Display of ghoulishly fun exhibits brings 250 to 300 visitors a night in October

Photo by Kaylee Arca A section of an elaborately decorated recreation of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride.

By Kaylee Arca

Morgan Hill has its very own walk-through version of Disneyland’s classic Haunted Mansion attraction.

Matthew and Erica Stein are the brains behind the extravagant recreation that sprawls their front lawn at 655 Llagas Vista Drive. This is their second year creating the Halloween-themed scene and they have added to their build from last year.

“We’re big Disney fans, and we were missing Disneyland a little bit,” Matthew said. “The thought was to come up with a way to bring a little Disney magic to friends, family and neighbors since we’re all struggling being stuck at home with COVID-19.”

Matthew works as an engineer by day. Come nightfall, he gathers his nine audio speakers and four projectors about 6 p.m. and places them throughout his front yard. He flips the ON switch on his phone at 7 p.m. sharp and leaves the display running until 10 p.m. when he collects the projectors and speakers to recharge their batteries during the day.

“Our goal was that the walk follows the ride from scene to scene,” Matthew said. Visitors will find a recreation of popular scenes from the Disney ride. Projections of stretching paintings, ghosts and Madame Leota’s crystal ball sit among scenes of a coffin and a spooky gravedigger. Continuing along the sidewalk, guests stroll past animated pumpkins and step into an intricate graveyard filled with silly gravestones and costumed skeletons. Haunting sounds and a familiar phantom beckons visitors to “hurry back.”

“My wife, Erica, is the creative control,” Matthew said. “While I build most of the things, my wife has the artistic eye and guides me in the right direction. We spent a lot of time watching videos about the Haunted Mansion ride so that we could recreate the experience as much as possible.”

The entire site is illuminated by a mixture of colorful LED and solar-powered lights that run on 550 watts from a single outlet.

“Thank goodness, with our PG&E bill, that it’s low wattage,” Matthew said.

The Stein family has been planning their whimsical scene for five and a half months. Their collection and making of decorations began in the summer. They wanted to bring joy to the neighborhood with a Halloween display that families and kids of all ages would enjoy without traveling far.

“Everyone is under enormous stress and pressure,” Matthew said. “We can’t travel because my son can’t get vaccinated because he is 3 years old and there’s no vaccination for kids.”

The Steins kept their spooky lawn scenes kid-friendly so everyone could appreciate their hard work. Their son had input in the decorations and is the creative genius behind the wigs and costumes of the graveyard skeletons.

Matthew fondly recalls the excitement he sees from the young visitors, “I was out one night and there was a kid who got out of the car and screamed, ‘I love this!’”

The safety of all of the guests is a priority for the family. The walk is in the open air and flows in one direction, allowing people to be safely spaced apart.

“We keep everything safe with a fire extinguisher by the front door, we have a live power meter running at all times, checking for any issues, just to make it safe for kids,” Matthew said.

The Steins’ yard has been averaging between 250 and 300 walking visitors a night. More than 1,000 people traveled to their home during the first week of October.

The family posted about their Halloween display on Nextdoor and the Morgan Hill Community Facebook page. Word of their intricate display has spread and people from around the Bay Area are traveling to walk along the Steins’ front yard.

“We posted on Nextdoor, which I thought was just local, I didn’t realize it reaches far beyond,” Matthew said.

Matthew likes to blend in with the crowds at night to see all of the reactions and make sure everything is running smoothly. He has talked with visitors from San Mateo, Walnut Creek, Fremont, and a large family visiting from Arizona.

Morgan Hill residents Dena and Allen Cave brought their 2-year-old son to see the spooky display.

“This is awesome,” Dena said. “They put a lot of effort into it. We’re grateful that they did this, especially during the pandemic. People need some way to find some fun in the community.”

Their son was enjoying the singing pumpkins and magical graveyard.

“He loves it,” Dena said. “He was singing and dancing. He loves the pumpkins.”

Hundreds of other visitors, young and old, have appreciated the generosity of the Stein family.

“So many people that have come by and you see this visceral emotion on their faces,” Matthew said. “I’ll see people just stand at the different areas for 10 or 15 minutes, you can tell that they’re just remembering better times.”

Visitors have offered to donate money to Matthew for all of his work in bringing joy to the community through his intricate decorations. He does not accept any donations. He asks that people pay it forward to their favorite charity for kids.

The Steins’ front yard is illuminated from to 10 p.m. every night through Oct. 31, except for Oct. 18-20 when it will be closed for lawn maintenance.

Freelance Author