Editor’s Note: This article was written and submitted by Chris Boyle. Due to Hurricane Sandy, we delayed its release in favor of more time-sensitive issues.
This Halloween, keep your eyes peeled as you’re driving around the Merrick area- something creepy just might be rolling your way.
Merrick resident Alan Stewart is the proud owner of the aptly-named “Haunted Hearse,” a 1960 Cadillac Superior Hearse that he has lovingly stuffed with every manner of horrific prop and scary animatronic device Halloween aficionados have ever conceived of.
“When I’m driving, and I stop at a light, people freak out,” he said. “When I’m on parkways, traffic slows down so they can take pictures. Everywhere I go, people are honking and giving me thumbs-up...they’re just in awe.”
Stewart wears many hats; he owns Aquavisions, a Merrick-based company that specializes in installing custom aquariums for the home, and he also boasts an impressive collection of cars that are sometimes leased by the entertainment industry.
“I’ve always been into cars,” he said. “Over the years I’ve accumulated many of them...mostly muscle cars, exotics from the 60’s and 70’s. I’ve rented a lot of them out from movies and commercials.”
However, Stewart, a huge fan of all things dark and foreboding, didn’t consider his collection complete until he finally acquired his classic Cadillac hearse.
“The hearse I got because I’m very big into Halloween... I even have a private haunted house in my second home upstate,” he said. “I got the hearse from a friend of mine, and I always wanted this type...a 1960 Cadillac hearse is the rarest of the rare. You can’t find them anywhere...a needle in a haystack.”
Stewart originally had other ideas for the hearse, but those ideas soon traveled down a far more evil path once he started decorating it.
“I originally bought it to bring up to my haunted house upstate and leave it there,” Stewart continued. “But when I got it, I figured that I’d make it a miniature extension of my haunted house...and I had so much fun doing it, and I started to bring it to shows and people loved it, so I kept it here instead.”
Even before he packed the hearse to capacity with rats, skeletons, mummies, and giant spiders that eagerly leap for your throat, the Cadillac’s appearance was unsettling enough due to rust and body rot.
“I thought about doing some bodywork on it, but everyone said that I was out of my mind,” he said. “Mechanically, it works 100 percent, but people say that the rust makes it look like the Munster Mobile. It gives it the panache, the look and the feel....everyone said I shouldn’t touch it.”
The Haunted Hearse spends the majority of the year covered and parked in front of Stewart’s home, mainly because the vehicle is too long to park in his garage; but come the Halloween season, the cover comes off and Stewart unleashes this terrifying transport upon the public once again.
Stewart rents the Haunted Hearse (as well as his other vintage cars) for Halloween, parties, weddings (yes, he gets requests for weddings), store openings and other special events, but he draws the line when it comes to a hearse’s most basic task; Stewart doesn’t do funerals.
“I get people who are eccentric, or whose grandfather died who was into 60’s Cadillacs, and I have to turn them down,” he said. “I mean, I would have to remove everything out of the hearse first, and I worked so hard to set it up. So I just tell them that it’s not available for funerals.”
For Stewart, Halloween is one of his very favorite times of the year, and if his Haunted Hearse can help someone else appreciate the spooky season as well, then he feels he’s done his job.
“I have videos of people freaking out and jumping, but it’s all in good fun,” he said. “You’ve got the kids that come up and cry and run away, but then they want to come back and come back, they always want to come back.”
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