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The Many Ways to Use a Mannequin Outdoors

There are a lot of things that don’t belong outside. Pets, children, refrigerators, books, and household electronics are just a few things that come to mind.

But mannequins? Though not originally intended for the great outdoors, they can make for wonderful lawn accoutrement. From fending off burglars to protesting nosy neighbors, they have more uses than just modeling clothes.

Here are 10 recent instances of homeowners who have come up with innovative and, at times, disruptive ways of incorporating mannequins onto their lawns.

To piss neighbors off:

A few months ago, when a Santa Rosa man was forced to lower the height of his brand new fence after neighbors complained about it being too tall, he sought retaliation by arranging a quintet of naked mannequins outdoors. Jason Windus, who runs a moving company, obtained the male and female mannequins from an old haul-away job and he kept them in storage because he knew he’d find a use for them someday.

Windus originally erected the 6-foot tall fence around his corner lot property so that his big dogs could run around the yard without being able to escape. But an anonymous neighbor took umbrage with its tall height and reported it.

The city sided with the neighbor, citing its tall stature as a potential risk to drivers by blocking on-coming cross traffic from around the corner. They gave Windus two options: either chop the fence to half its height or move it back 15 feet closer to the home. He chose the former.

“You want me to cut my fence down?” Windus told CBS affiliate, KPIX 5. “Now you get to see what’s behind the fence.”

He placed the mannequins — some of which lacked arms and even bodies, being just a head — on his lawn, seating them in wicker chairs around a patio table, and positioning their heads so that they gazed out at the street, staring down Windus’ turncoat neighbors. One of them even wore an old military helmet, with Windus joking that he was keeping guard over the other outdoor mannequins.

But not everyone loved his free peep show. Within days of placing the dummies in his yard, a thief stole two of them.

“It was just a little joke,” Windus told the publication. “A lot of people would get very angry about having to cut their fence down. I throw a naked party in my yard!”

Not everyone loves the sight of naked mannequins, which you can use to your advantage. (Photo:  Kathy  )

Not everyone loves the sight of naked mannequins, which you can use to your advantage. (Photo: Kathy)

To make political statements:

During the summer of 2008, a North Carolina man took inspiration for his lawn art from the upcoming presidential elections. He stationed four mannequins outdoors and named them Barack Obama, John McCain, Michelle Obama, and Cindy McCain.

Paul Scott’s Obama and McCain mannequins each wore rubber masks bearing the politicians’ faces, and were dressed in their respective political party colors. They also had surgical hoses hanging from their you-know-what’s.

Scott would bring the mannequins outside every Sunday after church. He’d hang out on his porch with a cup of coffee in-hand, watching the shocked and amused onlookers who passed by his property. Cars would inch by at 10 mph just to take in the odd lawn display, and some drivers would stop and park to get a photo of the quartet. One man flipped Scott the bird while his kids were in the backseat of his car. A few even chatted with Scott.

“We met this one guy from Oak Ridge. He had just lost his job and had been downsized,” Scott told the newspaper, News & Record. “Anyway, he told me he had been so depressed. But when he saw this, he said, ‘We need this.’”

At the time, Scott hadn’t decided whether he’d be voting for Obama or McCain. In fact, he wasn’t really enamored with either candidate.

“Why don’t they tell us what they want to do? Have you seen one ad where they’re not putting each other down?” he told his local newspaper. “It’s sad. Remember after 9-11? Remember how close people were? Now, everyone is looking out for themselves. They’ve stopped working together. We’re all being urinated on.”

Scott’s outdoor mannequins led to a fair amount of complaints to the city, and deputies stopped by his house a few times to see if he’d take them down. But in the end it was his property, and his right to do with it as he wanted — even if he wasn’t sure exactly what that was.

To attract tourism:

A Georgia man spent three years erecting life-sized battle displays from the Civil War on his front yard.

Kevin Smith clothed his outdoor mannequins in period-appropriate uniforms, including vintage waistcoats, knee-high boots, and short-billed caps, and gave them each their own prop weapons. In keeping with the historic theme, he also planted Confederate flags around his property.

His goal with the 2016 display? To educate others and attract business to the historic town which, he said, played an important role in the Civil War.

