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Granger family's love of Halloween lands them on national TV show

If you live in Granger’s Fairfield Estates subdivision, you’re probably familiar with John and Lynn Hoke’s passion for Halloween.

This year the rest of America experienced the couple’s love for the holiday.

The Hokes competed on an ABC network show, The Great Halloween Fright Fight. Eight families competed over two episodes --- four families per episode –- to see who could decorate their home the best for Halloween. At stake was a $50,000 prize.

The show was broadcast Sunday night and is still streaming on Hulu. Spoiler alert if you plan to watch, STOP READING HERE.

The Hokes didn’t win, an outcome John called pretty disappointing. He figures he spent about 1,000 hours over four months building the Chamber of Souls in their back yard. It’s a fully enclosed haunted house ride that lasts 10 minutes.

The family was letting people who registered in advance ride it for free. That’s no longer happening, but they do plan to keep the garage door open during Trick-or-Treating so people can check out their animatronics.

Earlier this year John taught himself some computer-aided design and 3D printing. With his mechanical skills, you might think he’s an engineer but actually he’s a finance and sales consultant.

“Growing up as a kid, I used to get in so much trouble taking everything apart in the house, hairdryers, toasters, I took speakers out of things I wasn’t supposed to,” John says. “I’ve always just been curious wanting to know how things work and over the years that’s never changed.”

John isn’t sure how the show’s producers found them, but he thinks they likely saw images of his past Halloween displays on social media. He has an avid Instagram following.

The couple are both crazy about Halloween. They started with a haunted garage in 2010 and have added more each year.

“It was amazing,” he said. “The crew was great. Everybody was great. They treated us great. It’s one of those things that you’ll remember forever.”

Indeed. The Hokes, with permission from St. Joseph County commissioners, had part of their street closed on Sept. 10, the day the production crew shot everything for the show.

“It was a big production crew at the house,” he said. “Shut the street down. Lights everywhere. Drones all over the place. So it was a great time.”

In past years, Lynn said she has helped with ideas for John to build. This year, perhaps motivated by that $50,000 prize, she was more hands-on.

“I built things and I had not ever done that for him before,” Lynn says. “Like normally I just kind of hang out, and I’m like what about this idea? What about that idea? But this year I was like, I need to get more involved. That being said, that made it so much harder for me for us to lose. I was like, it hurt. Because I got a bigger taste of what it means to put all that hard work into it. While it was an honor to be on the show, it was like when you don’t win any huge athletic event. You cry, you get upset.”

Had they won, they planned to use some of the prize money to take their six-year-old daughter to Disneyworld.

“It broke her heart a little bit but it was the whole talk-through of, you know, you win you lose sometimes,” Lynn says.

The Hokes put so much work into the project, they don’t want to take it down right away. They’re thinking about converting it to a ride for Christmas.

John still needs to completely sell Lynn on the idea.

“I go back and forth,” she says. “The other night I came out from getting ready for bed, and I told him, I was like, I’m ready, let’s do this. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it, and ideas, and then the next day I was like, I don’t want to do it. I’m done. It’s so back and forth because I know what we’re capable of doing. But I know if we do, it’s going to be pretty awesome.”

Parrott, a longtime public radio fan, comes to WVPE with about 25 years of journalism experience at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan, including 13 years at The South Bend Tribune. He and Kristi live in Granger and have two children currently attending Indiana University in Bloomington. In his free time he enjoys fixing up their home, following his favorite college and professional sports teams, and watching TV (yes that's an acceptable hobby).