Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Haunted Yard

Driving back from Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards, Terry and I discovered this amazing Victorian haunted house. We drove past at 45miles an hour and I shouted, "Stop the car! We have to go back." Terry did a three point turn and parked in the grass across from this amazing display. It is located on Oakland Avenue just west of Avalon Road, west of downtown Winter Garden. I didn't sketch that afternoon since I knew Terry wanted to get home. It was two days later when I returned alone to sketch. I set up my portable stool on a grassy center median, leaned back against a huge old Live Oak tree and started to sketch. I really needed a bigger sketchbook since the display is so vast. I squeezed what I could onto the pages.
The Live Oak tree's trunk took up most of the width of the median so I was just a few feet away from the cars that rushed by me. Once in a while a large pickup truck with its knobby mud tires buzzing would honk in appreciation or annoyance. While I worked SUV's driven by moms would park and children would pile out and begin exploring. A boy shouted, "Look a jar full of eye balls!" The kids loved the place. Soon the mom would round up the kids and the SUV would roar off.
The owner pulled into his driveway and as his daughter went inside he placed the skulls he had with him around the yard. His name is Joseph Williams and his daughter who also helped with the display was named Josette. This display began on a much smaller scale in 1977. Each year he changes the theme of the display. This year "Pirates of the Caribbean" is the theme. The entire porch is planked to look like the broad side of a ship and dead pirates are everywhere. 20 or so of the figures are animatronics. Joseph was nice enough to walk me around demonstrating the figures that moved. The inside of the house is also elaborately decorated. The house is only open on Halloween night. Each year, two to three thousand people walk through. Joseph gives away glow stick bracelets as well as full sized candy bars, no mini bites here!
Joseph walked me inside even though work still needed to be done to finish the decorations. The first room was my favorite. It was Egyptian themed with a gorgeous gold king Tut mask over the fire place. There was a huge sarcophagus and two sinister mummy's guard the room.
Across the hall Hannibal Lecter strapped to a gurney is threatening in his snakelike oily way. Also in this room Jason threatened with a machete. A butler breathed heavily in the hall with a python coiled around his neck. In the kitchen Dracula stood overlooking a blood fountain. Here guests are offered a beer or soda before heading to the graveyard behind the home. A ton of ice is shipped in for all the drinks. A garish autopsy room on the side of the home was created entirely by Josette. Marie Antoinette cradles her own head on the back porch and this is just a small taste of the horrors to come as you walk out into the darkness.
On the night of Halloween cars park all along the length of Oakland Avenue for two miles or so. In all of the 33 years the display has been put up there has never been an accident. Joseph said that only once was an item stolen. His cell phone disappeared and he simply dialed the number and asked the person to leave it at the 7-11. The phone was returned. The event is free and open to the public. Joseph even refuses to accept donations since he feels it might discourage people from coming out. I certainly hope to return Halloween night.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at


john Esquivel said...

Love it...
Reminds me of a home in Tenafly NJ
When I was growing up..
I still love Halloween...

Thor said...

Looks so much like my Tenafly home minus several hundred pumpkins.