The late Arlington Heights spook enthusiast, Michael Podlin, becomes one with his creations—a dying wish come true for a man who spent years pouring his heart and soul into extravagant Halloween displays, and his widow gives her final goodbyes to a community who always looked forward to visiting on Halloween.
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, also celebrated the spooky day with one of their own.
“We promised to follow through with what he asked of us,” Margalit said. “If it were up to him, his bones or his casket would be right out there live,” Margalit said.
Instead, this Halloween season his ashes were placed inside a now-sealed skull and the family placed it in the very window he once watched trick-or-treaters from.
The skull is attached to a wooden base that has his full name engraved, followed by his date of birth and date of death, and just below it reads, "Loving son, husband, father, uncle and friend."
In addition, the base has a quote Margalit says is something her husband used to say all the time, “‘Tell me your nightmares and let me hep you face them!’ Halloween was more than a passion, it was a lifestyle!”
Podlin died of pancreatic cancer in June. 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.
"I’ve been working on things with my hands, crying my eyes out, two 'o clock in the morning, trying to get this display up," she said.
Margalit said she'd spent 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, a new addition to his iconic setup included 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.
"It’s just sad that the house won’t be the same," said Halloween visitor Shawn Larson.
Margalit recalls that her husband was more of the tech guy; she merely the artist.
"I’m trying my best and trying to reproduce what he made," she expressed.
Widow Bids Adieu to Annual Arlington Heights Halloween House Display
Margalit said her mother actually died a week before her husband and because of it, she was unsure if she'd be able to do a display this year.
"I felt I owed it to the community at least, to have closure, and to say goodbye to them."
She said the family decided to take a very small amount of his ashes and disperse it all over the yard in his honor.
"I know that I need to take care of myself and kids and move forward and move on," she said. "This will definitely be an amazing memory. That’s why we did, we did it for the memories."
A GoFundMe Page has been set up for any one who wishes to donate to primarily help fund medical bills.
The family has also requested that any other formal donations be mailed or dropped off "For: Michael Podline in the care of TammySue Margalit" at Village Bank & Trust 1845 E. Rand Rd., Arlington Heights.