Jasen Dixon is a holiday renaissance man: he loves Nativity scenes, but he also really digs zombies. So, in the mind of the Cincinnati native, why can't he have it all?
The problem is that he's once again running into hassles from the local zoning board about the glowing Zombie Nativity scene in his front yard. After building it last year to promote the haunted house he runs, "13 Rooms of Doom," Dixon brought it back this year and downsized after local officials said the construction of his non-traditional Christmas display was not up to code.
"Last year they said I needed to file a permit and I did, and then I opened it up last Sunday night and by Monday they said my permit was denied," Dixon told MTV News. "I called and they said it was because it was too tall... and they said I can't have it in my front yard. They're the ones who put me in the spotlight, but it's just kind of a goofy holiday display. I'm not no redneck who's gonna keep it up through February. I'll take it down the day after the holidays."
Faced with potential $500-a-day fines for non-compliance, the Zombiephile -- who stresses that he and his wife, Amanda, are not atheists -- announced last week that he was giving up and taking it down, only to reverse field on Saturday after removing the roof from what he calls the "world's first Zombie nativity" manger scene.
"Let's see what happens," he wrote to his Facebook followers. The nativity got international attention last year and is once again getting headlines for local opposition, including a story in Tuesday's (Dec. 8) New York Times.
In addition to threats from the local township administration to fine him for the misdemeanor offense, Dixon posted an image of some flyers left outside of his home that warned that God "frowns upon this manger scene."
Dixon said the flyers are likely from a Baptist church down the street, but even the owners of Dan's Body Shop across the street, who he described as "religious people," have given him a thumbs up and said they support his right to free speech and his neighbors haven't complained so far.
In fact, his wife is Catholic and one of their three kids goes to a Catholic school and Dixon said the whole thing is just a family art project, not a statement about religion or even the zombie apocalypse. "I've been at this house for 16 years and we always do big Halloween and Christmas displays and have never had issues like this," said Dixon, who is a carpenter by trade.
Sycamore Township Zoning Administrator Harry Holbert Jr. could not be reached for comment at press time. In an interview last week, township trustee Tom Weidman explained the technical issue with the nativity. "He doesn't have a permit for it. It has nothing to do with what he's got underneath the accessory structure," he said. "He can put a hundred zombies in his front yard if he wants. It's none of my business."
Last week, Dixon put up a funding page to cover his legal fees, with promises to donate half of the proceeds to a non-profit and the rest to materials for next year's display.
The scene includes spooky Mary, Joseph and wise men standing over a razor-fanged baby Jesus as a scary version of "Silent Night" plays in the background. "I think religion is part of it [the opposition]," Dixon said, noting that some of the money he raises from the funding page will go to the local St. Jude Catholic parish and school.
If the funding page goes well, Dixon promised to "blow it off the charts" next year and do an even bigger display. On Tuesday, he was contacted by a law firm that specializes in civil liberties cases and he said they've offered to take a look at his case.
As for the attention it's getting, he said about 60-70 people a day swing by to take pictures of the nativity. "It's a really pretty manger scene from 50 feet away until you get closer and see Mary's eyes glowing."