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Trick or treat: The ultimate Halloween home

Desiree Westberg and son, Zackary, 2, light the pumpkins in front of their home on Sunday, Oct. 28. Children from the neighborhood carved the pumpkins. - Jacinda Howard, The Mirror
Desiree Westberg and son, Zackary, 2, light the pumpkins in front of their home on Sunday, Oct. 28. Children from the neighborhood carved the pumpkins.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard, The Mirror

Fog, fortune-telling and dancing ghosts can be found every October at the house on the corner of 30th Avenue Southwest and Southwest 314th Street in Federal Way.

The house, 2930 SW 314th St., has acquired a reputation for being the place to go to get a Halloween scare.

The majority of the year, Desiree Westberg and Dennis Travica are busy working and raising their 2-year-old son, Zackary. But when Halloween begins to creep close, the couple find the extra time and energy to embellish their home with handcrafted Halloween decorations.

The couple’s home is adorned flying ghosts, headstones, a coffin, witch and fortune teller, among other things. Westberg and Travica dedicate the first week of every October to setting up the decorations and ensuring every mechanical prop is functioning correctly, Westberg said.

“This has become a neighborhood classic,” neighbor Dave Hamlin said.

For the past five years, the couple have decorated their home. Each year, Westberg explores the Internet, searching for instructions on how to create Halloween props. Her first masterpiece was a glowing, moving ghost, which is attached to the ceiling of her living room. The ghost is a staple in each year’s display. Neighbor Louis Davis said at a quick glance he sometimes thinks the construction is real person standing in front of the couple’s window.

The idea of lavishly decorating the house was Westberg’s idea, Travica said. Westberg constructs the props herself, with assistance from Travica when needed. She looks for displays that require materials that she already has or can easily acquire, she said.

The final decision on what is build rests largely on what is affordable and does not take much time to construct, Westberg said. Throughout the year, she saves anything that could be used to build a Halloween prop.

“I’m not one that throws much away,” Westberg said.

A fortune teller was created by wrapping Westberg in some of her own discarded clothing, then cutting the cloth away and stuffing paper inside the empty shell. PVC pipe and old wood was used to build a fence around the graveyard. A witch’s broom is attached to a record player, which twists the broom in circles and creates the appearance of the witch stirring a potion.

Sheets are attached to string and a ceiling fan, which hangs in a tree, to create flying ghosts. A projector and special effects DVD are the secrets behind a floating head and ball of fire in an upstairs window.

This year, the house is draped in black fabric — discarded from a basketball team party. The couple plan to paint next year, so they are not worried about nailing and stapling fabric to their house, Westberg said.

Westberg did not begin her crafting with the intention of creating a reputation, or even building an attraction, she said.

Neither she nor Travica grew up in a family rich with Halloween traditions, she said. But, since building her first decoration, each year Westberg has felt the desire to decorate. Last year, Travica began brainstorming ways to build a contraption that would allow ghosts to circle his property, Westberg said.

“Someday there will be ghosts flying around my house,” she said.

As the years progressed, the display grew and the pressure set in. People began expecting to see a spectacular display, Westberg said. Drivers-by stop in her yard during the summer months and inquire whether she plans to decorate for Halloween. Westberg does not usually look forward to the extra work it takes to morph her home into a Halloween haunt, especially now that she has a son, but once she begins the process, she enjoys it.

“It progressively grows more and more every year,” Westberg said.

Now, she plans to carry on the tradition for years to come so Zackary has something to look forward to. At his young age, he is unable to help much, but he tries, Westberg said. He has fun with the props and knows how some of them operate.

The Sunday before Halloween, Zackary and Westberg scurried around their home, lighting multiple pumpkins. Zackary eagerly stood in front of a skeleton display, clapping his hands and hooting in an attempt to create enough noise to trigger the props’ mechanics.

Despite being tired, his smile spread ear to ear when he was successful in his attempts. This small smile is not the only one the couple sees during this time of the year.

The Halloween spirit at the Westberg and Travica home has changed the neighborhood a bit. Neighbors say they enjoy the couple’s decorations and look forward to them each year. This year, Westberg recruited neighborhood children to carve pumpkins, which are on display in the front yard, she said. The house is a safe place for children to go and enjoy Halloween, Davis said. The children and adults come by the carload to see the display, Hamlin said.

Hamlin used to see about 20 trick-or-treaters at his home before Westberg and Travica began decorating. Now, he gets about 100 trick-or-treaters per year, he said. By the end of Halloween night, Westberg and Travica have usually seen about 250 children on their doorstep, Westberg said.

Several vehicles slow down to gawk at the house as they drive by, Hamlin said.

“The reputation is out,” Hamlin said. “Cars are showing up four to five SUVs at a time.”

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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