Skeletons on Spring Street in Ripley spread smiles and joy across Jackson County
RIPLEY — The Wilkes family of four has been doing laundry for eight since Oct. 1.
Every night the family sits around the dinner table discussing what the four skeletons in their yard will be doing tomorrow. From kayaking to ziplining, these skeletons have had an adventure in the Wilkes' front yard every day this month.
The Wilkes', located on Spring Street in Ripley, are in a month-long friendly competition with a friend in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, to see who has the best Halloween yard decorations. Every night both houses conjure up a new scene with their skeletons and people vote for their favorite on Instagram @daily_skeletoncomp.
Whoever has the most votes for best decorations by the end of the month gets a free ticket to a concert of their choice. Samara Wilkes has been the leader of the skeleton competition at her house because she hasn't ever been to a concert. The music-lover said if she wins she wants to see either Dolly Parton or Post Malone.
"I have a really wide music range," Samara said.
Her mom, Teresa, said she never knows what kind of music her daughter will play in the house or the car. Sometimes it's classical, other times it's R&B.
Practically everyone in the family has a passion for music. Samara sings and plays the piano and ukelele, her dad used to be a musician — pierced ears included — and her younger brother Gabriel is in the band. So betting concert tickets just made sense.
Their family friend in Pittsburg, Kimberly Good, had put skeletons in her yard last year and her neighbors loved it. One day in September Samara and Kimberly were on the phone talking like they often do, and by the time the call ended they had both agreed to compete for the best skeleton decorations.
When Samara goes to class at Ripley High School, she is asked about the skeletons by friends and teachers every day. Even her brother gets questions about the skeletons in his band class.
People are invested in the skeletons. Teresa said the daily decorations have proven to put smiles on countless faces. One day a friend reached out to Teresa thanking her for a daily laugh.
"She said 'from one mom to another, I just want to thank you,'" Teresa recalled. "'I haven't had a lot to look forward to.'"
Samara said a mom from Ravenswood sent a DM to the skeleton account on Instagram thanking her for sharing the competition. She brings her kids down to look at the skeletons regularly.
As of Oct. 25, Samara had won 17 of the days and Good seven with one tie. October has 31 days — the winner needed at least 16 wins.
"That means you've won the tickets," Samara's dad Ben said. "She can't catch up to the 17."
Ben joked and said they were done and Samara instantly said no. It's not just about the concert tickets anymore.
The best part about having the skeletons for the Wilkes' is seeing people stop their cars smiling and pointing and sometimes even get out of them to take pictures with the skeletons.
Some days are more hectic than others. Good beating them to some of the scenes they were planning on like yoga and Twister have led to some last-minute ideas like a skeleton pregnancy announcement and bubble bath.
Some nights it's all hands on deck. Samara's grandfather and her friends have helped with some of the scenes like when the skeletons were kayaking in the front yard and ziplining from their neighbor's chimney to their front door.
The Wilkes' don't like to start moving the skeletons around until after dark because they want it to be a surprise for everyone. With Samara having dance lessons almost every day, it works out. Some nights they don't start until 11 p.m.
With Halloween quickly approaching, the Wilkes' have begun hearing comments like "We can't wait for the finale."
"What finale?" Ben said with a laugh.
The Wilkes family has a few more ideas up their sleeves.
— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.