House & Home

Welcome to the dark side in this Medieval dungeon in the suburbs

Don’t venture alone down this darkened hallway in Ray and Becky Ross’ Overland Park home, which features a dungeon-themed basement. Not with this gargoyle ready to pounce. The gargoyle came with the house. Votives courtesy of Aromatique.
Don’t venture alone down this darkened hallway in Ray and Becky Ross’ Overland Park home, which features a dungeon-themed basement. Not with this gargoyle ready to pounce. The gargoyle came with the house. Votives courtesy of Aromatique. tljungblad@kcstar.com

A bump in the night or other unexplained stirrings could easily happen downstairs in Becky and Ray Ross’ Overland Park home.

Unlike the rest of the house, charmingly decorated in English manor style, the basement is cloaked in dark shades of a 13th-century dungeon, “Only far more refined,” Becky says.

This time of year, the Rosses bring extra touches of ghoulishness to their Medieval basement, and we added to it with our own decorations.

The previous owner of the house, which is on the apron of a golf course with million-dollar views, captured the essence of traditional English style in each room, accented with mullioned windows, arched doorways and coffered ceilings.

The dungeon or castle, as Becky and Ray often call the basement, wasn’t the selling point when they bought the house four years ago. It was more of a feeling about the house as a whole that tugged on Becky’s heart. The couple acknowledge an overriding factor was the careful attention to detail designed by the previous owner, a retired architect.

“Becky and I became friendly with the couple over the years, discovering he and his wife loved England, in particular the countryside and castles they often visited. As we talked, the owner mentioned he needed a hobby once he retired. The owner wanted a project that would leave guests with an indelible impression,” Ray says.

“Maybe even a slight chill up the spine,” says Becky with a twinkle in her eye.

Dungeon without dragons

It took the architect nearly two years to design and build the castle/dungeon. He made sure the mood shifted right from the first step descending into the depths where only shadowy light prevails.

The effect is instant; you’re no longer in Kansas.

Once your eyes adjust, you’re at the threshold of the main room, where two newel posts topped by old metal lanterns cast a pale glow.

The mood is decidedly “gloomy olde England.”

Just ahead is the perfect setting for ghostly knights with an ambiance defined by an English pedigree.

“The previous owner refers to this basement as a castle/dungeon complete with creaky laminate flooring to heighten the acoustical effect,” Ray points out additional features, from creaky laminate flooring to heighten the acoustical effect, to the particleboard scored to resemble castle walls, to the massive fireplace fit for a king’s feast.

Once you’re sufficiently unnerved by a spooky gargoyle crouched at the end of a pitch-black hallway, the eerie atmosphere intensifies as you nearly bump into an armor-suited sentry, one of the king’s guards perhaps?

Then there’s the coffin. Open the lid and Frankenstein’s monster shudders uncontrollably.

“Ray and I find this guy completely fits the castle/dungeon theme,” Becky says.

One spooky ride

Suddenly, Ray flips a switch and a tiny engine whistles and begins to pull boxcars around the room. “The owner wanted to flex his engineering skills and fascination with model trains. It was very clever the way he built the route,” Ray says.

The owner added mirrors at various points along the tracks to increase the illusion of distance.

“The effect appears as though the train is traveling a lot farther than it actually is,” Ray says. “Our grandchildren and even adults can’t get enough of the train, especially the meticulously handcrafted depot, with lights, baggage caddy and people.”

Despite its mysterious ambiance, the basement is designed to be functional.

An entire area is devoted to entertaining. A big screen television, sound system and comfortable seating are magnets for guests. “Probably because they’re surrounded by plenty of atmosphere,” Becky says. An area off the main room is being turned into a card room and a children’s theater, complete with stage and costumes.

Though the Rosses know this basement is the perfect setting for Halloween, it’s put to good use throughout the year.

“Everyone really gets a kick out of the space,” Becky says, “most of all the original owner, who left his mark for everyone’s enjoyment.”

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