ST. GEORGE — A local professor is taking holiday decorations to the next level.
Josh Pedersen, a Dixie State University professor of computing and design, hand-crafted haunted decor for his two-story home in St. George. The project in total took about 38 days and cost about $3,000, which he personally funded.
Since he was a child, Pedersen has always wanted to turn his home into the holiday version of the haunted mansion featured at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Until this year, he didn’t have the means to make his dreams a reality.
And he wouldn’t have had the opportunity this year if it weren’t for the Atwood Innovation Plaza, he said.
“If I would have had to do this without that space, I would have had to go who knows where, and it would have cost way more,” he said.
The design professor compiled over 200 images of the holiday-themed haunted mansion to ensure his home was as close as possible to the original concept. However, the first part of the process was to obtain accurate measurements of Pedersen’s roofline — which he divulged was a painful process — before beginning to create the signature “Nightmare Before Christmas” swirls and candles.
It took Pedersen four re-designs to finally land on the 23.45-degree angle necessary for each of the parts, drawing each of the vectors by hand in Adobe Illustrator before beginning to laser print the parts.
Pederson used sanded 4-by-8-foot planks of hardwood maple plywood that were half of an inch think as his canvas, using the laser printer at the makerspace at Atwood Innovation Plaza to cut out each individual piece needed to bring together the final look.
Pedersen employed the help of his fellow professors — Rachel Ramsay, Jeremey Forsberg and Haylee Ream — and over 27 hours and eight sheets of plywood later, there were enough pieces to line Pedersen’s roof. Pedersen then created 168 candles and carved 66 custom-ordered, fake pumpkins for the six sections of his roof. The laser printer at the makerspace was also used to finish each of the candles and carve the pumpkins.
Ramsay and Pedersen, along with Pedersen’s students, hand-drew each of the pumpkin faces in Illustrator, tracing the faces with pencil onto each pumpkin using a projector before they could begin to carve. Pedersen ordered the same brand of fake pumpkins, called “Fun-Kins,” as the Disneyland Park does, securing a large order from the Colorado store. The “Fun-Kins” are molded using real pumpkins, Pedersen said, so each pumpkin is unique and incredibly realistic.
Lasering each of the necessary pieces took over 30 hours, he said. After all of the pieces were cut and carved, Pedersen spray painted each piece with black hammered iron spray paint and drilled them into a 2-by-6-foot redwood base using hundreds of 90-degree steel brackets to ensure they were secure.
Pedersen also cut PVC pipe at various lengths and painted them a dull white to give each candle character. The design professor wired each pipe to look like a candle while hiding the cables completely, using commercial-grade Christmas wire and clear lights. Doing so gave him the ability to turn the candles on with one switch.
“I didn’t know I was an electrician,” Pedersen said, laughing. “I learned how to be one. How do you make a candle for a roof? They don’t sell them in a strand.”
Then, he said, getting each of the pieces into place and secured onto the roof became an engineering project. Installation took roughly a week with the help of many people, but the finished product has the entire community talking.
The ambiance was completed with a number of soundbars around the outside to give the house an authentic haunted mansion meets “The Nightmare Before Christmas” feel.
Pedersen started the passion project for himself and the possibility of using the finished product in his portfolio, but throughout the process, he said, it turned into something more. People were driving by to see his progress and asking for updates on social media.
“I appreciate it when other people go into putting effort into something that someone else can enjoy,” Pedersen said. “It was for me — is what it started out as — but then it turned into ‘oh, well other people want to come by and enjoy it, as well.’ It turned into something bigger. I didn’t think that it would.”
The design professor is hoping to show his students that anything is possible and design isn’t limited to posters or websites.
Pedersen shared his experiences with his students throughout the process, taking two minutes at the beginning of every class to share where the design was, something new he learned and something he might have made a mistake on.
“It was a learning experience that then we could make a list of rights and wrongs,” he said. “Helping students see that and then helping them not make that mistake is awesome. If someone else can make the mistake for you, and you can learn from it, then you save time and you save money.”
Atwood Innovation Plaza’s makerspace is a free resource to students and faculty and is an inexpensive resource to members of the community. The makerspace opens Nov. 8, but Pedersen was able to use the technology in it after the soft opening earlier this year. Pedersen said the makerspace is “an incubator for great ideas,” allowing students to branch out within their own fields of study.
Pedersen has a number of other university and student projects in the works, and although funding for these projects has been organized, finding a location has proven difficult. For now, all eyes are on 646 E. 1100 South in St. George, waiting to see what will happen next.
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