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Manteca man turns garage into lab
Ricky Feuerstein, center, gives a tour of his mad scientist lab at his home at 1371 Parajo Avenue in Manteca. It will be open again tonight from 6 to 9 p.m. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Jordan Grey rocked hesitantly at the edge of the garage while the sound of electricity pulsed up a Jacob’s ladder in the corner. 

“Dad? Can we go now?”

The 6-year-old didn’t quite know what to make of Rick Feuerstein’s demented horror lab on Thursday night – a 20-plus-year labor of love for the longtime medical instrument repair technician that grew up watching classic monster movies and still remembers painting his favorite ghoulish character models as a kid himself. 

And even as Feuersten walked over – a pair of goggles and a stethoscope around his neck to complement the white lab coat that ties in to the overhauled garage that draws hundreds of visitors every year – with a bucket of candy in his hand the boy still didn’t want any part of the display. 

“Alright,” said father Matt Grey. “Tell the Mad Scientist good-bye.”

“Bye,” he said, his eyes shifting towards the street. 

The exchange certainly wasn’t something that Feuerstein hasn’t seen over the stretch of time that he’s spent accumulating and constructing the unique and occasionally creepy laboratory – a mish-mash of the things that he’s picked up from Halloween stores, a friend at UC Davis that tipped him off to items that were being liquidated and even his own company that was discarding a bunch of old equipment. 

Jars with colored water bubble with brains and scorpions and eyeballs on shelves that are full of old electronic equipment, and a life-size Frankenstein is bolted down to a table in the middle of the garage – the centerpiece of Feuerstein’s display. 

“I think that it’s fantastic,” said neighbor Jamie Sweger that comes to see the display every year. “Halloween is always my favorite night of the year because it’s a night for families – everybody is out and walking around and you get to be somebody different if you want to be. And in Manteca everybody is appreciative when you see displays like this. I remember when I first moved here and I decorated the kids all thanked me for everything I had done. It wasn’t like that in the Bay Area. 

“I like Christmas too and some people go all out for Christmas but when you look at Christmas lights it’s always from your car. You have to walk around on Halloween, and that’s what I like about this.”

It takes Feuerstein about a month to put the intricate display together – pulling each of the pieces out from either a shed, a closet inside of the house where he stores everything, or a storage unit where the larger back-paneling is kept during the off-season. After nearly two-decades of doing it – he put on the same display in Lodi for 15 years – he says he pretty much knows where everything goes by now, but still takes pictures and video every year to remind himself when all of the boxes and bins finally do come out. 

“Setting it all up is the fun part for me,” he said. “I have to use my garage during the year and people ask if I just keep it here. It takes me a while to put it all up and take it down but I enjoy it. I enjoy being able to share this.”

The “Mad Scientist” horror lab is located at 1373 Pajaro Avenue in North Manteca and is open tonight from 6 to 9 p.m.