by Ryan W. aka Ryan’s Video Project’s on YouTube
Hey all, Doug here. This is the first true guest column here on Spooky Villages, and it’s from a good friend and avid village enthusiast, Ryan W. He has been villaging a long time and is someone whose opinion I value greatly. I have several guest columns like this on the way from buddies, and I hope you enjoy them. Make sure you like and subscribe to Ryan’s Video Projects YouTube channel right here. Ok, with that said, take it away Ryan!
Hey all, this is Ryan from Ryan’s Video Projects. I’m a small channel dedicated to producing Halloween and Christmas videos, more specifically demos and displays. I’m not huge into reviewing the pieces like Doug is, but when I get the opportunity from a fellow Halloween enthusiast to do a column like this, I like to see what I can do with it. Hope you all enjoy.
I’ve been a Spooky Town collector myself since 2006, and ever since then the village comes up around Labor Day, growing bigger every year. I’d consider myself invested in the hobby, making it a tradition every summer to be the first one to buy from my local Michaels. One thing’s for sure, I’ve been around a while, and I’d like to give some beginners (and long term collectors) my picks for the top 10 Spooky Town pieces ever made.
The top 10 pieces will be ranked based on my collecting experience as well as the input of many other collectors. Many pieces will appear as oddballs on this list so I hope a few of you leave this list learning about a piece you may have never heard of before. Regardless, here are my picks for the Top 10 Lemax Spooky Town Pieces of All Time.
10. Wheel of Horror (2010)
Coming in at number 10 is the carnival classic, the Wheel of Horror. At the time, this piece was a Michael’s exclusive and was available for only 120 – which pales in comparison to how much it goes for today. I bought it new myself, and from my personal experience this piece has stood very strong for almost ten years. The carnival theme just started taking off around this time, and the wheel of horror revolutionized the carnival theme, becoming the centerpiece for many miniature village carnivals from then on. Only several problems as far as glue-ons, but this piece will run forever and is very quiet.
You can see the Spooky Villages review of the Wheel of Horror right here
9. Doctor Tingle’s Laboratory (2000)
Coming in at number 9 is the first of its kind – Doctor Tingle’s Laboratory. Despite it not including animation or dynamic lighting, the eerie green light inside alongside the flashes of lightning and solid porcelain construction make for a revolutionary piece. Released in 2000, this lab was the first ever spooky town piece to feature sound and interior lighting, making it certainly a gem to have in any collection. I got this piece myself in 2010 and it has been running strong ever since.
You can see Ryan’s Doctor Tingle’s Laboratory in action right here
8. Mad Pumpkin Patch (2017)
Right at number 8 is an oddball in my opinion (which you’ll see on this list), the Mad Pumpkin Patch. With a striking appearance, vibrant orange coloring, pulsating lighting and rotating pumpkins, the mad pumpkin patch brought life to an otherwise tired line of pieces ranging the years 2012-2016. I can see the Mad Pumpkin Patch theming with a haunted farm, but also alongside the recently released Eerie Go Round and Tilt and Hurl in a pumpkin scene. I got this piece in 2017 and I have to say the speaker quality is clear as a whistle compared to the 00-08 years – definitely an improvement. My piece is running alright, but many others I know have minor problems with both of the animated parts on this piece – shown most obviously in the Michaels promotional video in 2017. I could go on about this piece, but personally I consider it to be a revival of spooky town as a whole so I think that speaks for itself.
See the Spooky Villages review of the Mad Pumpkin Patch right here
7. Madam Ashbury’s House of Wax (2003)
Coming in at number 7 is a personal favorite of mine, the lit House of Wax from 2003. This piece sold very well during its time, and had two years of shelf life at Michael’s. Being quite large compared to the other pieces of the time, Madam Ashbury’s House of Wax sizes up more so to modern lemax pieces than the ones released in 2000-2004. For this reason, this piece sits nicely in the rear of a village display, and will surely be seen quite well thanks to the interior yellow lights, dynamic cauldron lighting, and extravagant and unique animation. The animation is unlike any other spooky town piece for this one – Igor rings the bell, the mummy jumps out of the coffin in the front, and I suppose the third animation is quite common (although uncommon with modern pieces). Unfortunately due to the complex animation I will have to call the House of Wax out due to personal problems I’ve had with it, but other than that it is a gem to own and display.
6. Vampire Castle (2007)
Up at number 6 is the standalone but extravagant Vampire Castle. This piece explores a theme not very common to spooky town, making it not only a favorite of mine but relatively rare. Recently retired in 2015, this piece was quite popular for many years and for good reason. The hefty vampire castle is decked out in purple exterior lighting and is made via solid porcelain construction and features two main animations. The spinning rooftop vampire, and the most iconic animation, the sliding coffin door. Although it doesn’t have the best reliability record, spooky town to me has always meant characters emerging from doors, and this piece has a unique take on that. The uniqueness of this theme and specifically the vampire castle itself has helped me land this piece at number 6 on the list and one of my top favorites.
You can see the Spooky Villages review of the Vampire Castle right here
5. Dead as a Doornail Morgue (2008)
Right in the middle of the pack at number 5 is Dead as a Doornail Morgue, released in 2008. Right around the golden years of spooky town, this piece is no exception to not only a great theme but great set of years. Featuring a very memorable and eerie western soundtrack, the Morgue wins brownie points just from powering it on. Aside from the soundtrack, two animations can be seen running continuously – the dark humored carousel with caskets, and vultures circling the rooftop. The exterior lighting creates the storyline for the morgue, and if you listen to the soundtrack, you get a good idea of what the morgue is all about. To top it off, the piece features red pulsating lighting throughout and alongside the coroner in the top right hand corner of the piece, making for a scary sight to see every so often. The storyline, western theme, animation, and flawless lighting ensure the morgue’s number 5 spot on this list and make it a great addition to any collection.
