Stacey and Sheila Goodman love Halloween.
They love dressing up and decorating their house. Most of all they love the look on children’s faces as they clutch tight to their parents hand as they inch past the misty graveyard on the way to their front door on Halloween night.
“I love to see the kids come and the looks on their faces,” Sheila said. “We had one little girl who, when her parents tried to take her in the front door, had one hand on the door and her feet against the jam and there was no way she was going in. I told her none of it was real, but she didn’t go in that year. The following year she did though, and she’s come back every Halloween since. That’s kind of cool.”
Halloween, she said, allows her to unleash her creativity.
“It’s the one time of year when I can kick up and be who I’m not,” she said. “I’m a staid accountant. Do I look like a staid accountant now? You can be something you’ve always wondered about.”
The Goodmans have been growing their dark collection for 20 years now, the last five of those in Qualicum Beach. They are ideally suited to put on a bottom of the grave Halloween spookfest, as Sheila works as a production accountant for the film industry and Stacey is a special effects technician. Between their contacts on film sets, Sheila’s creativity and Stacey’s special effects know-how, they’ve been able to put together a Halloween spooktacular.
“In about July we start thinking about what we’re going to do this time,” Sheila said. “We try to do something new every year.”
This Halloween, she said a haunted tree, a creepy scarecrow, an even creepier reaper and … other surprises … will be added to the Halloween experience.
“We just ended up with all these new creations,” she said. “We just decided OK, we’re really going to go for it and go big this year and see what happens.”
The road that led to their house of horrors started small, with a couple of styrofoam tombstones outside their North Vancouver home. A couple of years later, Stacey built a creepy fence to go along with them. Their Halloween display soon began to grow and that growth took on a life of its own.
“I don’t earn my living in art but I have always been interested in creating and I do a lot of that,” Sheila said. “Stacey knows smoke and how to create illusions with dry ice and all the blood illusions and that sort of thing and he’s been around a lot of special effects makeup, so he taught me a lot and I taught him a lot and we found out we were both really crazy about doing this. Each year we have to outdo the year before.”
Stacey’s favourite creation they call Chewie, a wolflike yet somehow reptilian, fanged thing that Sheila saved from the garbage heap.
“Chewie is our version of a chupicabra,” she said. “I was working on The Grey, with Liam Neeson in 2010 and we needed an articulated form of a dog or a wolf character, so the props department had one created at great expense, for blocking and so on, and when the show was over it was on the dump pile.”
Using latex appliances and pieces from a variety of different costumes and masks, he came up with a truly fearsome result.
Sheila may be fond of Chewie, but it’s a giant rat that has her affections.
“I really like Ratula,” she said. “I got him off a show we both worked on it with Mark Hammell. He was a gift to me from the producer. I took him over the Second Narrows bridge in my sports car with the top down. That was fun.”
A lot of their ideas, she continued, come from movie prop sales.
“After a picture is finished they sell off the props or costumes and so we take it from there,” she said. “We make what we are missing and we build things. We are very interested in the costumes and the wigs and I sew, so I make a lot of our costumes.”
The couple have transformed one room in their house into a frightfest, with giant spiders, a mummy, a talking head and a myriad of other creepy surpises.
With Halloween imminent, the couple — along with some of the neighbours — are just about ready for their big night and they’re hoping for decent weather. Unlike a Hollywood set, Stacey knows, there’s no opportunity to come back and try again the next night if conditions aren’t right. Halloween is the night, rain or Shining.
“We use dry ice for ground fog that comes out across ground in the cemetery, so the biggest challenge is the weather,” he said. “If it’s really windy it blows all the smoke away and you don’t see anything.”
Although they take busloads of special needs students beforehand, the Goodmans plan to open their house for Halloween starting at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday for the little ones and they’ll continue until 10 p.m.
Then, said Stacey, they’ll take everything down and it will have virtually disappeared into thin air by the time the clocks strike the witching hour.