“I tried to put the display around town so [that] tourists can see the history and draw tourism here,” Smith told NBC affiliate station, WRCB. “This is a part of our history. It is to educate so we don’t fight another war.”

The local housing authorities weren’t as impressed with Smith’s mannequin display and ordered him to take it down, specifically noting the removal of the Confederate flags. If he didn’t, he would be removed from his home. The homeowner vowed to fight the edict, although it is not known how things eventually panned out for him.

You can turn some outdoor mannequins into planters or bases for topiaries.  (Photo: Judi Henderson-Townsend/ Mannequin Madness )

You can turn some outdoor mannequins into planters or bases for topiaries. 
(Photo: Judi Henderson-Townsend/Mannequin Madness)

To save lives:

Helping people recover from drug addictions can be difficult and emotionally grueling, but one Ohio couple felt they were up to the task when, in 2016, they erected a macabre mannequin display in their yard.

It featured a woman dressed in black lace holding a life-sized doll as she gazed into an open coffin containing the body of a male mannequin. A handwritten poster leaning against the display read: “Is this really what it takes to get you off drugs?”

Stoney and Shirley Oney had long used outdoor mannequins and props they found at garage sales to decorate their yard. Usually, they opted for more upbeat dioramas celebrating holidays such as Memorial Day or things they loved, like country music.

But the spate of deaths they’d witnessed in recent years from people overdosing on drugs or otherwise ruining their lives because of them motivated them to create a more impactful display.

“So many people are OD-ing in Mansfield and we’ve heard of two today,” Shirley told NBC affiliate station, WKYC. “Maybe this is a reality check. If it helps one person, we’ll be grateful.”

To titillate:

A dentist in New Jersey with a penchant for setting up holiday-themed mannequins outside of his practice took his normally PG displays to an R-rated level this Easter.

Carrying baskets filled with eggs and sporting bunny ears, Wayne Gangi dressed his entirely female cast in fishnet stockings and the same black satin bodysuits worn by Hugh Hefner’s famed Playboy Bunny models. He also included an ode to Austin Powers, dressing one of the mannequins in a sheer pink teddy similar to the ones worn by the film’s fembots. According to, Gangi bought the dummies and their outfits online through eBay, shelling out between $250 and $500 for each one.

While many locals were amused by the set-up, halting their bike rides to take photos against the zany backdrop, others were offended.

“Proves he has zero respect for women and the young girls of our town,” one neighbor told the website, Global News.

Within a matter of days, Gangi’s outdoor mannequin display was vandalized by a local woman who deemed it too offensive to be allowed to remain up. She attacked the mannequins with a pair of garden shears in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday, and then curtsied when she finished.

By Friday afternoon, however, the mannequins were back on Gangi’s lawn, and the dentist had already placed an order for three new mannequins — including one male. As he spruced up the display, stringing a disco ball from a tree, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” blared from his speakers.

An outdoor mannequin in Washington, D.C. (Photo:  Mike Licht  )

An outdoor mannequin in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mike Licht)

To show off personality:

Is there anything worse than blending in? Not to Mary Denslow.

Growing up, the Salt Lake City resident dreamed of having a yard that was unique, one that reflected her personality and views on life. And, when she eventually bought her own house, that’s exactly what she’s created.

On any given day of the year, there are three mannequins on Denslow’s front yard dressed in garish, occasionally gender-bending outfits that she changes regularly. She found them years ago at a yard sale, and they were originally used at Petco, of all places. She named them: Kevin, Brandy, and Trent.

Around June, the trio wear graduation gowns. In the summer, they sport sun hats, swimming goggles, and even pool floaties around their arms. By September, when kids are heading back to school, Denslow slings backpacks around the mannequins’ shoulders.

But outdoor mannequins aren’t the only wacky items on display at her house. Denslow also has two larger-than-life dog sculptures that she named Artie and Winston.

“Always be odd, never be average, because it’s so boring to be average — I mean, everybody’s average,” she told the Utah news website, “Be that ‘different drummer.’ That’s the way I was raised. That’s the way I raised my kids. Be that ‘different drummer.’” 

To protest:

When a four-story condominium building threatened to block a Spokane, Washington resident’s view of a historic gothic revival cathedral, he decided to protest — with mannequins.

