Halloween is less than two weeks away, but Sherry Eberhardt is thinking of taking down her dozens of decorations.
It's a sad thought for a woman known far beyond her Bluffton neighborhood for exuberant, monthlong holiday displays. Her Halloween decor, bursting with ghosts and scarecrows, blow-up spiders and black cats, attracts at least 100 trick-or-treaters each year, she said.
And Eberhardt's similar enthusiasm for Christmas and Easter brings plenty of traffic snaking past her Windtree Lane home.
But after she discovered the theft this week of one of her oldest pieces, a towering skeleton with lights strung between its bones, the 69-year-old doesn't want to take any chances.
"I was just sick over it," she said.
If there's more mischief in her yard, she plans to retire the display early.
Eberhardt noticed the missing skeleton at 7 a.m. Tuesday. She'd hung it in her yard every fall for about 25 years. She fought back tears when the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office arrived at her home. Eberhardt's son, Tony Marcovechio, encouraged her to file a report.
"She puts a lot of work in that stuff. She just loves to do it for the people," said Marcovechio, 48, of Bluffton. "It's only right they should know somebody's messing with the stuff."
The decoration was worth about $50, according to the Sheriff's Office, but to Eberhardt, it was irreplaceable.
"It's more sentimental than anything," she said. "There's nothing like it; they don't make 'em like that anymore."
Eberhardt's yard was full of decorations that hadn't been tampered with, deputies noted in their report. Under her palm tree lay a plastic pumpkin bleached white by decades of sunny October days. In the corner of the yard, a blow-up pirate ship was manned by a literal skeleton crew.
She has more than three dozen decorations out, and they continue inside where she presses a few buttons to watch newer pieces cackle and dance.
"I'm like a kid with a new toy," she said.
Marcovechio thinks his mother's holiday spirit stems from the humble Christmas displays she had as a child.
"My grandfather always managed to put a tree up, and he had little tin toys and made little tin, wooden tracks for them," he said. "She didn't have a lot, so that was a very important time."
In her decades of lighting up the block, Eberhardt has only experienced one other incident, a wire was snipped to silence her musical Santa's sleigh. It was soon repaired, she said.
Despite that and Tuesday's theft, she has no plans to stop future displays, even if she has to remove the Halloween decorations early.
"This Christmas, there'll be even more decorations up," Marcovechio said.
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.