costa mesa hearse procession

Costa Mesa Halloween Hearse Procession Oct.25, 2009

A dragster ambulance, blue and purple hearses, a coffin go kart and hearse shaped pumpkin featured at 12th Annual Trick or Treat Festival’s Hearse Show with Dr. Demento riding in the lead car as Grand Marshal in the 2009 Parade.

Costa Mesa, CA--In Southern California, the subculture of hearse owners, such as the members of the Phantom Coaches Hearse Club, see the funeral car as a beautifully designed, highly collectible automobile. You'll find members of this club and other such organizations participating in the  Annual Halloween Hearse Show and Procession held this year on Sunday, October 25 in Costa Mesa.


Held in conjunction with the 12th Annual Trick or Treat Festival at the Orange County Market Place in Costa Mesa, the 10th annual hearse event will include some esteemed guests who have participated in the four mile procession through Costa Mesa as part of the Market Place’s Halloween event since the show’s inception. Clarence Williams of Santa Ana, who helped get the Phantom Coaches Club involved ten years ago and Robert Dean of Orange, who is coordinating the hearse show now, are several hearse owners, who prefer in some cases to be referenced as vintage car collectors who also drive their hearse other times of the year.


In Southern California culture where people see a hearse on the street, and their minds typically conjure up feelings of grief, loss and funerals, the hearse club members  prefer to look at a ride in a hearse as a series of enjoyable journeys. Few dwell on thoughts that they may one day take their last ride in their favorite collector car, though some have gone as far as to specify which hearse they want to take their last ride in!

Ambulances are included in the mix of vehicles at the event. One in particular, that will be on display only because it is rebuilt for NHRA drag racing, is the 1968 Cotner-Bevington Oldsmobile ninety-eight ambulance owned and driven by Shannon Speer aka Nurse Ratchet of North Tustin.

The morbid and macabre isn’t what this club is about. For the most part, it’s dedicated to preserving the hearse and educating people about these often overlooked cars.

Along with their design, hearses are desirable to vintage car collectors because of how well they’re built and how they stand up over time, according to a member of the Phantom Coaches Hearse Club.

Cadillac and Packard made most hearse chassis in the ’50 and ‘60s. So cars built in the years that are most desirable for standard Cadillac collectors are also the most sought after cars for enthusiasts, particularly 1959 Cadillac hearses, which saw the sweeping, dramatic fins and other distinctive features that make that year’s Cadillac line so popular today.

When a hearse owner takes his or her car out for a spin, it's guaranteed to generate attention. The procession of nearly 50 hearses on this annual Halloween trip will leave the parking lot at the fairgrounds promptly at 10 a.m. escorted by Costa Mesa Police Department, and head south on Newport Blvd., right on Victoria St., right on Harbor Blvd., right on Baker, right on Fairview Rd., left on Arlington and returning to the swap meet interior for an all day exhibition and popular vote judging.

Radio personality Dr. Demento will serve as grand marshal of the procession for the 10th year riding in a convertible ahead of the hearse line up.

While participants are still signing up, the early list includes a majority from Southern California. However, Charlene Duran of Eugene, Oregon will travel 771 miles to Costa Mesa with her 1994 Miller Meteor Landau hearse with license plate ODD SUV to participate.

Other facts about the participants and their hearses:

* There are 15 female hearse owner/co-owners in the group include mother-daughter Arlee and Ashley of Riverside who have a 1981 Cadillac S & S Victoria Landau Endloader.
* Most unusual entry is a coffin go-kart built by Jerry Frazier of Westminster
* The oldest model is a 1955 Cadillac Meteor Landau End loader (Eric and Dee Hoeffken of Cypress)
* The latest model is a 1995 Cadillac Eagle Landau hearse (Chris and Ethan Parrino of Sunland)
* The 1971 Cadillac MM Landau Endloader owned by Terry and Linda Weber of Tulare is Brittany Blue with black crinkle top and inside has a split couch casket with a motorized skeleton that sits up and down.
* The 1975 Cadillac Miller-Meteor owned by Michael Bloom of Westminster has arched cathedral style rear windows and a Gothic roof rack, skull headrests and lantern headlight covers. (Michael Bloom of Westminster)
* Lorie McDonald of Costa Mesa painted her 1971 Cadillac Superior Landau Endloader purple.

In addition to the hearse event, the 12th Annual Trick or Treat Festival runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and includes free daytime trick or treating from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and “Farmer” Mike Valladao, world renowned pumpkin sculptor, also returning for his 10th year, who will be sculpting masterpieces from 500 pound specimens, one of which will be in recognition of the 10th Annual Hearse Procession.

The Festival will also include free face painting, Goldilocks and the Three Buccaneers puppet shows, Dr. Demento's Festival of Demento Shows, Freak Show Deluxe, vampire poets, Crimebo the Clown and Crime Trivia Contest, Count Miniscula, Ballooney Looney Witch, costume contest for ages 13 years and over, kid's costume parade, Ukulady, stilt witches and a blood drive to support local hospitals. A complete schedule is available at

All festivities are included in swap meet admission, which is $2 or free for kids 12 and under.

Along with the Festival is the regular base of Market Place vendors which includes nearly 1,000 merchants offering a variety of products and services. fresh produce, gourmet foods to go, artisans and crafters, manufactured homes, kid’s play area, inflatable attractions, hair salon, food concessions and more. In its 40th year the Orange County Market Place is held every weekend (except during the Orange County Fair) at the O.C. Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa. Hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. More information may be obtained by visiting the website or calling 949-723-6660.



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