietz started developing the extensive “Wishing Well Cemetery” on his own property, building almost the entire structure himself.
The cemetery now measures around 4,000 square feet, with 30 tombstones and numerous other features.
The “wrought-iron-style” fencing around the cemetery, painted to resemble weathered metal, was created out of PVC pipe and wood, with some of the pieces installed crookedly in order to add to the atmosphere of age and neglect.
Klietz carved the “stone” structures throughout the mock graveyard out of Styrofoam, painting them so that they had the same finish as mildew-stained headstones. These include numerous individualized gravestones of all different shapes and sizes.
Klietz said he used an engraving tool to cut the names and designs into the tombstones.
The graveyard also contains two different crypts, each with its own attraction inside, and other features like a “stone” bench.
At the front of the graveyard, as viewed from the road, stand three large pumpkins.
If you drive by during the day, they’re silent and ordinary. But at night, they make faces, talk and sing, thanks to a projected recording Klietz has to reset each night.
Guarding the main cemetery entrance is an oversized chain, which Klietz also created from Styrofoam.
Most of the Styrofoam features of the graveyard are stabilized by wooden bases.
During the day, one crypt seems to be empty, hung with a grayish cloth that obscures the interior. However, at night, lights shine through to reveal the vampire inside hanging upside-down, alternating with a ghostly image projected onto the cloth “door.”
“I really had to play around with the angles to make that work,” Klietz said.
The Koshkonong resident said that he built the entire vampire crypt from boards recycled from a burn pile, creating pillars of Styrofoam to hide the seams and giving it all an aged finish.
The gargoyle guarding the entrance was created by Klietz as well, his first carved Styrofoam creation.
In another area of the graveyard stands a well-like structure initially intended to house a fountain. However, when Klietz installed the submersible fountain, it sprayed all over and didn’t prove practical. So he instead installed an “eternal flame” that flickers in the nighttime, spreading an eerie light.
Lighting the entire graveyard at night are colored floodlights that give the entire area an otherworldly look.
Klietz said he’s adding details to the graveyard all of the time. New this year is a Grim Reaper, the framework for which he created out of PVC pipe. The tattered robe he cut out of cloth.
The skeletal head and the bouquet of skulls the figure holds he purchased.
Klietz said that he had to put a personal touch on the graveyard. A big “Star Wars” fan, he decided to have the names on his gravestones be a tribute to the popular space epic. The deceased villains are on the “Dark Side,” the left side of the graveyard as viewed from the road, while the deceased heroes are “buried” on the right side.
Many Star Wars symbols decorate the graves.
Also new is a motorized “Grave-Grabber” figure that appears to crawl out of Boba Fett’s resting place. If someone approaches, the ghoulish figure reaches out as if to grab him or her.
The second, larger crypt in the graveyard is another tribute to “Star Wars,” containing painted villain figures who seem to jump out at spectators when lit with black light at night. This came straight from “Dr. S. Cary’s” and originally served as a mausoleum at the Jellystone Park attraction, but the interior decorations are completely new.
The Klietzes welcome visitors to stop by and see their Halloween attraction.
For those who wish to express their appreciation for the seasonal display, the Klietzes have a collection bin and a locked donation box to collect food, needed supplies and monetary donations for the Humane Society of Jefferson County.
“We figured, if people are coming out anyway, why not collect for a good cause?” Klietz said.
Klietz turns on the lights and sets up the projections and recordings each evening so that the display is ready for visitors. Everything usually is up and running by 6:30 or 7 p.m. and continues until 10 or 11 p.m.
“We get a lot of people pulling up to look,” he said, noting that the cemetery will remain up through early November.
The Klietzes have posted a short video on “Wishing Well Cemetery” on YouTube. It can be found under that title or by visiting https://youtu.be/8-1gOY9WB-U.
People also may also check out the Wishing Well Cemetery’s Facebook page at https://facebook.com/Wishing-Well-Cemetery-298660207300667/.