Joe Smithson and his wife Vicki, own a second house, an eight-room, three-storey grand Victorian, enhanced with a curved ornate Mansard roof and stately pillars that support the cozy porch.
Their collection of period pieces and antiques are impressive. But that’s where the idyllic picture ends.
There is a severed head and a bloody hatchet on the kitchen table, a handful of rats perched in various rooms, and the eccentric scientist, Victor Frankenstein, in the upstairs laboratory, piecing together a grotesque monster in an unorthodox experiment.
But the neighbours don’t seem to mind.
In fact, they’ll likely drop by for a closer look, just as hundreds of other curious visitors are expected.
Smithson’s grand Victorian, as it were, is a miniature haunted dollhouse, aptly named, Frankenstein Manor, located in the garage of his life-size residence.
The 38.5 x 24-inch miniature wooden house is manufactured from a kit, but Smithson constructed the landscape, yard fixtures, and interiors out of various materials.
He built nearly every intricate detail and piece of furniture from scratch; however, he purchased a few furnishings, like the upholstered items. The characters are plastic Spawn action figures, completely rebuilt and re-dressed.
“I started working on the house a couple of years ago, and collectively put about four months into it,” said Smithson.
“The entire house is wired and lights-up with one switch. There’s a working grandfather clock and electric fireplace in the living room, smoke billows from the chimney, plus there’s an electric windmill in the front yard.”
Spooky music rounds out the special effects.
Smithson used a router on the clapboard siding to give the house a deteriorated façade, and painted exposed red brick to heighten the effect.
He laid the wooden floor, one Popsicle stick at a time.
The jack-o’-lantern scarecrow in the front yard is a pint-size replica of the full-scale version on Smithson’s front lawn, his old costume from a previous Halloween party.
Each room tells a story.
There’s the iron-barred, padded attic, where young Francis resides, Frankenstein’s first failed attempt, now chained to the bed post. Pencil in hand, her name is scrawled on the wall along with other scribblings and doodles.
In the second-storey hallway, Frankenstein’s wife hangs from a noose. Her suicide note reads: “I won’t live anymore, married to a mad man. I’m sorry.”
“She’s done,” Smithson explains. “Frankenstein will probably end up making a monster out of her too.”
Smithson’s favourite room is the kitchen.
“I like it because of the details — they’re cool. The knob on top of the fridge is from a guitar, and the handles are broken-off pen clips; I used whatever I had on hand.”
The Smithson’s garage is decked out with life-size creations of the four classic horror movie characters: Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th), Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street), Michael Myers (Halloween), and Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre).
“I began making these in July 2009, built them out of wood, made the heads, and purchased the masks,” Smithson said.
“Then I started working on the dollhouse.”
The Smithson’s front yard is also decorated – as Halloween Manor Cemetery – complete with gravestones, spider webs, skulls, and crows. Floodlights and a smoke machine enhance the eerie effects.
Laid-back and unassuming, there’s more to Smithson than haunted houses and ghoulish creatures.
By stark contrast, he’s a self-published children’s book author/illustrator. He’s built guitars, and a Christmas-themed dollhouse, and works as a dispatcher for a transport company.
Married for 23 years with two young adult children, Vicki says of her husband, “he always needs a hobby,” but jokes, “at least that doesn’t include mad scientist.”
The public is invited to visit the Smithson’s Maple Ridge home between 6 and 8 p.m. daily unitl Oct. 31, at 23643–112B Ave.
The haunted dollhouse is built without a back wall, so, consider it an open house, Smithson said.
@ Copyright 2013