HOPEWELL — Given the haunted house he calls home, you’d think Karl Housel would be a little scary.
But not in the least. The County Road 4 resident who transforms his property into an uber-haunted house each Halloween is a pretty friendly guy.
You have to be if you are allowing thousands of people to stop by and traipse on your lawn each October.
For several years Housel has let his imagination run amok, creating Halloween tableaus on either side of his house. For the most part these are homemade creations, aside from the army of 200 or so skeletons that are lined up marching toward and climbing up the side of his house.
Housel, a landscaper by trade, said he was inspired to go a little batty decorating because he loves Halloween and tired of the same old “junky” decorations he’d see all over.
He also fears children today aren’t getting the same Halloween experience he had as a kid.
“You can buy all the inflatables you want but I just thought I’m going to try and make some things myself,” Housel said.
Last Tuesday outside his home — where even midday on a weekday — cars stopped and people exited to check out the scary scenes.
His hallmark creations are “Stumpies,” scary-tree like figures made of wood and foam and covered in four coats of brown and black paint. There are dozens of them around the property, wide-eyed and wide-mouthed in poses of terror. At night they and the entire display are lighted up.
Housel starts arranging the displays at the end of August and estimates it takes about three weeks to completely set up.
He does not charge for people to stop and take a look, although pumpkins he grows on his property are for sale. He called his haunted house of Housel “organic” and is forever adding elements. It all started simply with one building, a cemetery and Housel’s desire to make a tree or two for that cemetery. But it’s clear he can’t stop.
“Honestly, ideas just come and go. There’s not a big huge plan at play.”
His favorite piece is a small shed in the shape of a witch’s hat. The chimney atop it is 140 years old; he and his brother saved it from a demolition project they did in Canandaigua.
New this year is a table and benches that he “slapped together;” he has a friend with a saw mill who helps rough cut the lumber for him.
Six skeletons are seated for a meal at this newest creation; one has a pair of reading glasses hanging from a rib. Housel said those likely belong to his sister Jody, who adds to the Halloween fun by dressing up as a witch and sitting on a throne at the head of the table where she dispenses candy and apples.
Housel comes by his affinity for Halloween honestly. He was born shortly after Oct. 31 and said his mother reveled in the holiday.
“My mom liked it a lot and I always did, too,” he said.
There seem to be plenty of more people who enjoy the holiday, too. Housel’s display has been well chronicled in the press and online; in fact a Facebook video posted on Sept. 14 has accrued 7.2 million views. He estimates that during the past two weekends thousands of people have stopped at his 4017 County Road 4 home.
And most ask the same three questions: did you make it, what’s it made of and where do you store it?
His sister recently suggested they start a guest book and it’s filled with hundreds of signatures of visitors from near and far. But it’s clear the distant passersby thrill Housel.
“People are from everywhere,” he said. “From California to Florida. I can’t believe it. It’s unbelievable. It’s madness to be honest.”
The hordes of visitors have been unexpected for Housel, who says he’s both flattered and humbled by the attention — plus grateful that people find it entertaining and something to enjoy with their children.
“It’s just really a hobby,” he said. “I never thought people would be as interested in my hobby.”
And that hobby is not exclusive to Halloween; Housel has a soft spot for Christmas, too.
“I whip this down and Christmas goes up afterwards,” he said. “I have tons of stuff. It’s just crazy.”