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Lansing couple brings holiday cheer to neighborhood with unusual decor | Messages from the Mitten

Devin Dockery and James Pyle sit on a bench in their front lawn. Between them and their house is a medium-sized inflatable Santa, an inflatable penguin, a 12-foot skeleton wearing a Santa hat and a 26-foot huge inflatable Santa.
Sophia Saliby
The couple's newest addition to their holiday collection is a 26-foot inflatable Santa.

One way to make the spirits bright during the holidays is to put out the decorations like lights, wreaths and maybe an inflatable snowman on the lawn for those feeling extra jolly.

But one Lansing couple is taking being festive to a whole new level and bringing their neighborhood together with some more unusual decor.

Devin Dockery and James Pyle started dating in the summer of 2020, and the beginning of their relationship coincided with a big purchase that has followed them through this December.

"In the midst of the pandemic is when we met, and we just ended up buying one of the 12-foot skeletons. And that's kind of what set it all off, you know?" he explained.

The gargantuan skeleton from Home Depot was the must-have decoration in the fall of 2020.

Pyle and Dockery called theirs Mr. Bones and put him out for Halloween, but Pyle says the spooky decoration had an impact on their neighborhood they could never predict.

"When we first bought Mr. Bones that year, people are saying, ‘Are you going to bring him out before Halloween next year?’ And we both said, ‘No, we're not. He's going away for a year.' That lasted for all of what? 30 days."

The skeleton was put on display that Christmas, posed as if it was helping put up lights on the roof of their house.

Since then, Mr. Bones has made appearances for other holidays: holding a heart for Valentine’s Day, toasting with a beer mug on St. Patrick’s Day and wearing bunny ears for Easter. It also has a partner because the couple ended up getting two.

"We have Mr. And Mrs. Bones or sometimes Mr. and Mr. Bones and sometimes Mrs. and ... Mrs. Bones, so it just depends what we feel like at the time," Pyle said.

The couple’s house has become a community destination.

"We'd started to looking outside, and there would always be kids and parents taking pictures with the stuff," Pyle said.

Mr. Bones now stands in their front yard in Lansing's Groesbeck neighborhood wearing a hand-knitted Santa hat made by a neighbor. Pyle says they even installed a bench in front of it, so it’s easier for visitors who want to grab photos.

"It's somewhere for people to walk to and go to and walk around and just a little bit of change from the normal which is something I think everybody needs these days."

a 12-foot decorative skeleton wearing a knitted santa hat in front of a house
The couple named their skeleton, "Mr. Bones."

This year, Mr. Bones is flanked by an inflatable penguin, a dragon named Fluffy pulling Santa’s sleigh and the couple’s newest big-ticket item that dwarfs even Mr. Bones.

It's a 26-foot inflatable Santa Claus.

Pyle explains this hobby started all the way back in his childhood.

"When I was a kid, I would decorate my parents' house every year for Christmas. I'd spend a couple of days doing it," he said.

When he got a little older, his parents moved out to the country where it made less sense to make things festive because they didn’t have as many neighbors.

Halloween became his usual big decorating holiday, but Mr. Bones has given him and Dockery an opportunity to go all out, all year round, and get things like the new Santa.

"This is definitely bigger than I thought it was going to be. I don't care though," he said. "I feel like we're the Macy's Day Parade."

While wearing matching holiday suits, it takes Pyle and Dockery and two friends close to an hour to unroll the inflatable, blow it up and tie it down.

But during that time, dozens of people passing through the neighborhood honk their horns or stop by to compliment their decorations.

Dockery can’t help but smile.

"That's more inspiration to do it, you know? How many people? So many. That's how you know you're doing the right thing, you're doing a good thing," Dockery said.

While his boyfriend has a more straightforward assessment of the newest decoration.

"It works. I like it. It's big. I'm glad, we're glad we didn't get any larger," Pyle said.

Though this Christmas season is wrapping up, the couple says they’re already brainstorming ways to incorporate Mr. Bones and other pieces of their collection into holiday displays throughout the next year.

Christmas display in front of a house at night. In the background is a huge inflatable Santa, then a smaller inflatable Santa and penguin and a 12-foot Skeleton. In the foreground is a dragon decoration pulling a sleigh lit up with string lights
Devin Dockery
The couple's final 2021 Christmas display features Mr. Bones, a dragon pulling Santa's sleigh and several inflatable decorations including a 26-foot Santa.

Sophia Saliby is the local producer and host of All Things Considered, airing 4pm-7pm weekdays on 90.5 FM WKAR.
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