As I pass through the wrought iron gate of 1313 Mockingbird Lane in Waxahachie, Texas, I’m transported to Mockingbird Heights. The home, an exact replica of the house from the 1960s sitcom The Munsters, is a loving tribute to the famous family of monsters, vampires, werewolves, and Marilyn, a normal human.
Sandra and Charles McKee started building the home for themselves in 2001. As I climb the entrance steps, the door creaks open and Sandra McKee greets me. “Welcome to Munster Mansion,” she says and closes the door behind us. My eyes adjust to the darkness as I lock eyes with Spot, a dragon peering out from under the grand staircase while a pipe organ issues dramatic chords.
After restoring a Victorian home on Waxahachie’s main street, the McKees decided to sell it and begin a new project. Their Munster Mansion began as a joke. “It’d be cool to build a Munster house,” McKee recalls telling her husband.
“I’m definitely a bigger fan [of the show] than my husband is,” she says. “If it were up to him, we’d be living on the [Star Trek] Enterprise.”
But they agreed to build a Munster house and McKee started researching. She watched and re-watched old episodes on VHS tapes, pausing and rewinding to capture everything from the floor plan to the dishes on the kitchen table.
They moved into the house the following August, unaware that anyone else would be interested in their unique home. Yet, when they opened their doors for charity events, Munster fans came to Waxahachie from all over the world. The Munster Mansion quickly became a destination.
Living in a tourist attraction
As I tour the fog-filled living room, a life-sized Herman Munster looks on. In real life, actor Fred Gwynne stood 6 foot, 5 inches tall. Wearing platform shoes for the show, he dwarfed the furniture, including the pipe organ, Grandpa’s electric chair, and a clock (with a raven instead of a cuckoo). The McKees’ living room is home to McKee’s only regret: She hasn’t yet found anyone to replicate the Munsters’ Tiffany floor lamp.
Collectors inform the McKees when any items from the show’s set come up for sale. The dishes in their dining room and kitchen are actual props; the wood cook stove in the kitchen—identical to the one in the show—was a Craigslist find.
McKee’s favorite room is the kitchen, which features a life-sized Lily Munster. Lily had eight dresses, all of which looked similar in black and white. McKee owns one from the movie Munster Go Home, but says she’d “sell nearly everything” she owns to have just one from the series.
The McKees lived full time in the Munster home until six years ago, when they moved next door to a brighter house with no cobwebs. While they lived in the mansion, they opened their doors for charity events but the rest of the year they slept, ate, and entertained family in the house; they hosted Thanksgiving dinners and had sleepovers with their grandchildren. The little ones were scared, so everyone slept in Lily and Herman’s room. That may have been a wise choice.
“I used to keep a journal because we had so many strange things happen,” McKee says. “I put up a camera in the hallway upstairs to see if I could see anything. The next day I started watching it, but I thought, ’No, I don’t want to know what’s happening when I sleep at night.’ It’s just too spooky.”
One of the strangest things happened on a spring day. McKee says she heard her husband’s voice calling her from outside through the open windows. When she went outside, she saw her husband just pulling into the driveway. Clearly, he wasn’t the one calling her name. When they entered the house together, a small fire was burning on Eddie Munster’s balcony. They quickly doused the flames but never figured out what—or who—started the fire.
The Munsters visit the mansion
McKee is on a first-name basis with the original cast of the show and keeps in touch with them as if they were her own family. She never met Yvonne De Carlo, who played Lily and died in 2007, but she says they talked on the phone as if “I’d known her forever.” Al Lewis, who played Grandpa Munster, attended a charity event at the house and was moved to tears seeing the mansion and his room in particular.
Pat Priest, the second actress to portray Lily’s “ugly” niece Marilyn Munster, attended the McKees’ charity events as well. Her bedroom reflects her humanness, with a frilly canopy bed and dressing table. Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster) has attended every charity event held at the mansion. Patrick heads the Munsters’ Facebook fan group and travels the country signing autographs. In the house, his bedroom is like any 10-year-old boy’s room in the 1960s—with some added weapons, caged animals, and a Fauntleroy suit.
Before the McKees built their own Munster Mansion, they had no idea how popular the show still was—with people of all ages. There are only 70 episodes of The Munsters, which originally aired from 1964 to 1966. Reruns began in the 1990s, and now the show has a large YouTube presence. “We just had a birthday party for an 18-year-old girl here. And people have asked about baby showers, can you imagine?” she says.
McKee said she believes its popularity lies with the show portraying a real family, and she watches the show with her grandchildren. “You don’t have to cover any kids’ eyes,” she says. The Munsters weren’t perfect. They bickered but worked things out. They might have been macabre, but they clearly loved each other.
In one particularly heartwarming moment, Herman tells Eddie: “The lesson I want you to learn is it doesn’t matter what you look like. You can be tall or short or fat or thin or ugly or handsome, like your father, or you can be black or yellow or white—it doesn’t matter—what does matter is the size of your heart and the strength of your character.”