From a distance, the black 1960 Cadillac looks like just another classic model in mint condition. But a closer inspection reveals a more haunting truth.
Alan Stewart has "spooked" his ride, a haunted hearse, and turned it into a "BOOhicle."
Creep up behind the rear bumper and the bloody limp arm dangling from it is a dead giveaway to the ghoulish horrors going on inside: Skeletons, skulls, corpses, rats and all sorts of freaky creatures of the night light up, pop out or rotate in a cacophony of eerie sound effects and animatronics designed to scare the bejeebers out of anyone within range.
A sign on the side warns: "Look at your own risk!! Not responsible for screaming, fainting, heart attacks, headaches, nausea, nightmares, etc!!!"
The bloodcurdling, macabre scene stays quietly under wraps when the car's on the go. Although: "When I'm driving, this guy's always with me," Stewart said, pointing to the passenger seat and the sight of bulging, crimson eye sockets on a rotating bald cranium attached to a skeleton. "And I work his head so people freak out."
Setting the ghastly scene in motion when the hearse is parked at car shows, store openings, charity events and private parties requires a large supply of power packs, batteries and patience, according to Stewart, who -- fittingly -- lives on a dead-end street in Merrick and by day owns an aquarium business and vintage car-rental service.
But the Halloween lover, who has two adult children and will only reveal he is in his late 50s, gets quite a thrill out of this hobby, which began two years ago after he bought the vintage 22-foot-long hearse from a friend for $6,500.
"I have a haunted house upstate," Stewart said of the space he created for fun in the basement of his Rock Hill home. After buying the hearse, he said, he planned to keep the car at the house and extend the terror within to the outdoors, via the Cadillac.
Then he started parking it at Long Island car shows and getting quite a response, he said, particularly from frightened children.
"The kids' faces are unbelievable," Stewart said. "They freak out, go grab their mothers and come back! I really enjoy that."
And people began asking him to steer the spookmobile to their parties. It's not really a business, Stewart said, but he does charge because it's so expensive to drive the hearse, which weighs more than 6,000 pounds and gets only about 5 miles to the gallon. And it requires his time for setup. Prices range from $300 to $500 for a night (vipersvettes.com) and he is sometimes called for wedding photo ops. For those, he has the perfect props on hand: a bride holding her bloody, lifeless head next to her tuxedoed groom. Sweet.
But Stewart does have boundaries: He doesn't do funerals.