Step into my parlor...
Creep on over to Darkwing Manor
PHOENIX ' Frankly, the Baron Vladimer Reuwsaat could use a little sun.
No offense, but his pallor is paler than a marble tombstone on a moonlit night. The guy looks like he just rose out of a musty coffin. We're talking really ghastly complexion here.
And what's with the incisors? A blacksmith ought to file down those fangs before the baron impales somebody.
It gives a body the creeps.
But that's just what Tim and Tina Reuwsaat, who transform into the Baron Vladimer and Baroness Morticia Reuwsaat of Darkwing Manor for Halloween, hope to do to plenty of bodies at their 1908 Victorian home tonight.
This is all about having fun, he says. It's fun for us to scare people and it's fun for people ' they love to be entertained and be scared a little.
The Reuwsaats decorate their home for other holidays. For instance, Tina, who has a master's degree in American Decorative Art from the Smithsonian Institution, has a collection of some 300 Christmas ornaments.
But come Halloween, they drag all the scary skeletons kicking and screaming out of what Tina refers to as the Reuwsaat morgueatorium museum.
These Halloween hobby haunters have left carved pumpkins far behind in shreds. These are folks who have been to the annual Chicago Transworld Halloween Convention, a monster-size tradeshow for those who scream for Halloween.
In his day job, Tim is the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Medford District manager. The Reuwsaats sold their 1904 Victorian home in Manasses, Va., and bought the Victorian in Phoenix this past summer when he became district manager.
They have two sons, both grown. Cody, the oldest son, works in special effects on horror movies while the youngest, Jarad, is majoring in art in college.
It was love at first bite, er, sight, when they saw the two-story house just out of Phoenix.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house is the ideal home for her collection of largely 19th-century funerary items, including authentic hair jewelry from the dearly departed.
I've always been a collector and lover of antiques, ever since I was little girl, says Tina, who was born on Oct. 29 half a century ago this year.
And I have a wonderful childhood memory of Halloween, she adds. There was the magic and mystery of it, of running around, sort of unsupervised. Memories of leaves skittering down the street, the moon and the wind.
Things will be skittering in and around their home tonight, although they haven't had time because of the move to scare up all of their frightening implements.
Let's step inside their parlor.
Try to ignore the mournful cries of Mommy! Mommy! wailing from the balcony above the front door. Pretend you didn't see the misty figure floating there.
That's just Elizabeth, an only child who died in the house in the early 1930s. She was reputedly the victim of a misdiagnosed appendicitis.
After she died, her mother closed up her bedroom and toy room ' they weren't opened until the 1950s when the house was sold, Tina says, citing information provided by previous owners.
Whether it's true or not, we don't know, she says, then, pausing for effect, adds, But I don't think we're alone in this house.
She is probably joking.
I don't think it's haunted but you never know, her husband adds later. But my wife says she has felt a few things there since we moved in. It is an old house.
Another jest? Perhaps, but you may feel a chill crawling up your spine.
Fortunately, the light from two bat-infested lamps pushes against the darkness. A bottle of Old Croak Kentucky embalming fluid sits on a coffee table, right next to a container marked Coffin Nails.
The lace in the windows has a spider web design.
What's that ghoulish figure lurking in the shadows of the parlor?
That's just my uncle, the baron says.
Unc looks a little late, as in way past the breathing state. He may have had one too many nips of Old Croak.
Normally, the Reuwsaats would set up the parlor as a wake for the deceased. Alas, they haven't had time to unpack all the bodies yet.
But there will be a little surprise waiting, she warns.
If you make it through the parlor, you still have a cemetery to venture past. The tombstones may be fake but the metal cemetery fence came from property they owned in Nevada before he transferred to work in Washington, D.C.
They also have a horse-drawn hearse from the late 19th century on display, one of three hearses they own.
A real-life coffin seems to have slipped out the back of hearse parked near the cemetery.
My wife picked it up at an auction, he says. We think it was unused.
Next to the hearse is a crypt he built. Inside is a warty old crone who has suffered a rather vicious hatchet attack.
No whistling allowed in this cemetery. After all, you definitely do not want to wake the dead here.
You'll find the baron and baroness' twin tombstones in the graveyard. It's etched in Styrofoam: he died in 1573; she in 1574.
There is a marker for Frankenstein author Mary W. Shelley, dead since Feb. 1, 1851. Next door is another fan of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe, living nevermore since Oct. 7, 1849.
Then there is James B. Robertson, marked Dead Drunk.
He ran into our house when we lived in Manasses so we decided to honor him, Tim says. He was just dead drunk, not dead.
The sight of his tombstone would certainly have sobered him up when it came to drinking and driving.
As the baron surveys his cemetery, he laments not having time to plug in his animatronic hardware that makes already hair-raising creatures seem to come to life.
He has some ideas about using computers to scare the bejeebers out of Halloween guests.
We want it to get bigger and better every year, the baron says, then adds with a toothy grin, You never know what may jump out at you in the future.Visitors welcome
Trick or treaters as well as those who enjoy a good fright are invited to visit the Reuwsaats' Darkwing Manor from 5 to 9 p.m. today.
Their home is located at 4192 Coleman Creek Road just west of Phoenix.
Visitors are welcome to pull in the horseshoe driveway, stop for a quick visit of the parlor and drive past the cemetery on the way out.