SPRINGVILLE In early October, as Pete Widtfeldt went about work in his yard, a group of neighborhood kids gathered.
And they had a bundle of questions for him.
"What happened to that man?" one asked, pointing to a figure in his yard.
"Why did that man cut off that woman's head?" another pressed.
"Is that her bone I can see?" a third asked.
The simple inquires made Widtfeldt momentarily second-guess his selection of Halloween decorations.
"I thought, 'Oh, man, I am messing up some kids,"' he said, laughing.
But neighbors don't seem to mind, Widtfeldt said. In fact, many parents bring their children by his house at night to watch a show at the award-winning drive-by haunted house.
Two years ago, a video clip of a house decked in lights synchronized to music circulated the Internet. The display inspired Widtfeldt to share his love for Halloween with the community.
He synchronized lights and animatronics are set to a remixed soundtrack creating a tribute to the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. Passersby can pull up to the house in their cars and listen to an eerie audio recording broadcast on FM 106.7 by a 2-watt transistor as the 10-minute show plays out.
Widtfeldt's attraction has drawn attention beyond the local community. In February, he received a phone call from Haunt X, a Los Angeles-based organization for people with a "Halloween fetish," Widtfeldt said, and learned he won an award in 2006 for Best Novice Haunt in the United States.
Widtfeldt said he recreated the Haunted Mansion ride for nostalgic reasons.
"The Haunted Mansion has had a soft spot in my heart for a while," he said.
As a child, Widtfeldt's family had a Haunted Mansion record he listened to until he wore the grooves out.
"That perhaps planted some seeds of love for Halloween," he said.
Widtfeldt said he loves the Halloween season for its simplicity.
"Halloween is a silly holiday," he said. "If you observe it wrong, so what? The pagans from Ireland are not going to come back, slap your hand and tell you you're doing it wrong."
Over the years, Widtfeldt celebrated Halloween in various ways, such as decorating his doorway with hanging corpses to give trick-or-treaters a spook alley sort of feeling. Last year, he developed the drive-by haunted house, using a computer, three circuit boards, 48 outlets and countless extension cords to control the action on stage, including a ghoulish, automated butler, or ghost host the star of the production.
"He's just a creepy, persistent character though the show," Widtfeldt said. "His eyes move and his head moves when he talks."
Widtfeldt mostly enjoys the challenges associated taking something that's dead, literally, and making it interesting to look at. But sometimes at night, while the Haunted Mansion story plays out on his lawn, Widtfeldt likes to peek out the window to see children with their noses pressed up to the window of their parents' car in "rapt attention.""That was worth gold," he said. "It was almost worth the hundreds of times I went up the ladder to fix and build."
House opens at 7:30
The free drive-by haunted house is at 498 E. 1050 North in Springville. It runs Monday-Saturday on a 10-minute loop, 7:30-10:30 p.m.
E-mail: [email protected]