When Chuck and Sandra McKee imagined their dream home in Waxahachie, Texas (pop. 21,246), they pictured a living room with an electric chair, a revolving suit of armor leading to a secret room, and a pet dragon named Spot living under the staircase. The two made that dream a reality in 2001 when they built a replica of the Munster Mansion, the home featured on their favorite TV showThe Munsters.
Each year since, the couple has added furnishings and details to ensure each room looks just as it did on the 1960s sitcom that showcased the home life of a family of monsters.
My daughter thinks we go a little overboard, says Sandra, 51, but if youre going to do it, you might as well do it all the way.
Of course, the McKees dont just keep their tribute to the classic TV show to themselves. In years past, theyve opened up their 5,825-square-foot home to fans and cast members of the show to share their passion and raise money for various charities.
Prior to building their own Munster Mansion, Chuck and Sandra lived in a Victorian home on Main Street in Waxahachie that they restored over a 10-year period. They eventually decided they wanted a new home that required less upkeep and was more energy efficient, but they didnt want it to look new. When discussing plans for their new home, Sandra mentioned to Chuck the possibility of re-creating the Munster Mansion since the TV shows house was Victorian-style and many of her antiques could easily be included in the decor. Chuck, now 53, agreed it was a good idea.
Once I got the OK, Sandra says, I began researching, and thats how we got where we are today.
The McKees, who own their own plumbing business, did a lot of the work themselves on the house, which cost about $350,000 to construct. The house includes every room that was in the TV show, except the basement. Since the show, which originally aired on CBS from 1964 to 1966, was filmed on a California sound stage, no blueprints existed for the house. The McKees had to repeatedly watch all 70 episodes and study photographs of the set to draw the plans.
If youve lived in a Victorian house, you know what size the rooms should be, Sandra says.
Plus, Yvonne DeCarlo, who played Lily, was 5-foot-4 and Im 5-foot-3, so I counted her steps (as she walked across the set).
As visitors walk through the front door, they face the easily recognizable staircase complete with a re-created Spot underneath and a rotating suit of armor at the top. Each room looks like the Munsters TV house, decorated with antiques.
I paid $3,000 for a harp that doesnt work and $900 for a bankers fan that I never would have looked at, except thats what they had on the show, Sandra says.
The McKees had reproductions made of the Munsters couch, living room curtains and coffee table, and they even gave up their king-size sleigh bed for a full canopy bed, because thats the type of bed that Herman and Lily Munster slept in.
Although their house draws an array of reactions, Sandra says most are positive. Most people think its cool, she says. People like people who go after their dreams, and most say, Wow, you did what you wanted to do, and I wish I could do what I wanted to do.
Fundraising with fans
In years past, the McKees have hosted a two-night costume party around Halloween during which visitors toured their home and enjoyed midway games, face painting, a puppet show, a haunted house, a fortune-teller, music and food.
Although the couple had some event sponsors, they covered most of the cost themselves, before giving all profits to a select charity, which varied each year. In 2006, 2,500 people attended, and the McKees raised $10,000 for the Parkland Burn Center in nearby Dallas. Due to the high cost of hosting the party, the McKees canceled this years event, but vow to pick up the charity event next year, Sandra says.
Over the years, the party has even brought some of the shows stars. Butch Patrick, who played Eddie, and Al Lewis, who played Grandpa, attended the event in 2002. Pat Priest, who played Marilyn, attended every year since 2003. She says the McKees home is exactly like the Munster Mansion.
I get excited about going, says Priest, who now lives in Eagle, Idaho (pop. 11,085), because I want to see what new things theyve done.
Waxahachie resident Wendy Whitmire says the McKees are generous, caring people, and she and her own family have been among 40 volunteers whove helped during past events.
Its chaotic and fun, says Whitmire, 42. Its like going to a fair once the lights get flipped on and all the people start coming in.
During last years event, Chuck and Sandra donned custom-made costumes of Herman and Lily Munster, and spent three hours with a professional makeup artist to complete their amazing transformation.
Chuck loves walking around in those big old shoes and handing out things to the kids, Sandra says.
Priest says the McKees are like family to her, and she admires their attention to detail in re-creating the Munster Mansion.
Not many people would undertake that at their own expense for the love of the show or any show, Priest says. Its a tribute to them and a tribute to the show.