Imagine this, it’s 1915 and you open a photography studio in the hustle and bustle of downtown Louisville. Business is good, almost too good, and the amount of people in your waiting room seems to grow every day.
So as a way to keep eager customers occupied while you develop their photos, you invest in a few practical jokes (using the $20 you received in an accident settlement) to sell to patrons while they wait — and just as quick as a camera flash, your impromptu novelty store outgrows your photography businesses.
That’s exactly how Keran S. Caufield, an Irish immigrant, started Caufield’s Novelties in 1920, which is now located at 1006 W. Main St.
For over 100 years, the costume and novelty store has remained a family business despite moving three times, growing to be one of the largest theatrical distributors in the US, and becoming Louisville’s No.1 Halloween destination.
Most Louisvillians know Caufield’s for three things:
🦇 World’s Largest Vampire Bat
Constructed of steel rebar and fiberglass in 2000, the iconic 36-foot tall bat lurking on the side of the building was created to playfully rival Derby City’s other world’s largest bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum a block away.
⚰️ Cadillac hearse
Parked out front of the store, is another recognizable legacy of Caufield’s — the haunted 1947 hot rod — which doubled as an ambulance back in the day. It’s outfitted with fire breathing skulls, red headlights, and golden velvet curtains on the inside + it still takes spooky drives today.
💀 The dungeon
In the back of the store past rows of costumes, masks, and props is a room hosting a scene from a scary movie. Wiggling mummies, over-sized clowns, and uncaged monsters fill the dimly lit quarters. It’s open year-round, but the small haunted house is especially frightening during peak Halloween season as the maniacal laughter and creepy theatrics seem to echo a little more eerily.
While the bat, Cadillac, and dungeon are Caufield’s mainstays, it wouldn’t be a novelty store if there weren’t a few new tricks up its sleeves.
New this year on the inside of the store is a staircase descending from the ceiling next to a replica coffin car from “The Munsters.” When you push the button on the stairs a dragon rears its head — just like Spot from the 1960s sitcom.
On the outside, a new mural (and photo opt) on the side of the building facing 10th Street depicts a green jester driving a hearse in front of the Louisville skyline. New to the roof is the giant skull Caufield’s once featured in the annual Halloween parade. Owner Kerry Caufield used to attach the skull to his personal lawn mower — which could make 360 degree turns — to drive it through the street.
DYK: Muhammad Ali frequented Caufield’s during his boxing career + was a talented amateur magician.
See Caufield’s Novelty’s extended hours through Mon., Oct. 31.