Artist Ray Villafane explores new characters

Ray Villafane carves whimsical pumpkins. (Dennis Murphy/Contributor)

Ray Villafane was preparing for a possible space trip when he had an epiphany.

Known for carving whimsical pumpkins, Villafane realized he had to tell stories in a cohesive manner. That led to his new home, Vulture City Ghost Town in Wickenburg, which he feels was meant to be — a dream he manifested.

He’ll show off his latest creations at Gourdy Ghouligan’s first Halloween Spooktacular 2022 on Friday, Oct. 21; Saturday, Oct. 22; and Sunday, Oct. 23, at Vulture City Ghost Town, 36610 355th Avenue, Wickenburg.

Gourdy Ghouligan’s Halloween Spooktacular features live pumpkin carving, dozens of pumpkin displays, family carve-along class, giant pumpkin, blacksmith demonstrations, boneyard mining company opening, trick or treat ghost town style, puppeteers, face painting, food and a beer garden

Villafane has sculpted for Marvel, DC Comics, Blizzard and Warner Bros. He holds two Guinness World Records and has been recognized by “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”

To the moon

In March 2021, he applied for the dearMoon project, a lunar tourism mission and art project conceived and financed by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. It will make use of a SpaceX Starship spacecraft on a private spaceflight flying a single circumlunar trajectory around the moon.

“He held a worldwide contest,” he said. “Of those 20 people, he was bringing eight creatives to circle the moon, get inspired and create something and share it with the world.”

Villafane spent a year “getting into the headspace” that he was going to leave his wife and children and head out on this “dangerous mission.” He meditated by running through the desert at the hottest point of the day.

During this time, he came up with the story of “Mining Magic.”

“The premise is for thousands of years, people have made wishes to a full moon,” he said. “While many come true, a good part of those people, when they birthed those wishes, didn’t believe their own wish would come true.”

Those wishes were stuck on the moon.

“When my characters the scarecrow people and the mice got to the moon, they discovered an abandoned mine from the original Apollo. They abandoned it because there were ghosts and spirits protecting those wishes. The ghosts and spirits were the people’s own fears and doubt. The demons were too difficult to break through. In my story, they break through that.”

When Villafane didn’t make it to the space travel program — after running 120 miles in July — he wasn’t concerned.

“I didn’t care if I went to the moon,” he added. “I had already won with the story that I came up with. In creating the characters, I discovered a lifetime of things to play with.

“‘Mining Magic’ brought purpose to my life. It is a story everyone could benefit from. We prevent ourselves from achieving everything we want. It’s our own ghosts and demons who block ourselves. There’s an underlying story that I thought was really important to share. I love the way I concocted a whimsical way to tell it.”

As such, Villafane manifested a dream for himself. Just a few weeks later, “the universe delivered to me Vulture City Mine, Arizona’s most historic gold mine” outside of Wickenburg. Previously, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Villafane displayed his creations in storefronts in Wickenburg.

“I went out to Vulture City Mine, and I fell in love,” he said. “It was my moon. It completed my story that I wanted to do. Not only was it such an amazing fit for everything I wanted to do, the owner is letting me have creative freedom. He gave me a workshop to work out of. The workshop was built in 1890, and my name (Ray) was carved into the wall when I walked into it.

“The whole place feels like home.”

He opened the Boneyard Mining Company, where he mines magic ore from the unwanted, discarded, overlooked or ignored ingredients within and around us.

“Gourdy Ghouligan has mined more magic into this world. His blind optimism has helped him to extract the most magical outcomes from the darkest of situations. Gourdy has a gang of hooligans who work as a team. Come check it out.”

Gourdy Ghouligan’s Halloween Spooktacular

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21; Saturday, Oct. 22; and Sunday, Oct. 23

WHERE: Vulture City Ghost Town, 36610 355th Avenue, Wickenburg

COST: Visit website for information

INFO: villafanestudios.com