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Within these walls
Daydreams and nightmares

Just look for the purple building. That’s how some describe Daydreams and Nightmares in Modesto, the former funeral parlor turned costume and make up shop located on 7th Street.

As would befit either business option, there seems to be more than just the staff members moving about the location.

Owner Dana Walters bought the property at 1219 7th St., Modesto, five years ago and has been operating an extensive costume shop there for years, also offering special effects and cosmetic makeup. She said there have been many instances of strange things happening, often a feeling you are not alone in the building, and a true ‘haunted’ feel. With 4,000 square feet at her disposal, there are plenty of spaces for spirits to gather.

Quick to point out she and her staff have never felt truly threatened, she believes whatever energy or spirits remain within the walls of the building are not malevolent. Certain rooms, she admitted, still do give her an uneasy feeling but she said her general rule of thumb is to be respectful.

“Treat them with love, light and respect,” Walters said of how she approaches sharing space with unseen forces each day at work.

Also joining Walters on site during the workday are her two Sphynx (hairless) cats, Morgana le Fay and Marie Laveau, the unusual-looking cats often providing a bit of a jolt to customers when they first see them.

Staff members Eva Foreman and Mishelle Jenkins have also experienced a variety of incidents, some with Walters and sometimes on their own at various locations in the building.

She added that, after she purchased the building – and felt the presence of something on site – she used some special equipment to try and communicate with those on the other side.

“We asked the machine what color to paint the walls,” she explained. “It said gray.”

So the purple color on the outside pairs with some gray painted walls inside.

The huge space has a number of rooms including one that previously served as the crematorium. Walters said they have placed a makeshift shrine in that room and people visiting the location often bring mementoes to leave behind.

Being cognizant of the spirit world isn’t anything new to the Modesto business owner.

“They’ve always been following me,” she said of having a variety of experiences throughout her life.

The former funeral home/crematorium was in operation for some 18 years, laying the groundwork for plenty of spirits to linger.

They have an entity they call “Bootman” who can be heard walking down the hall from time to time; when they check, no one is there. In another incident, Walters was working in her office but felt she wasn’t alone; a photo she took with her cell phone shows a shadowy figure standing in a doorway at the far end of the room, clad in what appears to be a 1920s or ‘30s-era suit.

“One time, we had five of us looking for my keys for four hours,” Walters added of the spirits occasionally playing tricks. “They were lost in here for a week.”

She contacted two psychic friends, asking each separately if they could help.

“Both said in a basket in a bathroom,” Walters reported.

A search did turn up the keys – on a bright red key chain – in a potted plant contained in a basket in one of the bathrooms, an area they had earlier searched with no luck.

Walters also said that a previously circulated story of “haunted dolls” at the business is not true and was “fabricated” by someone from out of the area.

“I don’t like when people put lies out there,” she said.

She and her staff also spend time investigating unusual occurrences on site to determine if they are natural or, perhaps, other worldly.

“We always try to debunk everything,” she said.

But sometimes, the incidents can’t be explained, such as a phone call received on her answering machine that didn’t register as an incoming call and includes a number of voices, with occasional words and phrases decipherable, including one where a woman talks about a light that is “chasing” her.

Along with the resident spirits to add to the spookiness, the fact that Walters offers an extensive range of masks, costumes and special effects makeup keeps the shop busy. She also has worked with the Every 15 Minutes program, doing the gruesome makeup for the realistic drinking and driving scenario staged at local high schools.

“I’m not always comfortable,” Walters admitted of being in her own building. “When 6 p.m. comes and we lock the door, it almost feels like we’re being pushed out.”

Halloween might be one of the busiest times for the shop, but they also provide costumes, wigs, accessories and more for holiday and birthday parties, themed events and more.

Walters closes the shop for a bit in the heat of the summer and escapes to a beach house in Oregon, plus they also take a break after Christmas.

Having previously worked at a costume shop in Turlock, Walters said she learned a lot from the owner there and when that owner was ready to retire, Walters felt it was time to strike out on her own with a business venture. She found the Modesto location – with information online disclosing that there were “ashes on the premises” from the prior crematorium – and took the leap of faith.

“It was a fresh start,” she said, adding that she and her staff love working with the people that come through the doors. “They’re not customers, they’re our neighbors.”

Part of the fun, Walters noted, is helping people find exactly the right costume, helping tailor the look they want to achieve for whatever event they will be attending.

“I absolutely love that. We’re here to let you go enjoy your party,” Walters explained. “I live through everybody else’s parties.”

In another unique twist, Walters has three adopted children, including the daughter of a former foster daughter. That foster daughter, it turns out, entered a logo contest through her school and submitted a design for the Daydreams and Nightmares logo. She was chosen as the winner, well before the two had ever met and became family. Walters even has a tattoo of the shop logo just above her right ankle.

“That’s divine intervention,” Walters said of the connection, “whether you believe in it or not.” 

The business is open Monday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Tuesday and Sunday. Call 209-575-0023 for more information.