4. Oct-O Squeeze (2008)
Coming in at number 4 is a piece that I’m sure many viewers have been looking for for a long time. The Oct-O Squeeze is the first large carnival ride that lemax released and paved the way for other large carnival rides in the future collections. The Oct-O Squeeze actually has a bit of history behind it – besides being the entertaining and unique piece that everyone wanted in 2008, the Oct-O Squeeze was a discontinued released. It was available on eHobbytools for around two years 2009-2010 until it was taken off the shelves not only from Michael’s but from production entirely. The piece had what’s known as the sticky paint issue, where the paint had never actually dried on any Oct-O Squeeze. As an owner myself, I can clarify this and agree that it is a pain to have to tweeze all the dust and hairs off of the paint after I display it each year. On top of being a discontinued piece with a unique backstory, the theme for this carnival ride on top of the soundtrack makes for an entertaining and engaging addition to any carnival. The startup and shutdown cycles are fun to watch, alongside the fancy carnival lighting around the sign and in the lampposts. The beautiful colors, soundtrack, lighting and backstory make the Oct-O Squeeze a memorable and entertaining piece that is sought after by so many, including myself.
See Ryan’s Oct-O Squeeze in action right here.
3. Witch’s Lair (2004)
Zooming in at number 3 is the small but spooky Witch’s Lair released in 2004. There isn’t a great place to start with this piece considering how much there is to it, but a fair place to start would be with the lighting. The lighting accompanies and in some cases is more extravagant than the animation on this piece. Lit jack o lanterns lead the way up the stairs to one witch that is busy hanging her laundry. Alongside her clothesline, flashing lights simulating lightning create eerie shadows on the flying witch up above who can be heard cackling sinister phrases as she continues on her flight. Upon the rooftop another witch can be seen periodically emerging from the trapdoor to prepare for takeoff. The bottom of the piece accomplishes just as much story with the use of carefully painted creatures and ingredients that a witch may use to make her stew. My favorite feature about this piece is within the building – a fourth witch can be seen stirring her glowing yellow brew alongside the many prepped ingredients on the counter. Long story short, the witch’s lair provides so much to the witch theme for such a small piece and is my pick for the best witch piece ever created.
See Ryan’s Witch’s Lair in action right here.
2. Isle of Doom Lighthouse (2004)
Coming in as the runner up is the monster itself, the Isle of Doom Lighthouse. I remember mentioning that the Oct-O Squeeze was a large piece, but besides the Halloween Jamboree from 2010 or the Graveyard Party from 2019 this has to be the largest standalone piece ever made. For this reason, the lighthouse stood out for its time not only because of its size, but its dynamic animation. Powered with the highest voltage of any Lemax piece, the isle of doom lighthouse is an entire city on an island. The emerging pirate utters phrases of defense as he is believed to have visitors – visitors that will have “no hope of making it through the night alive” according to the pirate rocking on the keg. If the animated characters weren’t enough, the lighthouse also has a rotating beacon shining eerie bright purple light. The piece also features a skull cave with the most amazing feature yet – a fogger. The fogger is so seamlessly incorporated into the skull cave that it makes the piece even more immersive. The pirate theme was a well explored theme in spooky town’s infancy, and to truly complete your pirate collection, the isle of doom lighthouse is a must. If you are lucky enough to buy the second best spooky town piece in good shape, be sure to take care of it because it is truly worth every penny.
See Ryan’s Isle of Doom in action right here.
1. Castle on Spooky Hill (2002)
At the top of the list and most certainly the hill is Castle on Spooky Hill, a 2002-2003 Michael’s release. It may be no surprise to some according to my profile photo, but the Castle on Spooky Hill stays true to its name. Aside from being the most intimidating and scary spooky town piece ever released, the solid porcelain construction as well as the resin moat around the castle make for a complete theme in one building. This stand alone piece features beautifully painted brick and wall work to give the castle the run down and ominous feeling as you watch it cycle through. The spooky theme ironic to the name of the line is not something you explicitly see too often with not only modern spooky town but ones several years after the creation of this piece. In my opinion, no piece stays true to the name spooky town than one that accomplishes just that – freaking out people of all ages. I’ve had several friends many years ago get startled/disturbed by this piece’s soundtrack and impressed by the working drawbridge and trapdoor on the roof. If you’re looking for that one cherry on top for your collection or for something eerie to put in the background, look no further than the best spooky town piece of all time, Castle on Spooky Hill.
See Ryan’s Castle on Spooky Hill in action right here
Bonus – Tips from a Long Time Collector
From my 13 some odd years of collecting, I have a few lessons for newer collectors to learn from. I’ve been kind to my pieces, but several have been just as easily damaged. To avoid destroying a piece, always always check the voltage of your adapter before you plug it into your spooky town piece. When I didn’t understand this several years ago, I fried my very first Oct-O Squeeze with a 12V adapter. The voltage and amperage should be on the back of the adapter and most spooky town pieces after 2008 use a 4.5V 500-1000mA adapter. Another lesson is to leave the internals of Spooky Town pieces alone. If something goes wrong with your piece, leave it alone unless you are truly skilled in dealing with electronic circuits. This is how several of my pieces have died over the years until I realized how to fix them. If you have a really rare piece, see if you can buy one for display and one for storage, that way you have a “beater” piece to use and love, and one to keep value. If you’re looking to make platforms for your village, buy expanded styrofoam from any hardware store – it is a cheap material and is about 10 dollars a sheet of 4’ by 8’. There’s a lot more I could get into about collecting, but those are my main tips and I hope you learned something new about spooky town.
Thanks again to Ryan for taking the time to put together his list! Make sure you subscribe to his YouTube channel!