Come October, Jim and Susan Seubert’s split-level home in Edwardsville becomes Hotel E’ville.
Inside and out.
Grave stones and skeletal figures flank the walkway to the house. A full-size skeletal horse pulls an old-fashioned hearse just to the right of the front door.
“The horse came from Home Depot,” said Jim. “Limited supply. We bought it online this year. The hearse was made by a friend who is a carpenter. We sent him a picture and told him, ‘This is what we want.’ Everyone loves the hearse.”
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As much as you can love a hearse.
“Susan added to it, with things in the windows and decorations to the wheels,” said Jim. “Beads are the reins for the horse. They were a yard sale find. She knew right away they would be perfect for reins. We’re always trying to come up with something cool and unique.”
Almost every room in their house is a tribute to Halloween. Skeletons, witches and pirates abound. Alice in Wonderland figures and decor take over the home office. Susan puts up gold and black diamond pattern wallpaper just for the season. An organ-playing skeleton holds forth in the family room, along with animated busts. The garage is their version of a Funny Bones comedy club. Out back, they enclose the area to create a pirate scene. The pirate ship is on the deck to their pool.
And so on.
They invite friends and neighbors and anyone curious to enjoy their handiwork. Interested? Don’t miss their Hotel E’ville open house from 5-8:30 p.m. Sunday. They live at 113 West Lake Drive.
They were in the middle of one of their eight parties last Thursday when we stopped by.
“We’re having a networking event tonight,” said Susan. “Since so much work goes into it, it wouldn’t be fun to have just one event.”
Susan, 54, likes to have a good time and wants everyone else to. Originally from Carbondale, she has a grown son and daughter, as does Jim. Together, they have four grandchildren.
“I used to turn the kids’ school into a fall carnival every year,” Susan said, between offering drinks and directing folks toward tables laden with cookies and hors d’oeuvres at the networking event. “Husband No. 2 didn’t like Halloween. I sold all my stuff.”
But husband No. 3 likes Halloween as much as she does.
“We’ve take it to a new level,” she said.
“We go to auctions, yard sales, on Craigslist,” said Jim, 51, who grew up in Bloomington, Ind. “There’s a Halloween trade show in St. Louis. It’s not open to the public but you can get in — if you are a serious Halloween enthusiast.”
Susan and Jim connected through Match.com
“We met right around Halloween,” said Susan, 54. “Our first date was not till after Halloween. The first year we were together, we threw our first party. It just grew from there. It was nothing like we have now, for sure. This is our seventh year. We’ve been married for six.”
“Time flies when you’re having fun, right?” Jim said. “I like seeing the reaction on people’s faces. They smile, relax. There’s so much sadness in the world. We want to share our fun with others. That’s what it’s all about. Life is serious enough.”
He should know. Jim, a U.S. Air Force and Navy veteran, owns Pride Cleaning & Restoration, a disaster cleanup business that restores homes damaged by water, fire and mold.
“I go into situations where people are at a bad time in life,” he said. “I try to make it better, take the stress off their plate. I like making them happy. I guess this is an extension of that.
“At an open house last Sunday, a gentleman walking with a cane said, ‘My kids drug me out here. I didn’t want to come. I wasn’t interested. This was so much fun. It’s the best thing I have ever seen.’”
Susan is a loan officer with Midwest Regional Bank in Fairview Heights.
“She helps people with business planning,” said Jim. “She helps business owners achieve their dream, secure their loan.”
“I work pretty well out of my home. This is my office,” Susan said, laughing. “Of course, when (coworkers) see what this looks like, they may change their mind.”
But probably not. They admire her avocation, decorating Hotel E’ville.
“You won’t see anything like it,” said Julie Mayfield, of Moro, who works in property management. “It’s very unique. I saw it last year. It’s very elaborate. Every room has a theme.”
A favorite is a trio of animated busts in the family room.
“I like these guys,” Julie said. “They talk to each other.”
“They have a Disney-haunted-mansion kind of look,” said Jim. “Everything is synced just right to get them to do several routines. Susan was able to set that up.”
She used DVD players with an LCD projector to get the job done.
“You’re entering a haunted mansion,” they say. “Get out,. Leave right away. This place is haunted.”
Across the room from the busts, a ceramic head topped by a blackbird made Melanie Reed, of Belleville, stop and take notice.
“Look at that nose,” she said.
“I made that one last year,” said Susan. “We call this fellow ‘Bernard.’ It’s clay. I sculpted him.”
Next to Bernard is a bird cage of vulture skeletons.
“These are just my little pet vultures,” said Susan, with a wicked laugh. “Everyone should have pet vultures.”
Hotel E’ville doesn’t happen overnight.
“We started decorating in August,” said Susan.
Guests trooped from room to room until they stepped into the Seuberts’ garage turned comedy club. A skeleton in a straw hat and vest comes to life to tell a few jokes (“Did you see those witches in the dining room. I think they went to school together. They were broommates.”), thanks to Susan’s handiwork. They call him Johnny BoneAir.
“He has an MP 3 player in his pocket,” she said, making the process sound simple. “It’s made to work with a microphone.”
She wrote and recorded his routine.
“Good accent,” said one party-goer.
“Fine job,” said another.
Visitors often wonder about the volume of Halloween props.
“The first question they ask is, ‘Where do you store this?’” Susan said.
“I say, ‘We have a large walk-in closet.’ They say, ‘That must be a big closet.’”
The truth is they have a warehouse in St. Louis.
“Others say, ‘Oh my God, you spent so much money,”’ said Susan. “No, I didn’t. I make a lot of the stuff.”
“They ask, ‘What do you do for Christmas?’” said Jim.
The Seuberts use the money people donate from touring Hotel E’ville to help veterans. right up our alley, support am legion.
“The money goes to the American Legion for a program called Gifts for the Yanks,” said Jim. “It benefits veterans in nursing homes and senior living centers. It makes Christmas better for veterans.”
What: Open house
When: 5-8:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30
Where: 113 West Lake Drive, Edwardsville
Cost: Cash donations. The Seuberts raise money for Gifts for the Yanks, an American Legion program that provides Christmas gifts to veterans in nursing homes and senior living centers.