How this Museum District skeleton has grown into more than just a Halloween decoration

Posted at 12:10 PM, Oct 14, 2022
and last updated 2023-08-11 17:48:11-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- It's nearly impossible to miss if you're driving down Kensington Avenue or Roseneath Road in Richmond's Museum District: a 12-foot skeleton hanging off the side of a house.

This week, it's decorated quite fittingly for Halloween. Adorned with black ombré wings and a dark flower crown, it's grasping a giant heart.

An Instagram account dedicated to the skeleton has garnered nearly 3,000 followers and follows Justin Bowers throughout his various creative projects for the decoration. It also showcases the other holiday decor that adorns the front of his Museum District home.

While the decoration seems like a fixture in the area, it's only been up since just before Halloween 2021.

The process of getting the skeleton fully constructed on the side of the house was time-consuming and required Bowers to learn how to weld. After a lot of math and some YouTube videos, he put together the skeleton on the side of the house. The process took a lot of late nights.

"It was one of those things where I was out there, it was probably 2 a.m. and I had the torso up there and it weighs about 60 pounds," Bowers said.

One of his concerns while constructing the skeleton was that he would be fined by the City of Richmond or that the skeleton itself would be blown off the house, possibly injuring someone.

"I probably got up and hung on it, did pull-ups on it, and hung on it for probably a solid 10, 15 minutes, just messing with it being like, could this possibly fall off? If we had a hurricane come through? Could it blow off the wall?" he said.

How this Museum District skeleton has grown into more than just a Halloween decoration

After he was sure it was safely secured, he took to adding some personality to it.

Working on the skeleton allows Bowers to tap into his passion for art, something he studied while attending VCU. While he now works for a bank, working on the skeleton provides a creative escape from the day-to-day norms.

The dining room of Bowers' house looks similar to a costume room.

There are sewing machines, a variety of fabrics, and a number of different skeleton-sized accessories stored away for holidays to come.

"And my whole plan was for the holidays. For Christmas was to make a Christmas suit, like a Santa suit. I bought all the materials. I have sewing machines, I went and bought sewing machines. My entire room is just like a project area," Bowers said.

How this Museum District skeleton has grown into more than just a Halloween decoration

Taking a quick look at the Instagram account shows the range of costumes that Bowers has created for the decoration.

"New Year's Eve I said, I need to do something. I went and bought and made a party hat for it and made a big party funnel, kazoo thing, and a bunch of other stuff. We just got a bunch of balloons and put them up. But that just kind of kicked it off of being like, oh, what are you going to do next?" he said.

Since that costume, Bowers has decorated Skele for St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Pride Month, and the Fourth of July.

The decoration has grown to become a favorite among neighbors.

"The neighborhood kids, the parents with toddlers will be like, hey, do you want to go see the skeleton? And we had parents come around and be like, oh yeah, like this is what we do before bedtime after dinner. We come around, we go around the block once and we say hi to Skele. So we've had three or four toddlers that it's been part of their routine," Bowers said.

While having the skeleton has brought him joy through seeing the joy it brings other people, Justin is hopeful that it can bring more than happiness and wonder to the Richmond community.

How this Museum District skeleton has grown into more than just a Halloween decoration

"One of the things I like about this, I'm looking for charity opportunities where I can promote local charities, ideally. There was the Fox [Elementary School fire], I was pushing out a bunch of their stuff. But opportunities where I could say, hey, let's raffle off something together, the skeleton and a local business and use our own individual Instagrams, the press things, and then someone comes to get their photo with the skeleton, you know, and they get a prize and then we donate the money," he said.

As far as how long the skeleton will stay up?

"Until it falls off," Justin says with a laugh.

How this Museum District skeleton has grown into more than just a Halloween decoration

In fact, he bought an identical skeleton from Home Depot that he plans to use to help get dimensions for costumes down the line.

"Everyone seems to be really happy about it. But it's just the surprise factor of people being excited about something that isn't expected. It's not their work. It's not their job. It's just, they're driving on the road. They see something that's unexpected."



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