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An image of a 12-foot-tall skeleton home decoration sold by Home Depot. Fans call him Skelly and he looms on with digital LCD eyes.

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Home Depot made hundreds of skeletons before perfecting its 12-foot star, Skelly

But could it get bigger in the future?

Image: Home Depot
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

White picket fences are out; 12-foot-tall skeletons from Home Depot are in.

Even if you’re from an urban area devoid of lawns, it’s still likely you’ve seen the 12-foot skeleton in question, which has become the center of viral internet fame time and time again. Videos starring the bony lawn fixture, which can garner as many as 16.4 million views, aren’t all that complicated; a lot of times, people just share the different ways they use the skeleton, whether dressing it up or driving it around town. Still, the decoration is so large that even the simplest videos lend a humor and gravitas to it as a recorded subject. Over time, the skeleton has almost taken on a life of its own.

But every icon has an origin story — and in this case, a pair of creators. On the occasion of Halloween and the 12-foot skeleton’s renewed fame, Polygon sat down with Lance Allen, senior merchant of decorative holiday at Home Depot, and Rachel Little, senior project engineer, to tell the story of the towering internet star known as “Skelly.”

To make a 12-foot skeleton, Home Depot started with a ton of tiny skeletons

Between the two of them, Allen and Little have worked on hundreds of skeletons. Not every skeleton designed at Home Depot R&D makes it to store shelves, but when one does, they’ve likely had a hand in it. Before Skelly became a combination of metal piping and LCD eyes we know today, it was a dream. The pitch for Skelly came from a simple human impulse: Make skeleton big.

“Originally, when we sat down, we started throwing out 10 feet. And it was like, ‘Nah, that just doesn’t seem tall enough,’” Allen told Polygon via video chat. “‘Everybody knows how tall a basketball hoop is.’ And then it’s like, ‘Hey, let’s make it 12 feet. Let’s think of two 6-foot guys standing on top of each other, where they could be looking down at a basketball hoop. That seems like an impactful height.’”

@hookedme

I’ve been wanting one of these bad boys for AGES and my dreams have finally come true. #12footskeleton #crochet #halloween

♬ Spooky, Scary Skeletons (House VIP Remix) - Crystal Knives & Lex Allen

During the design process, the teams had to consider factors like price and size. The team needed to make sure Home Depot could sell it at a reasonable price point and that it wouldn’t be too difficult for buyers to transport. On top of that, the team had to consider how its giant design would impact certain visible features. The team actually had to make Skelly less anatomically correct in order to accommodate for its size.

“The neck looked so goofy. You have no idea how long your neck actually is. So we actually had to remove vertebrae out of the neck, just because people wouldn’t believe it was anatomically correct, because the neck was so long,” Allen said.

After some tinkering, the team finally had a blueprint, and then later, a fully realized product. Although the team had been working toward this giant lawn fixture, seeing it in person had a different impact. Allen told Polygon about the first time he ever laid eyes on Skelly.

“12 feet was the number in our head, but you never realized how big it was until we saw it printed out and rolled out on blueprint for the first time. And it’s like, Wow, this thing’s impressive! And I still remember, we kind of had it as a secret project, we weren’t telling a lot of people about it. We had the manufacturers set it all up in a conference room, and when we walked the team in there, and everybody saw it for the first time, their mouths dropped. We knew we’d invented one of the coolest items ever to hit the market.”

And then there was Skelly, the viral 12-foot-tall skeleton

Home Depot first released Skelly in 2020, where it quickly became a star on the video sharing platform TikTok. At the time, a simple video recording setup easily garnered a person millions of views. Although it originally found viral success during the COVID-19 pandemic, the skeleton has found a lasting influence in viral internet culture and since become the stuff of parody articles and fan videos alike. This year, a video showing a setup of the skeleton with a different head got over 16.4 million views on TikTok.

@thisisdrover

Its giving *beetlejuice*. Please send ideas of what i can use as a head, i fear for the spirits of the neighborhood children @Home Depot Canada #12footskeleton #homedepotskeleton #halloweendecor #giantskeleton #halloween

♬ original sound - Colby | ThisisDrover

Since then, others have cashed in on the Skelly clout. People make clothes for it, bling it out, and in one extraordinary case, have even turned Skelly into an accessory for a tricked-out car. At time of publication, the hashtag “12footskeleton” has over 89 million views. For Little, designing the skeleton has been a career high.

“He’s my biggest icebreaker. I mention him and everyone knows who he is. I’ve worked in medical devices and it’s stuff that everyone has to use, but that doesn’t excite anyone. They’re like, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ But Skelly is always a big hot topic. Everyone always loves to talk about Skelly,” Little said.

But will Home Depot ever make a taller skeleton?

Given all this, Polygon had to ask the 12-foot-tall question in the room: Is there a world where Home Depot could make a skeleton bigger than 12 feet tall? Right now, Skelly is out of stock in the U.S., but normally costs $298. What if you wanted a larger one? What if 12 feet wasn’t enough? (You can buy a 13-foot Jack Skellington, but he’s a bit lanky.) To that end, Allen had a reasoned response that took price and other restrictions into consideration.

“The sky’s the limit. We can go as high as we want. A lot of it’s just having that value, that price for where we can have it available to everybody. I mean, we could go out there make a 20-foot skeleton tomorrow, but it’s going to cost so much more because of the shipping and everything.”

Until the market demands a 20-foot skeleton, anyone looking to out-tower Skelly will have to get creative... Just imagine: [in the voice of Mr. Beast] “I STACKED TWO 12-FOOT SKELETONS ON TOP OF EACH OTHER.”