Hauntly Halloween decor: How gruesome is too gruesome?

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SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (WHNT) - Autumn reveals the natural wonders of Alabama. Fall foliage, white cotton fields; but the decidedly synthetic and supernatural adornments seem to creep in as well. This time of year, many of you have a proclivity toward chills and thrills -- a predilection for the ghoulish. For some Halloween enthusiasts a penchant for the over-the-top just comes with the territory.

But someone clearly thought a Scottsboro family's front yard display went a little too far. A home on Tupelo Pike is festooned with crime scene caution tape; phantasms, poltergeists and plagued souls of every type imaginable. But someone, who is clearly not a Halloween person, decided to complain to police about the roadside spectacle. The caller said the display represented a 'terroristic threat' -- those are the words of the complainant, not those of the police department. Scottsboro Police Chief Ralph Dawes went out to personally investigate.

"It's our job to go look into it no matter what it is," explains Scottsboro Police Investigator Lt. Erik Dohring. "In this particular case, we go over there and we talk to the homeowners and just let them know we've received some complaints about your decorations."

But the police chief wasn't there to make the homeowner remove the display, and he made that clear.

"Sometimes when we respond to a complaint there are things we can do and other times it's a civil issue or a non-issue and we're not able to do anything. That's kind of what this case is."

The homeowner agreed to move some of the more overtly gruesome displays, like a skeleton slitting a baby's neck in a blood covered bassinet, to an area of the yard with much less visibility.

A Halloween display in Ohio recently got a lot of attention as well. The display includes dummies covered in blood, wrapped in bags and hanging from trees. Of course, these types of things can go from all the spirit of good fun to something much more malevolent.  Recently, again in Ohio, a woman's dead body was mistaken for a Halloween decoration.

Of course no matter what your neighbors think, there are cases when in the eyes of the law, Halloween displays require some intervention.

"You know, if there was graphic nudity or pornography, if there is profanity, something like that is something we would more involved in and make them take it down or change it."

Of course there are much simpler ways to express your distaste for a Halloween display which don't involve sending the chief of police to investigate plastic skeletons and baby dolls splattered with red food coloring.

"If you know your neighbors, talk to them," Dohring suggests. "A lot of times things can be resolved between people by just having a conversation."

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