Standing on a lush hillside along Coleman Creek Road, the 1908 Queen Anne seems especially alluring this time of year as leaves begin to rustle and warm, summer days are replaced with brisk, autumn air.
To most people, the elegant two-story is known as "Darkwing Manor," a haunted house unveiled each year for Halloween. For the rest of the year, the George A. Hover House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is home to Tim and Tina Reuwsaat.
The haunted past of the old, historic Hover House predates Darkwing Manor.
Elizabeth Canfield, daughter of the home's second owners, died when she choked on a plum in the early 1930s. Her mother locked the girl's bedroom and playroom for 20 years, only occasionally allowing former playmates to tiptoe upstairs for a peek.
After Tim and Tina Reuwsaat purchased the Hover House, two of Elizabeth's childhood friends returned, in the flesh, to bestow some of the girl's books — keepsakes from her funeral. At Halloween, a character not unlike the young girl who choked on a plum appears to offer visitors a fruity treat.
This year's haunt is expected to be the biggest yet. The attraction was named the 2010 Home Haunt of the Year by the Home Haunters Association (www.homehauntersassociation.com).
Darkwing Manor is open from 6 to 10 p.m. Oct. 28, 29 and 31.
Donations this year will benefit victims of domestic violence.
Having "haunted" most of the houses they've lived in, a pursuit they began when their children were small and they lived in Nevada, the couple bought the Hover House a half-dozen years ago because of their love for historic homes and because it could accommodate their massive collection of artifacts. The collection includes an extensive display of mourning and funerary items, as well as the fences, tombstones, ghouls and hearses that make up their annual haunt.
"When we bought it, the house had been what I call 'remuddled' a number of times," says Tina Reuwsaat. "We basically started over."
Before moving in, the Reuwsaats peeled away years of poor modernization attempts, removed wall-to-wall white carpet, replaced hazardous plumbing and wiring, updated bathrooms and stabilized cracked lathe and plaster. The old-growth fir floors they restored contained "ghosts," or marks, from stoves or cabinets used a century ago, making the couple's collection of antiques seem right at home.
The front porch contains two entrances. One leads to a Turkish parlor that once served as a dining room where orchard hands and owners dined together. The room features Arts and Crafts paneling with original plate rail. The room is furnished with two comfortable couches against walls and drapes in shades of red and dark gold, augmented by a series of old, model ships, a favorite of Tina Reuwsaat and a nod to the exotic leanings of the Victorian era.
Through an old pass-through is a gas fireplace with inserts disguised to make it look like an English Victorian fireplace. Nearby, an 18th-century English case clock, carved with faces of a deacon, a dog and the devil, was a surprise find in Ely, Nev. An iron chandelier forged in a dragon motif holds medieval glass in shades of red and green. A stuffed wild boar's head stares listlessly toward the kitchen while a twice-remodeled dining room — extended and raised under a new gable run with a glass solarium and red French doors — frames a large koi pond.
A trompe l'oeil (French for "deceive the eye") cathedral ceiling and Gothic cornice molding create the ambiance of a "great hall" while a large kitchen features custom, quarter-sawn, oak cabinets and counters of green granite and red garnet. Modern appliances are hidden or disguised, and beloved antiques are scattered throughout.
A downstairs bathroom features a claw-foot tub, cream-painted bead board, dark-teal walls and a stamped-copper sink. Large windows afford extra light, showing off the home's detailed woodwork while a hallway leads to the home's formal parlor, behind a second entryway, home to the funerary and mourning collection.
Throughout the room, mannequins display clothing worn by widows at varying stages of mourning. Collectibles include traditional hair jewelry and samplers, made from hair of the deceased, funeral photos and other trinkets. The collection, which seems intended for Darkwing, depicts changing attitudes about death over the past 150 years.
Up the stairwell and onto the landing, the dark lily-patterned wallpaper is identical to that used at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. It is one of several hand-printed, 19th-century "art" papers adorning walls throughout the home.
Four bedrooms and a bathroom have been restored upstairs with period-specific furniture and colors. One bedroom boasts a pirate theme while the bathroom sports a tiled mermaid scene and combination of original cabinetry and replicas built to match. The smallest bedroom houses a large costume collection, guarded by a staring ghoul.
In a bedroom over the front room, a small doorway leads to another of many porches, one of the couple's favorite things about the house. A bonus room of sorts, a study/library adjacent to the stair landing once was used by Mrs. Hover to hang laundry in winter and to sew raffle quilts with ladies from church.
Tina Reuwsaat describes much of the home's decor as Victorian in the Eastlake Gothic style, mingled with the Aesthetic Movement. She adorns the home only with things she loves, collectibles often featuring owls, witches, gargoyles and bats.
Outside the home, painted in shades of gray and brick-red, the grounds are manicured and the porches bedecked with furniture and statues that highlight the Victorian-meets-Addams-Family style. Atop the house is a weather vane with a witch flying toward the moon.
Reuwsaat says the home is well-suited for its yearly role as Darkwing Manor and is the ideal "resting place" for her antique collection, noting that the couple's haunt contains an educational component.
"Between the collection and the haunt, it just all kind of fell into place, and nobody was more surprised than we were," she says. "It's been so long since it all started; we can't imagine not doing it when this time of year comes around."
"It has been a lot of work," agrees Tim Reuwsaat, "but it's been fun."