Alan Stewart drives around town in his black 1960 Cadillac Superior hearse, pressing a button to turn on his passenger, a mechanical man with beady yellow eyes, an insane laugh and a head that turns completely around.
“Halloween is my favorite holiday,” said Stewart, 58, of Merrick. “When I drive around in the hearse on parkways people stop traffic to take pictures. I create traffic jams.”
After Stewart drives around the neighborhood on the weekends, he parks it at various car shows every chance he gets. The mechanical scary ghouls inside the hearse entice passersby.
In April, he bought the hearse from a friend with the idea of adding on to the haunted house he created in the basement of his second home in upstate Rock Hill.
“I call it the haunted hearse because even when I’m driving and all my animatronics are off, I’m telling you, I hear things going on in the back,” he said. “It’s definitely haunted.”
When Stewart first brought it home, he asked his neighbor, Marc Spector, if the other neighbors would get upset or uncomfortable if he parked it on the street in front of his house.
“I told him he could park it in front of my house. People get a kick out of it anyways,” said Spector, 53, of Merrick. “What the car does is make people smile. It’s both a scary car and a car that scares you.”
Stewart spent months building a miniature haunted house inside the hearse, with a skeleton in the driver’s seat, an insane farmer as the passenger and filling the rest with fake dead rodents, a clown with a detachable head, a serial killer trying to free himself and demonic creatures that jump out at unsuspecting pedestrians.
Although he gets a kick out of driving the hearse, stopping people in their tracks or causing traffic jams, he refuses to rent it out for funerals, something he’s been asked to do twice.
“I would never bring this to a funeral,” Stewart said. “I already think it’s haunted. It’s one of the rarest Cadillac hearses I’ve ever seen.”
It was used as a hearse in the 1960s in Oregon.
His friend Joe Nestola thought he was out of his mind to buy a hearse, but it grew on him, especially since he can relate to it being haunted. He believes that his Commack restaurant, Grill 454, is haunted by Revolutionary War soldiers.
“My favorite part of it is the rarity of the vehicle,” said Nestola, 51, of Merrick. “There were so many people who died in this car, but the car won’t die. It’s still running.”
Stewart said even with the 10 exotic cars he’s collected over the years, the hearse gets the most attention.
“Everywhere I go, people stop me and give me a thumbs up,” he said. “It’s wild the attention that this gets. I put a lot of work into it and it’s just great driving around with it.”