By LENORE RUTHERFORD
There's no doubt Michelle and Bob Fulcher take Halloween seriously in a fun way.
It's the one night a year when they turn their century-old Victorian home into a spooky fantasyland suitable for families with children.
"Halloween has been my favorite holiday as long as I can remember, and the Wicked Witch of the West was my favorite character in 'The Wizard of Oz,'" Michelle said. "I was 8 or 9 years old the first time I saw it."
Her mother, Betty Martinez, who lives next door, made her an exact replica of the movie character's outfit this year.
"I am so excited about it. She's 78 years old and still a great seamstress," Michelle said.
She'll be wearing the costume for the open house she and Bob are holding tonight.
From 6 to 9 p.m. today, the Fulchers will open their home at the corner of Crocker Avenue and Madrone Street in Tuolumne for eerie tours.
Ten at a time, people will be led from the front gate to the house through a mock cemetery where the most frightening thing they will see is a life-like "Countess Vampira" lying in a coffin.
The Fulchers have planned a creepy tour, complete with tombstones, flying bats, a witch bent over a cauldron, flying broomsticks and ghostly apparitions, all enhanced by spooky lighting and sound effects.
In the house, tourists are likely to see some relatively friendly ghosts, goblins and skeletons, including the Fulchers' most recent acquisition, a life-sized "Red Skeleton."
Red looms over the dining room table where visitors can have candy, cookies and punch.
Bob and Michelle have held many Halloween parties for the nine grown children they have between them, as well as their 20 grandchildren. Michelle has dressed as a witch for Halloween almost every year since her own childhood.
"I like to pretend," she said, "and Halloween is a great excuse to act like a kid again."
The Fulchers have been married for nine years and have both lived in Tuolumne County for more than 20 years. Michelle, who operates a hair salon from home, and Bob, a painting contractor, bought their 100-year-old Queen-Ann-Victorian home five years ago.
"This house is perfect for Halloween," Bob said. "It originally belonged to Wil and Cordelia Symons, and it was well-known that Cordelia gave the best Halloween treats in town."
The home became run-down over the years, so the Fulchers started renovating as soon as they moved in.
When their first Halloween in the house came around, they had taken off the porches to be replaced, so they sat outside the gate and passed out treats.
"Kids were afraid to come to up to us for treats that first year," Michelle said, "but we have had more every year since then, and we love doing it."
The Fulchers, who are members of the Mono Village Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, don't take the same light-hearted approach to Christmas decorating as they do to Halloween.
"Halloween is all pretend," said Michelle, "but Christmas is a very serious religious holiday for us. We may have some lights at Christmas, and someday I would like to have a lighted manger scene with music, but that's about all."
Contact Lenore Rutherford at firstname.lastname@example.org