A hearse sits in the frontyard and it’s drawn by a horse that’s just a skeleton. If you’re brave enough to continue towards the house, an eerie butler will greet you at the front door. You’ll find a headless Victorian lady and her friend who follows you around while staring you down with her piercing red eyes. Follow the hallway to the end to discover a Bates Motel-style set-up complete with sign and deceased mother in the rocking chair. Or stop by the creepy clown or horrific zombie room before you get the absolute jitters in her backyard cemetery.
Sk8house co-owner Vanessa Hammond transforms her whole home into a spooky house in preparation for her favourite day, October 31. More than two weeks of hard work among spider webs and skeletons is what it takes for the house to return from the dead and be ready to come alive at night in the lead-up to Halloween.
Vanessa is not alone in her love of the scary season, with her daughter Brittany, mum Lorraine and her mum’s partner Dennis (or Jack the Ripper on stage) assisting in the festivities. These family members are talented creatures who have a knack for creativity and bringing Vanessa’s crazy nightmares to life.
“I show them my ideas and they create it,” said Vanessa. “Mum and her partner make the props, including hand-painting polystyrene to look like stone that we’ve then put on the walls. She’s helped with my clown room and hand-painted a clown’s face on to wood which is now the entrance to the room — you walk right through the mouth. It’s also decorated in fluorescent paint so everything glows with the UV lights.”
You can expect to see a 2m pumpkin man, gargoyles guarding the driveway, coffins that open by themselves, a creepy dungeon, zombies that reach out at you, hanging skeletons that move, and of course lots of gore.
It’s become an addiction that Vanessa looks forward to every year as she sources paraphernalia from overseas and online throughout the lead-up to make each year bigger than the last. With storage becoming a terrifying challenge, she’s moved some props to a storage facility and — fittingly — to her mother’s attic. Could you just imagine stumbling unsuspectingly into that room?
“Halloween is becoming popular in Australia. It is all about dressing up. It’s a chance to pretend to be someone else or something else. It’s a chance to do a different activity.” Vanessa’s even had Channel 9 News host its weather segment with presenter David Brown inside her haunted house. Now that’s different!
Her kids look forward to it each year and plan their costumes well in advance as they follow in her eerie footsteps. For 15 years this tradition has attracted quite a following, with neighbourhood kids of all ages coming to have a look — supervised by an adult and invite-only — and to try their luck at trick or treating.