Halloween preparations are almost done as the holiday approaches. Every house is dressed in Halloween-themed décor, ready to scare trick-or-treaters with the spooky elements. One such Halloween setup has caught our eye – the Haunted Mansion by Paul Messerle, which every Halloween enthusiast is bound to fall in love with.
California-based digital arts teacher, Paul has been a big fan of Halloween since he was a child. When Paul Messerle bought his new house, the architecture of the place inspired him to create the Haunted Mansion setup for the Day of the Dead. The entire setup looks right out of a haunted house from a horror movie.
The color combination, various fascinating props, and distinct elements of Halloween are not only stunning but inspiring as well. Paul has also given a spooky touch to the paintings in his living room, where the literally-lit ghosts have quite a ball.
We contacted Paul Messerle to know more about this uniquely spectacular and spooky display of the Haunted Mansion and here is what he had to tell – it’s an interesting read and some enticing images follow.
Homecrux (HC): What inspired you to transform your house into the Haunted Mansion?
Paul Messerle (PM): I am a lifelong fan of Halloween and the Haunted Mansion. I used to work for Disneyland when I was in college and any free moment I had on my days off were in the park spent visiting the attraction to soak up the ambiance. Of course, I also was starting my collection from the Disney Gallery when it used to be located above Pirates of the Caribbean in New Orleans Square. Halloween is in my blood and the Mansion is, for many of us, a place to belong. When my husband and I purchased our home together, we noticed that the sunken living room, with its odd angled walls, bay windows, candle sconces, and window seats, would be the perfect backdrop for a Haunted Mansion layover.
HC: The ambiance of the Haunted Mansion is chilling. What sort of materials and props have you used?
PM: The ambiance started with painting our ‘living’ room a sage green, as an homage to the color used throughout the attraction, but without literally utilizing costly wallpaper or labor-intensive stencils, because our intent was to have the Mansion as a seasonal environment. We furnished the room with items that can serve the rest of the year when the Mansion is ‘put away in the vault’.
LED taper and pillar candles are replete in our home, adding an eerie glow every night. Color changing LED bulbs with remotes in all of the lamps (readily available on Amazon) help to create a theatrical atmosphere and easily change the mood of the room. We supplemented our permanent antique drapes with black bat and skull lace valances from Heritage Lace (available online). Any paintings hanging during the rest of the year are swapped out with authentic Haunted Mansion reproductions, (or ones that I digitally reworked from found images). Glow-in-the-dark paint added as small accents to the paintings gives them an entirely different appearance under black light.
The remaining props like the replica Haunted Mansion plaque from the attraction entrance, our vintage spooky candelabra candlesticks from Illuminations, Leota’s Music Box, the Mansion Urn, the Gargoyle Candlesticks, throw pillows with the famous wallpaper design, the Marble Bust bookends, and even our own Séance Circle, all ground the experience to make it feel as authentic as possible. FYI-actual crystal balls are surprisingly affordable! So, overall, even though it may look like a lot, it takes surprisingly little to make a big impact.
HC: How long did it take to create the entire setup? How did you find each small and big specific item for it?
PM: As any Haunted Mansion fan knows, this is a process that takes YEARS in the making. Many collectors really refine, edit and curate their collection to be a reflection of what they like best in the attraction, and since there are so many characters or narratives to choose from, it’s really a process of selecting what you like best. Some things I bought in the park, others online, while I physically or digitally crafted others. My favorite scenes from the attraction are the Conservatory Hallway all the way through to the Ballroom, so our living room reflects those scenes. Even so, the room looks different every year. It changes as we do. The whole room can be decorated and taken down in a day, but it’s a FULL day. I frequently say it takes a lot of work to haunt a house!
HC: Could you tell us a little about the Haunted Mansion Ballroom with 3D modeled and animated ghost projections? How did you come up with it and how long did it take to finish?
PM: The Haunted Mansion Ballroom was one of the very first projection animations I designed. I 3D modeled the dancing ghosts to resemble the spinning dummies used in the Pepper’s Ghost effect in the original attraction. It took a few weeks to get all the models designed, posed, clothed, and lit, then a little more time to animate and render them. Since we were living in a small condo at the time, we tried projecting them in a friend’s dining room to great success.
After that, I got so inspired that I 3D modeled and animated many more of my favorite playful spooks, including my interpretation of the Hitchhiking Ghosts, the Beating Heart Attic Bride (before Constance moved in with her hatchet), the Conservatory Coffin and (newly released this year) the famous Hearse in front of the Mansion. We have a large blank wall in our entryway that serves as the perfect projection canvas for our digital phantom guests. All are available to purchase, download, and project in your own home or haunt at www.Sellfy.com/graphix-ghosts.
HC: Did you do it alone or had some help?
PM: I did most of this by myself! My husband is extremely supportive, but he steps back and lets me work my magic this time each year, and he will come in to put the finishing touches on item placements at the end. It truly is a labor of love, and although I hear from fans that they would never take it down, there’s something ritualistic about setting it up and taking it down each year, much like our other holiday decorations. We appreciate it more. It is an amazing experience sitting in our Haunted Mansion living room throughout the day, watching the sun peer through the blinds and lace, playing the music of the Mansion through a Bluetooth replica antique radio, and watching the LED candles flicker in the midnight gloom.
HC: What other projects like this one have you created?
PM: When we first moved into the house, the sunken living room was designated “The Hobbit Hole”, so for a few years it had a Bilbo Baggins-like LOTR overlay during the non-Halloween season, but now it has taken on a look of a Craftsman parlor of 1912 for most of the year. However, in August the Haunted Mansion rises from its slumbered crypt!
HC: Do you have any projects or special setups planned for Christmas as well? If yes, could you tell us a bit?
PM: Actually, I am a High Priest of the Cabot Kent Hermetic Temple of Witchcraft in Salem, MA, and as such, I observe the pre-Christian holiday known as Yule. Many of the traditional decorations are similar, including pine garlands, wreaths, and a tree, but the décor colors are green to celebrate life and gold to welcome back the Sun at the Winter Solstice.
HC: Your favorite Halloween movie?
PM: That is a hard question! Hands down my favorite Halloween movie is “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark”. We have met Elvira a few times, and she is so gracious, positive, funny and genuine. “Hocus Pocus” runs a close second, and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” after that. “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” is also essential seasonal viewing.
HC: How are you and your family dealing with the pandemic situation? Did it interfere somehow in the completion of the project?
PM: As a digital arts teacher, I am distance teaching from home now, and we are staying in as much as possible and responsibly wearing masks if we need to go out. We are all in this together. If anything, the pandemic has forced us to stay in and enjoy our Haunted Mansion even more!
Take a look at the Spooktacular Haunted Mansion by Paul Messerle.