Haunted houses

Spooky scenes on display in area collectors home

Karen Young's Halloween Lemax collection at her Williamsport home. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Karen Young's Halloween Lemax collection at her Williamsport home. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

The room is dark and still. Then faint glints of light seem to skitter everywhere.  A soft click and suddenly the room springs alive with a village kaleidoscope of light and movement, of screams, moans and witchy laughter.

This effect is all possible because Karen Young, of Williamsport, saw a Lemax Halloween House at Michael’s in 2007. “I was just looking around when I spotted The Witches’ Brew Haus in this great Halloween display. I loved it! I bought it, and before I got out of the store, I also bought Vampire Caverns, Phantom of the Opera House and The Werewolf’s Den. That’s how this all started,” Young said.

She soon returned to buy more, and as the season passed and Halloween items weren’t on shelves any longer, she went online. “That was my real downfall,” she laughed.

And that’s how Young became a collector.

Her Halloween collection now numbers 60 animated, lighted houses and 40 table pieces, plus accessories, as well as one dead globe arborvitae shrub that she rescued as her husband, Skip, was about to haul it away. “Wait, I can use that!” Young recalls yelling as she ran after him. She light-wired its crooked limbs and added some menacing-looking moss to it. It’s the centerpiece of the 42-foot section of the holiday display, which spans 106 square feet in its entirety. Housed in the basement of Young’s home in Old Lycoming Township, it is laid out atop a pool table, a sofa, two 2-by-12 foot oak boards, several two-inch Styrofoam pieces, plus some large rocks.

Karen Young's Halloween Lemax collection at her Williamsport home. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Karen Young's Halloween Lemax collection at her Williamsport home. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Before set-up in August, Young drew a diagram outlining where each piece would be placed.

She wires all animated and lighted structures into a remote control system. “It’s a lot of work,” she said, “but I really enjoy it. It gives me pleasure to look at all the pieces; the whole collection just seems to warm up the house for me.”

“Me too,” Skip said. “But I wouldn’t mind playing pool once in a while.” Skip helps his wife with her collection as needed. Things like loading and unloading the storage crates, or an occasional repair to a piece. “But she does it all herself; she’s the collector,” he added.

Lemax began offering its collection of lighted houses in 1990. The tradition of setting up holiday villages dates as far back as the Renaissance. Each generation and culture has added to the mix, including European nativity displays, Pennsylvania’s Moravian “putz” houses (cardboard, from German word meaning “to put; to set up; to putter” and the toy train industry.

Young said that Dept 54 and Hawthorne Village are also popular collectors’ sites, but her Halloween display strictly is Lemax.

Karen Young's Halloween Lemax collection at her Williamsport home. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Karen Young's Halloween Lemax collection at her Williamsport home. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Young has catalogued and photographed all pieces in her collection, which systematically are filed in binders. She has also included documentation for each purchase. “Some are expensive, but I also have pieces I’ve paid only eleven or twelve dollars for,” Young said.

The Haunted Fountain, the only house that requires water, features a skull and green eyes blinking against a large tombstone atop a crooked rocky mountain. A boiling pot above the fountain emits steam while creepy jack-o-lanterns and rodent-looking creatures hover nearby.

Marauding pirates, dancing skeletons, circling witches, cadavers rising from coffins, vampires driving bumper cars, ghoul school busses unloading at Horror High also are part of the display. It’s a Halloween world, a holiday celebration and brief bit of fantasy. And it’s in the dark basement. Boo!

When Halloween is past, and 100 houses and figurines, plus accessories, are packed away, the eight 5.49 cubic foot totes — about the size of large suitcases — full of Young’s Christmas houses and accessories will come out for display. And then there’s Easter. The house will be filled with that warm glow throughout many seasons, matching the warmth of the people who live there.

Karen Young's Halloween Lemax collection at her Williamsport home. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette
Karen Young's Halloween Lemax collection at her Williamsport home. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette
Karen Young's Halloween Lemax collection at her Williamsport home. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette
Karen Young's Halloween Lemax collection at her Williamsport home. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

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