Richland family's Halloween house helps needy (w/ gallery)

RICHLAND — Arrrr! Avast me matey, prepare to walk the plank. The Davidson Street pirate ship has set sail and is under way once again.

For nearly a decade, Dan and Laurie Campbell and their family have been turning the front of their house, the foyer and the living-dining room into a haunted pirate ship.

"We used to decorate our front porch like most people do, but in 1997 it was raining so we moved our decorations into the foyer," Dan Campbell said. "Over the years, our decorations sort of migrated further and further into the house."

The Campbells choose the pirate theme because they have a relatively old house with hardwood floors. When they roll up and remove the carpet, the planks look like the s ship's deck. Plus, they have a large bay window in the living room that juts out like a ship's prow.

Campbell and his son, Jacob, 13, further enhanced the look by building a classic wooden ship's wheel that turns by itself, giving the impression ghostly hands are guiding the ship. And this summer the ghastly duo cut portholes on the ship's prow and added cannons.

"When they go 'Boom, Boom,' they light up and smoke comes out like they really shot off cannon balls," Campbell said. "We downloaded the cannon booms on the internet. along with a lot of other eerie noises too. They go well with the graveyard Jacob built in the yard."

And what would a haunted pirate ship be without scary pirates and ghouls? Boring, that's what. All the Campbells get into the spirit of the day. Dan becomes a pirate, complete with hook and eye patch. Laurie is the kidnapped wench. Jacob is the ghoul, and his sister, Jacki, 15, dresses like Johnny Depp's character Captain Jack Sparrow.

"We're not gothic, and we're not sacrificing chickens in here. We do have lots of glow-in-the-dark things and black lights, but we don't do anything really scary or grotesque," Campbell said.

"Even so, it can sometimes be overwhelming for little ones, so we tone it down. The eye patch goes up and I drop the pirate talk," he said.

Going through the Campbells' haunted ship has become a tradition for many.

"I can be mowing the lawn in August and someone will stop and ask, 'Are you going to decorate again this year?'" Campbell said. "We usually have about 400 who come through and I think there's as many adults as children."

This year, because Halloween falls on Sunday, the Campbells are opening their haunted house early, on Saturday, as well as on Halloween. They will let people walk through from 6 to 9 p.m. both days.

The Campbells don't charge admission, though this year they're asking each person who passes through to donate a nonperishable food item for the Richland Food Bank.

Campbell said their Halloween decorations are a lot of work -- he and Jacob begin the first of October -- but worth it.

"It takes me back to my childhood when my mom would throw me a Halloween party to celebrate my Nov. 6 birthday," he said. "Back then, it was more cupcakes and crepe paper, but she always made it fun.

"Now, that I'm married, with children of my own, I decided to make memories for them too," he added. "My wife is very gracious in letting me take over the house so I always take the day after Halloween off to clean up the mess and get the house back in order."

That's when the ghosts and haunted ship come down and go into the basement for storage until their escape next year.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com