This is day 59 of our 61 day Hauntathon counting down to Halloween. Home haunting; first, you start off with a porch display and before you know it, you’re looking for a commercial venue. A passion for home haunting is an origin story that we’ve heard a lot this season. So, today I’m taking you along to hear from two of my neighbors, Coffinwood Cemetery, and Somber Cemetery.
Tony: I’m Tony Monton.
Thomas: I’m Thomas Vantassle.
Tony: We’ve been working on Coffinwood Cemetery for a little over 25 years, and most of it we make ourselves, some of its bought just depending. Our first year we started it was just two headstones and we dressed up. And then after that we tried every year to add one or two things to it. And then it just got to the point where it got out of hand, like it is now. We never imagined that it would have gone on to something this crazy big, but it’s a lot of fun, we enjoy doing it.
We got to the point where we thought, maybe we can just do a little walk through. Cause it was just a graveyard at the beginning, and so we just did a graveyard walk through. Then, we just added. Every year we added something, one or two things, and then it just got progressively bigger, and then we got to the point where we said we might as well just do a full-on walkthrough type thing. It’s not a maze, we call it an interactive display where it’s a walk through and look at everything.
Philip: That first year when you were just doing a few things, like why?
Tony: Well, we’re Halloween geeks at heart.
Thomas: When we did it that one night it was just fun to do, and I was like, “Hey, this would be great to do it again.” It’s just fun to scare people, get that reaction, for the fun, it’s fun to make the different things and come up with something other than, nobody else has.
Tony: We stay away from any theme stuff, like the movie kind of things, cause a lot of the pro haunts do that anyway, and then people have a certain expectation. With what we do, we can do whatever we want and people, see it for what it is, and then if we want to change something, we can change something out, add something, take something away.
Philip: And how do you know if something is wrong for it?
Tony: We want to do stuff that fits with the theme of what we’re doing. And a perfect example, before we did the pumpkin patch, we didn’t have anything over there at all. And then we built a guillotine one year, because we just thought guillotines are cool.
Thomas: We actually had the guillotine when we were in Cara Villa, and when we first started over there. But yeah, we just, we didn’t have anything else. So we just put it over there cause we had no idea what else we could do over on this side. We just tried it out and see, okay, let’s do the guillotine over there, and we had a couple of mannequins up there, and it was like, eh. After a couple year it was like, It just doesn’t seem to be working that well.
Tony: It looked cool, but it didn’t go with what we were doing. So, that’s why we said, “you know what, we need to get rid of that and figure out something that would match with it.” The first time we actually started doing some over here we just laid some pumpkins out and were like, “yeah, you know what, that might actually work. So let’s make it a pumpkin patch.”
Thomas: And then we just added in here and added things here and there to it, just that we thought when might blend in and work out. So we put it up there and go, “okay, this works.” Or if it doesn’t look right, then we just don’t use it.
Tony: So that’s what we try to do. We try to either add or change something out every year just to keep it fresh, but we still stay with the same theme type thing.
Philip: Tell me your favorite Easter egg that you have hidden into something here.
Tony: The doll room. We don’t tell people, cause we have people that come through every year that loved the detail, so we add things. When you go through you’ll see some of the stuff, but the, I dunno if I should say anything.
The floor in the doll room is our Easter egg. It’s a combination, the floor of the doll room, and then the books that are in the doll room, and the skeleton room, that’s kind of our Easter egg thing. Because we actually have a group of people that come through every year and love the detail, and they like looking and seeing what we’ve changed. Cause we’ll do some subtle differences, but those are the big things.
Joey: Hi, I’m Joey Juliano. I run the somber cemetery up in Santa Clarita. We have a cool Southwestern-ese Cemetery going on here. We’ve been doing it about four or five years now. It’s great for the community, it’s great for the kids to come out. My kids help build it with me, their friends come over, it’s a good time.
Started as just a typical cemetery, and then I just wanted every year wanted to add a little more detail. I started getting drawn to that Southwestern and Midwest kind of vibe, not to cowboy, not to Knott’s Berry Farm, but my own kind of style.
Philip: And so, your kids help with it?
Joey: They do, and they like getting all their friends from school to come over and help. They like to paint and that’s totally fine for me. I’ll build the stuff and they can paint.
Philip: What did you add this year? I think the facade was for this year, right?
Joey: Yeah. That’s a gigantic task we did this year, along with a few animatronic changes, \ new things kind of a mini layout change, but the the church chapel facade here that was the sweat and blood this season. Yeah, it’s big. I don’t know I was on Pinterest, and I was just starting to get drawn to like, I really appreciate it and I love the real Gothic old pillars. I still have my own original pillars that I started with that look, but I started getting drawn towards, you know, rope and wood and just, I didn’t want to go cement, I wanted to go wood and it’s just, it’s fun. I love making it age, I love the decayness of it, and you know, it matches with the way I do the skeletons. We grab the store-bought skeletons, but we changed them to make them our own.
Philip: What is your favorite like Easter egg that you’ve hidden into the design?
Joey: Well, this year we lost an animatronic to the family, we lost our Bubba and that was our little dog coming out from a doghouse to scare people away. That no longer works this year, so we went and got a little dog tombstone in the graveyard there, so that’s for that’s for Bubba from last year.
Philip: Yeah, I see it.
Joey: It’s right there. It’s really funny too, cause the animatronic, his ear was kind of off and wonky looking, so we snapped the ear off that.
Philip: You said you’ve been doing it for six years about?
Joey: Well, we’ve lived at this house for about eight now. I started decorating, you know, not too crazy the first few years, cause I’ve always been doing this my whole life, as a teenager, whatever house I was at, it was at my dad’s or a friend’s house, we’d just completely elaborate it and do great Halloween.
Oh my gosh. So, every year it’s just gotten bigger and bigger and I think for the last four or five years we’ve kind of been about the scale. Yeah, and just last year we started doing all the social medias and stuff. My wife was like, “If you want people to come to this thing, you work your butt off, you need people to see this.” So, we started the Instagram page, we started, you know, all this other stuff, so we’re starting to get in touch with the community a little bit and reaching out.
Philip: What has been the most surprising thing so far?
Joey: I can’t get over the the reactions people give to me in the, you know, how much they appreciate it. , I love making it and my job is done now, you know, I love it. It’s out here for you guys to see now and I see it every day, so I’m sick of it now. You know what I mean? I’ve seen it for the last five, six weeks. It’s always refreshing and that’s what’s awesome, is that new eyes, new people are seeing it, and it’s growing, and people are great, the community is awesome. Everyone loves this stuff. I started so small at the beginning.
Philip: Just ease them into it.
Joey: And the neighbors walk by, “oh, that’s awesome. That looks great.” And then next year, “Hey look what I built.” “Oh, that’s great.” So, I just eased them in, I totally tricked them, and now they can’t get rid of me. Now they get cars coming down the street and that’s a whole different ball game now.