ALTON — By Thanksgiving, George and Debby Carter’s gorgeous Victorian home is transformed into a twinkling, glittering display of holiday cheer and Christmas spirit, enjoyed by friends and family alike.
The classic two-story house on George Street was built in 1904 and has changed little in style in the years since. The Carters bought the property from the family of the original owner in 2000 and have spent the years since renovating and restoring the home, which at one time was transformed into a duplex.
The Carters have done much of the renovations themselves. Over the years, Debby’s holiday decorations have continued to expand and grow in elaboration and beauty, something she says comes from the environment in which she was raised.
“When I was a kid, my family always loved Christmas,” Debby says. “When we bought this home, I just had the room to put up more trees than I could before. It seems I add a tree to one room every year.”
Many of the holiday trees scattered throughout the 10-room home have “themes.” This year, subjects featured include a stuffed animal tree, a tree guarded by a vulture perched at the top, and a tree dedicated to Southwestern style, with beads, feathers and dream catchers. Debby says she spends at least one day per tree when decorating, sometimes more if she is exploring a new theme.
“We are always on the search for decorations, and I also use things that belonged to my mother, so she is here in spirit,” Debby said.
“We know not to call her from Nov. 1 until she is done decorating,” her sister, Dandy Heininger, added with a laugh.
Along with the trees, the home is filled with George’s vast collection of Santa figurines, Debby’s Nutcrackers (only a fraction of which ended up on the Nutcracker tree), and smaller trees and Christmas displays.
Debby is retired from The Bank of Edwardsville, and George works part time with the city of Alton in the Building and Zoning Department. The couple lives with their two Dalmatians, and Debby said the dogs thankfully do not disturb her Christmas extravaganza.
Like many residents with old homes in the Alton area, the Carters have their share of stories regarding unexplained events and ghostly apparitions. Debby says she has smelled phantom smoke and caught glimpses of phantom animals.
These are ghosts who share the Carters’ interests, apparently. Debby says the supernatural activity seems to be most prevalent during the Christmas season.