For years, Michael Podlin poured his heart and soul into his extravagant Halloween displays. Now, following his death, it appears the late Arlington Heights spook enthusiast will truly become one with his creations.
The 55-year-old and his family put up a spectacular scene that had thousands flocking to their home for the fall holiday. But this year, the family that spent nearly two decades celebrating the dead will also be celebrating one of their own.
Podlin died of pancreatic cancer Monday, his family confirmed. Still, even up to the last two days before his final breath, Halloween remained a topic of conversation, as he stared out the window that overlooked the yard he spent months haunting.
“That’s how he wanted to do it. So we did it his way,” his wife TammySue Margalit, whose nickname is “scary,” told NBC 5. “He died at home, not under hospital care. With everyone he loved around him.”
But before he died, Podlin had one final request: to become part of the display he spent years designing.
“We promised to follow through with what he asked of us,” Margalit said.
Family members are considering a number of options for the late husband and father in the annual décor.
“If it were up to him, his bones or his casket would be right out there live,” Margalit said. “It’s a little illegal so I’m not going to do that.”
Instead, she’s hoping to put his ashes in the very window he once watched trick-or-treaters from.
“Hopefully I can find a skull that will be able to be sealed and put his ashes in that so he can be in the window,” she said. “I told him I don’t want it in my house. He said, ‘Well put it in the garage.’ I said, ‘I’m not putting it in the garage.’ ‘Just take me out during Halloween.’”
Podlin would spend weeks setting up his 12-foot wooden skeletons and decorating his home with lights, music and other moving creations.
“It took him about 1,000 hours to do two of [the wooden skeletons],” Margalit said.
Podlin told the Daily Herald last year that he did it “for the kids and everyone else.”
“It’s a passion that I live for,” he said.
Podlin was diagnosed with cancer in March 2016 and lived longer than doctors expected, even managing one last Halloween display before his death.
This year, there will be a new addition to his iconic setup -- a tombstone he never finished, written in his own words.
"Cancer sucks," the sign reads.
Podlin died in his home with his wife, his 17-year-old son and two teen daughters by his side, his family said.
A memorial mass is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Alphonsus Church in Prospect Heights, according to his obituary. Condolence calls can be made Tuesday through Thursday at the Margalit/Podlin home from 3-8:30 p.m.
Donations can also be sent via mail to 1845 E. Rand Rd., Arlington Heights, IL, 60004.