Eddie Munster Is Alive — and Living in Missouri 

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Leila Lilley and Butch Patrick take the Munster Koach for a spin around Macon. - PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
  • Leila Lilley and Butch Patrick take the Munster Koach for a spin around Macon.

Butch Patrick jams his foot down on the gas pedal, and the Munster Koach flies down the road. Built like an oversized Model T, it has a red velvet interior and a gleaming skull for a gear shifter. The roar of the Koach's 454 Chevrolet engine is deafening as the hot rod surges forward.

"We had this on Las Vegas Boulevard a couple of weeks ago," Patrick shouts over the noise, "for about an hour and a half with a camera crew."

This is not Vegas. A guy towing a Bobcat loader on a flatbed trailer honks and waves. An old man pulls over in the YMCA parking lot, raises a cell phone sheathed in a camouflage case and snaps a photo.

Patrick went to eighth grade here in the small town of Macon, living with his grandmother in a hulking, two-story Victorian just west of downtown.

An hour north of Columbia, this bit of rural Missouri was a refuge for the thirteen-year-old child star.

The Munsters wrapped in 1966 after two grueling years, and Patrick needed a place to go. His mother, Patti Hunt, had split with his father early on and later married a Major League Baseball player. When her spouse signed with the Washington Senators, she moved to the East Coast while her son stayed behind with family in California.

Patrick, it was decided, would move in with his grandmother in the Midwest. It seemed like a strange fit for a beach-loving kid who grew up in Los Angeles, but he now remembers that time fondly.

"I used to shoot pinball there, shoot pool — ten cents a rack," he says, gesturing to a weathered building on a tour through town. There are more empty storefronts today, but the wide streets and small-town charm have been largely unchanged in 50 years.

The California kids could be ruthless to a young Patrick, but he was quickly accepted in Macon.

"Here it was more of a curiosity thing," he says. "In L.A., it was a jealousy thing."

He remembers exploring the house his grandmother, Marjorie Greenstreet, had stuffed with antiques. She was a rambler and would drive her big Cadillac cross-country in search of treasures. He attributes his love of Americana and road trips to those early adventures.

In many ways, those days in Macon were the last semblance of anything like a normal childhood for Patrick. He soon returned full-time to acting and left Missouri behind. Greenstreet eventually sold the house and moved on to West Virginia and then Idaho.

As a teenager, Patrick veered hard into a life of partying that would take more than 40 years to leave, but he always remembered Macon. Every fifteen years or so, whenever he found himself in the region, he would drive through town to see his grandmother's old house.

In 2015, he bought it and decided to move back.

Butch Patrick bought his grandmother's house and has been living part-time in Macon since early 2016. - PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
  • Butch Patrick bought his grandmother's house and has been living part-time in Macon since early 2016.

Butch Patrick has plans for the house.

An imposing brick behemoth, it is painted white and set back from a curve in the road on a shady lot. The interior is trimmed in thick, carved wood with walls painted in dull reds and blue-grays. Five fireplaces are spaced throughout the dimly lit rooms. In the attic, for fun, a mannequin head with a stick-like torso is shrouded in white lace and suspended from the ceiling.

Patrick insists he made the purchase solely to save his grandmother's former home from demolition. But now that it's his, he cannot help but see the opportunities. Start with this: "It's haunted," says his wife, Leila.

The couple starting living there part time in April 2016. Macon — population 5,400 — has become home base for their summer hopscotching from one Midwestern event to the next. Patrick says he first learned about the house's paranormal activities from his younger sister, who spent even more of her childhood there than he did.

"All my life, I've spoken to my grandmother about Miss Rubey," Michele Lilley says in a phone interview from her home in Manhattan Beach, California.

Miss Rubey is apparently the spirit of Elizabeth Wardell, the home's former owner and a daughter of a local coal baron. Michele says she regularly saw her while spending summers in Macon. The ghostly figure often appeared on the landing of the stairs, her head bowed.

"She's not scary; she's sad," Michele remembers telling her grandmother.

Patrick says he was oblivious to any ghost sightings as a kid and has not seen anything since moving back. Michele is not surprised. Her brother is a compassionate man — now sober, he will spend hours on the phone talking to people struggling with substance abuse — but he is also stubborn, and his focus can be total. She jokes that a ghost could sit on his lap while he is on his phone and he would never notice.

"He's just not that guy," she says.

Leila, 48, is different. In many ways, she is just as focused and is certainly more organized than her husband. But, unlike Patrick's tendency toward tunnel vision, she sees everything. At Munsters' events, she is the first one to notice fans lingering at the outskirts of the booth and the first to spring forward with a business card. She is also the one calling promoters weeks in advance and monitoring the Facebook fan page day and night, deleting the work of creeps who try to post explicit, photoshopped images of Lily Munster or ads for German timeshares.

It makes sense that she is also more attuned to the weirdness of the Macon house. Miss Rubey has appeared in her presence, she says, but there are other entities, too.

"The only way I can give it an analogy is like a big football player, a big entity that follows me around — not dangerous, not threatening and not really a protector," Leila says. "It's just someone, something there."

Patrick says Leila was at first so overwhelmed by the paranormal activity that she refused to sleep there, and they spent their first few nights in a hotel. But they have slowly gotten used to weird happenings.

"We decided that we would leave the lights on and work our way through it, which we pretty much have," Patrick says.

He and Leila had been in the house about six months when they married in September. (They had been introduced several years before in Florida by legendary car designer George Barris, the man responsible for the original Munster Koach and Batmobile.) The "picnic-style" ceremony was held beside a lake in Macon on the grounds of an old military academy.

Lucinda Watson, manager of the Apple Basket Cafe in Macon, was among several townspeople who were surprised and delighted to find themselves included on the 90-person guest list along with the couple's friends from across the country.

"It was nothing fancy, but it was still gorgeous," Watson says. "It was the perfect small-town wedding."

click to enlarge The couple married in September during a "picnic-style" wedding in the small Missouri town. - COURTESY OF BUTCH PATRICK
  • The couple married in September during a "picnic-style" wedding in the small Missouri town.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds drove off in the Munster Koach before returning to the house for a reception. Watson, who caught Leila's bouquet, says people in Macon have always been intrigued by the ominous Victorian. Part of it is the long-running rumors of ghosts, and part is the connection to Eddie Munster.

Patrick was quick to realize the potential marketability of combing those two aspects even before he had closed on the property.

And it was not long before ghosts began to seem like an asset. Just imagine the possibilities — the kid from The Munsters, has grown up to live in a real haunted house. Patrick and a friend who is a clairvoyant envisioned a paranormal reality show called Property Horrors, where they would use the house as the framework to explore otherworldly tales. Patrick has long felt there was a story in the time-warp simplicity of Macon. "Andy of Mayberry meets Eddie Munster in the Twilight Zone," is his pitch.

He and Leila have never fully unpacked, leaving boxes and furniture covered in tarps should a film crew need a scene of them moving in, but that scenario seems increasingly unlikely as time goes on.

"It's been a year, and I'm pretty much over that," he says. "I don't think it's going to happen."

No matter. He is now working on a plan for five-hour day tours called "1313 Weekends," a play on the Munsters' fictional 1313 Mockingbird Lane address. As many as thirteen visitors at a time would pay $100 each to visit the house, maybe join Patrick and Leila for lunch at the Apple Basket and swing by the cemetery to pay their respects at Miss Rubey's grave. He is still working out the details.

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