Jim Mahoney purchased his home in 1985 and was particularly taken with its prime view of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Erected in the 1920s, the decant structure features flying buttresses, stained glass windows, and a tower containing a 49-bell carillon.

But the new development — built on the foundation of a shorter, rundown historic home — threatened to obstruct Mahoney’s view, and, he argued, would change the nature of the once sleepy street.  

Offended and upset, he created an ever evolving menagerie of weird and unsettling mannequins to make his feelings about the new building clear. They included a one-eyed pregnant woman, a woman with bat wings, an aboriginal figure sitting in a chair, and lots of passive aggressive signs.

His goal? To get the owners to tear down the building.

“In true spirit of protest, why stop after a week?” he told The Spokesman Review. “If it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing for a couple decades.”
If that’s really how Mahoney felt, he’s likely still protesting the development with his unsettling outdoor mannequins to this day. Because the building, which started selling off its condominiums before construction was even completed, was never demolished.

For art:

When you take a headless, armless mannequin and dress her in lacey lingerie, what do you call that? To Tony Papadimitirou, it’s art.

In fact, every item on the 63-year-old’s Pennsylvania lawn could be considered art, particularly because they’re all painted pink. From the angel statue to the claw-footed bathtub, the cruiser bicycle to the antique dresser, everything on Papadimitirou’s property has been covered in an attention-grabbing shade of Pepto Bismol pink.

And Papadimitirou, who likes to sit on his lawn, admiring his work while listening to Italian music, should know a thing or two about art, considering that was his major when he was an undergraduate.

“I like to be different,” he told NBC affiliate station, WGAL. “I don’t take life serious. I think life should be fun.”

In 2014, neighbors called the cops because of his flamboyant lawn display. Nothing, however, came of it because the authorities agreed with Papadimitirou: It’s art and you can’t quash creative expression.

Outdoor mannequins can help burglars at bay if you make them creepy-looking enough. (Photo:  Jason Eppink  )

Outdoor mannequins can help burglars at bay if you make them creepy-looking enough. (Photo: Jason Eppink)

To ward off home invaders:

If you don’t want burglars to break into your house, consider using outdoor mannequins as a scare tactic. And don’t just make them look creepy, do unsettling things with them to really hone the fact that the people who live there (a.k.a. you) are not to be messed with.

There’s a house in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky that seems to have followed this advice. A Redditor drove past it five years ago, describing the area as being secluded and “in the middle of nowhere.” The house had at least 20 mannequins of all shapes, sizes, and genders scattered throughout the yard. Some were laying down, while others were propped against the house and adjoining shed. They all “looked really old and worn out, moldy [and] rotting.”

There were also mannequin bodies in the trees. A female dummy was tied to one near the road, so close to the street that those driving past could reach out and touch her. Another mannequin was the size of a baby and instead of being tied to the tree, it was nailed.

“I have seen things like, ‘66 place of Satan!!!’ and stuff like that on the sides of barns…People feel they need to do this in order to protect their privacy,” the Redditor wrote. “[But], thinking about [that house] still creeps me out.”

To recycle:

Mannequins are constructed with all kinds of materials, including fiberglass, metal, vinyl, and styrofoam. But the one thing they have in common is that they’re all environmentally unfriendly. The materials they are made with are not biodegradable and can take eons to break down in landfills.

Those who know this try to come up with ulterior uses for mannequins, especially because many of them are still in great shape despite technically being considered trash.

Judi Henderson-Townsend, who runs Mannequin Madness, a company based out of Oakland, California that sells used dummies, has seen customers come up with a number of creative uses over the years to keep them out of landfills. One customer turned a silver mannequin into a mailbox. Others have turned them into planters.

You don’t have to do much with a mannequin for it to look cool, especially if you put it in an untraditional place like your front yard. Henderson-Townsend has four dummies outside of her house, one of whom is kneeling on the ground next to a path.

“She’s so cute,” Henderson-Townsend told OK Whatever. “She looks like a little garden goddess.”

Turning a mannequin into a mailbox will certainly make your house memorable to passersby. (Photo: Judi Henderson-Townsend/ Mannequin Madness )

Turning a mannequin into a mailbox will certainly make your house memorable to passersby. (Photo: Judi Henderson-Townsend/Mannequin Madness)


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