Chris and Jeff Davis (pictured), owners of Milwaukie’s Davis Graveyard, take Halloween very, very seriously, and it turns out the popular TV Show “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” does too.
The show’s producers chose to build a new dorm for the Oregon School for the Deaf, and when they found out that the school’s major fundraiser is a haunted house called Nightmare Factory, they contracted with Bad Boys Scenic Design to refurbish the basement where the event is held every October.
“A consultant for Bad Boys named Mike Krausert called and asked us if we wanted to help him do an extreme makeover [at the Oregon School for the Deaf]. So then we put together a crew of people who work with us and we spent three days fabricating Styrofoam brick and cinder block walls,” before taking the pieces to install at the school in Salem, Jeff Davis said.
The show featuring the school and the haunted house will air, appropriately, on Oct. 31, at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Chris and Jeff Davis will have to tape the show to watch later, since Halloween night outside the Davis residence just off Johnson Creek Boulevard will be awash with spectators and trick-or-treaters oohing and aahing over the clever tombstones, creepy skeletons and zombies, scary animatronics effects, spooky lighting and terrifying music that come together to make the Davis Graveyard an All Hallow’s Eve destination.
The Davises and their team had to change their work style in order to fit in with the “Extreme Makeover” method of doing a project.
“We enjoyed doing it, but it was a lot of work. It is a different kind of work ethic where you work 24-7; we were pushed to our limits,” Davis noted.
Since the haunted house is held in the basement of an old dorm with a dirt floor, the TV show workers first had to pour a concrete floor, and then the Milwaukee team moved in.
“We worked around the clock,” installing the walls and helping decorate, Davis said, adding that the haunted house is “designed like a haunted high school, so we didn’t do any of our style [of tombstones or crypts], but we used the same cobwebbing and painting techniques.”
The event was exhausting, but rewarding, Davis said, adding that it was a blast when he and his wife met up with many of the vendors who donated the fog machines, high-tech lights, video and sound equipment and the animatronic zombies and skeletons.
“The main reason we did this was that we knew a lot of the vendors, and it was like a convention to work together,” Jeff Davis said.
“It was a great experience for our crew to get to meet [the vendors] too and see where we learned some of our techniques. I really do love helping out others, and it was also a blast to be part of something that big,” Chris Davis added.
The Milwaukee team never met Ty Pennington, the host of “Extreme Makeover,” because he was mainly working on the new dorm, but a designer named Michael spent some time at the haunted house, as did Rob Zombie, an “old-school rocker who was involved in the musical performance,” Davis said.
Zombie has also “filmed a bunch of horror movies so it was fun to meet him,” he added.
As for those cameras, filming every step of the way, he didn’t even notice them, Davis said, noting that he hopes that scenes in the TV show will fast forward through the process, so the audience can see the dramatic changes happening in a short amount of time.
“A lot of work goes into one of these projects, it is amazing to see so many people helping out, either by donating products or time. Really it is awe inspiring to see. Nothing will lift your spirits like being a part of something with so much giving involved,” noted Chris Davis.
Visitors to this year’s Davis Graveyard display will notice one or two changes, Jeff Davis said, including a new gate that spells out the word cemetery, and a new picket fence that will help with visibility and crowd control. No one is permitted on the grounds of the graveyard, but instead visitors experience the lights and special effects from the street.
New this year is a female figure inspired by a statue at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.
Margie Boule, a popular Portland entertainer, donated a song, and was filmed singing it, Davis said, adding that her face is projected onto the statue while the song is playing.
Also new is the ghost projection of a horse, standing by the hearse and a crypt lid with a draped female figure on it.
“We expand what we create and the materials that we use each year. This year we finally got the body proportion correct, so I thought that this would be the year to try my ‘sleeping beauty’ prop — the woman on the stone slab. And she came out perfect; I don’t think I could have made that prop that perfect three years ago,” Chris Davis said.
It takes the Davises and their friends several weekends to put the Davis Graveyard up, and then the site is on display the entire month of October.
So what keeps them going, year after year?
“I don’t think I could live in that house and not put the decorations up. It is such a huge part of the community now. I have met people who say they have been coming to see the display since they were kids. [That] makes me feel really old, but mostly very happy,” Chris Davis said.
The graveyard is located at the corner of Johnson Creek Boulevard and 43rd Avenue, and 43rd will be closed on Halloween from 5 to 11 p.m. to accommodate the crush of hundreds of visitors.
After the Halloween rush, Chris and Jeff Davis help judge the Haunter Video Award Contest, where people around the country videotape their own scary Halloween events and send them to the contest.
“We’ve won a few times, but now we are sponsors of the award,” Jeff Davis noted.
The couple attends haunters conventions in the spring, they host tombstone and “corpsing” workshops in the summer and come fall, get ready to do it all over again.
“It’s something we’re passionate about,” Jeff Davis said.
Chris Davis noted that she loves the creative challenge of the process, and added, “I get to work with a lot of creative friends and family on this project and I think it makes us all better — greater than the sum of our parts.”
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The Clackamas Review in Oregon:
Posted by BA Haller at 5:53 PM