It's colossal, if not quite the size of a class-four moon, and it has lasered its way into the hearts and minds of thousands.
Over 80,000 people have seen a YouTube video of the Internet's oddest pre-Thanksgiving decoration of 2015, a "Star Wars" Death Star replica that sits two stories high atop a family home in upscale Colby Powell in Lafayette, CA. This massive, LED-lit space station looming over the neighborhood got us wondering about the impetus, the methodology and the downright sanity behind such an enormous undertaking.
What on Alderaan possessed this guy to construct a to-scale galactic superweapon and put it on top of his house? Was it his childhood "Star Wars" fanaticism brought to life (no doubt accelerated by the imminent release of episode 7 in December)? Or the realization of his kid's dreams? And what do the neighbors think about this thing, for real?
We spent some time with Powell outside his now highly visible home to get the skinny on the light-up Death Star sensation. Powell, and his young apprentice (aka "son") Ian, spoke on camera exclusively with realtor.com about the space station spectacle that is wowing more than just hardcore "Star Wars" fans.
So, how did the beloved rooftop Death Star come to be? It started with chili. Yep. Chili.
When Powell and his family moved into the San Francisco suburb nine years ago, he noticed there were very few trick-or-treaters going door to door on Halloween. In order to entice the neighbors to come out and dress up for the holiday, the Powell family began throwing an annual party they call the Chili Warm-up -- as in, fill up on chili before you go off trick-or-treating. It was, by all reports, a big success. Three years ago they upped their game and began doing a haunted house, too.
For this year's Chili Warm-up, they wanted to go bigger -- way bigger. First, they needed a special theme. And since all three Powell children wanted to dress up as "Star Wars" characters, it seemed pretty obvious what that theme should be. As it turned out, Powell, a commercial builder and designer and long-time Lucas Universe freak, had always wanted to build a Death Star. It was just a galaxy-sized daydream without an execution plan. That was the biggest challenge: making fantasy into reality.
Turning a seemingly random assortment of raw materials (see video) into a "that's no moon" Prime Weapon capable of destroying entire planets was going to require plenty of help. And although about 20 neighbors kicked in to assist with the project, they didn't know what, exactly, they were building.
"We kept it a secret that it would be a Death Star," Powell says. "A couple of people knew, but not all the volunteers knew what they were helping with. It just kind of showed up as the Death Star about a week before Halloween." Talk about a big reveal.
When asked what the remainder of the neighborhood thought of his highly visible project, Powell says, "I have not gotten one complaint. Not to me, at least. People just want to come by and check it out."
Sure, it's possible some are talking smack about the super-sized roof ornament, but the comments on the initial YouTube video seem to back up Powell's claim that the neighbors are taking a Yoda-like zen approach to the thing. Leah Douglas left this comment: "My house is the one directly across it's in the vid a couple times and the Death Star reflects into our house. Not complaining it's pretty freaking awesome."
"It increases the emotional stock of the neighborhood," Powell says when asked about the impact of such a high profile project. "It makes people want to be there. They say, 'I wanna live in this neighborhood. That seems fun.' "
Those who might want to join this fun-loving community, though, may be out of luck: "There is nothing to buy in Lafayette," says Powell. "It's crazy. You can't find anything to rent, either. It's like San Francisco, but suburban."
But anyone can come take a look, at least for now. Since the handcrafted space station has been such a hit, Powell plans to keep it up for a while -- probably at least until the release of "The Force Awakens" on Dec. 18.