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Published: Wed, October 20, 2010 @ 12:01 a.m.




Halloween displays on front lawns tend to be macabre; after all, it’s the

nature of Halloween.

A display of disfigured baby dolls on North Main Street, however, has aroused the anger of some residents to the point that the city’s zoning inspector has asked the homeowner to take down the display.

That’s not going to happen, according to Krista Smith, the homeowner.

“They’re taking this as baby specific, and it’s not,” said Smith, 34, a stay-at-home mother with two school-age children. “This is just baby dolls like in [horror] movies and has nothing to do with real babies.

“It’s not meant to offend; it’s meant to be entertaining.”

Smith and Amanda Milton, 28, who also lives at the residence, say their exhibit is designed to reflect “the dark and eerie side of Halloween.”

At that level, it plainly succeeds. One doll hangs by the neck from a tree; another has an imitation ax in its head; and a third, with arms and legs partially dismembered, sits in a sling.

A large crib with dolls that are painted to give the

appearance of being bloodied or charred sits prominently on the lawn. A nearby sign on a sheet says “After Death Daycare” with Milton’s cell-phone number on the bottom.

“Some people have a problem with it,” said Milton, adding that the phone calls she has received have been critical.

“One caller said that we’re going to hell, but I’m a good Christian and I go to church every Sunday,” Smith said. “The idea that I would be displaying dead babies is horrific.”

Zoning inspector Anthony Vigorito asked Smith to remove the display after several city offices reported receiving angry complaints. Smith said Vigorito told her the city had no authority to force her to remove the display. Calls to Vigorito were not returned.

One upset resident, Tracey Greene, 41, said that Smith’s display looks like a depiction of tragic deaths of young children. That opened up a painful memory for Greene, a Niles grandmother, who said she lost an 8-week-old granddaughter to sudden infant death syndrome in 2006.

“If I did something that I realized was upsetting people, I would take it down and I would assume she would do the same,” Greene said. “This is not in the spirit of Halloween — it’s just morbid.”

Terry Dull, Niles law director, said at this point he can find no violation of the city’s nuisance law that would force Smith to remove the display, but he is checking other ordinances.

“I’m looking into the general-offenses code to see if anything else might apply,” Dull said.

Greene said that if Dull finds the city can take no action, she and her family may make signs and protest at the display.

“If she [Smith] has the free speech to do that, then I have the same,” Greene said.

Smith said she put out a smaller version of the display last year, and there were no protests. She vows she will not remove it.

“If they demand that I take this down, then they should make everyone else take down their Halloween displays,” responded Smith.

“I can see where she’s coming from,” Dull said.

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