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A former church in Ohio may have largest collection of Christmas movie memorabilia

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A former church in Northeast Ohio is home to what's believed to be the world's largest privately owned collection of Christmas movie memorabilia. It is a place where visitors can see the Santa costume from "Miracle On 34th Street" and a snowman from "Christmas With The Kranks" and much more. The Ohio Newsroom's Kendall Crawford takes us there.

KENDALL CRAWFORD, BYLINE: From the outside, Castle Noel looks like a typical church in small-town Ohio, but walk through the entryway, shout the magic words and the doors to a whole other world open.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #1: Merry Christmas!

DANA KLAUS: Welcome to the grand hall of Castle Noel.

CRAWFORD: In the foyer, larger-than-life Christmas toys sit by a 24-foot tree. A sleigh of stolen presents from the 2000 film "The Grinch" stretches towards the ceiling, and the people inside the former church worship a more secular figure these days.

MARK KLAUS: I have been called Santa Claus since I was a little kid.

CRAWFORD: That's Mark Klaus, no relation to Santa. He and his wife Dana are behind this 40,000-square-foot celebration of Christmas. Rooms are filled to the brim with vintage toys, holiday window displays, and, of course, iconic movie memorabilia. Klaus has been donning a red suit to spread Christmas cheer since he was in elementary school. Now that he's old enough to have a long, white beard to frame his rosy cheeks, the resemblance is uncanny. He says Castle Noel is just an extension of his family's tradition of going over the top for the holidays.

M KLAUS: We always had a 16-foot-tall Christmas tree and all this amazing scenery in our house that my mom and dad would put together, and the place was just spectacular, and people would come from everywhere to see it.

CRAWFORD: Klaus is an artist by trade. Collecting Christmas memorabilia came later. He began with just a few props from "The Grinch." Now he's filled the building and two storage units with trinkets of Christmas history.

M KLAUS: Girls and boys, ready to see some toys?

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #2: Yeah.

M KLAUS: All right, follow me.

CRAWFORD: The tour starts in Santa's mail room, where a conveyor belt collects kids' Christmas letters. You make your way through animatronic art acting out "The Nutcracker," and every room holds a new holiday movie treasure.

D KLAUS: We have items from "Santa Clause" one, two, and three right here. We have the soldiers that took over the castle that now watch over our castle. The 10-foot naughty and nice globe from "Santa Clause" two and three.

CRAWFORD: For Dana and Mark Klaus, the joy isn't just in collecting scraps of Christmas scenes, it's in sharing them. Klaus says Christmas movies are the heart of so many family traditions, and when people see a prop from their favorite scene, the excitement of the moment melts everything else away.

M KLAUS: To me, it's a big responsibility to make the impact so overwhelming that I can get you to disconnect from whatever's going on in your life, at least for that two hours.

CRAWFORD: And Klaus understands that the holidays aren't easy for everyone. He lost his mother on Christmas Eve when he was 16. It's part of why he's worked so hard to make the holiday special for other people.

M KLAUS: For me, it was very difficult to do Christmas, so I'm really great at giving Christmas.

CRAWFORD: And he is. From the Christmas cuckoo clock to the singing penguins to the grand finale - a trip down a reconstruction of the long, red slide from "A Christmas Story."

M KLAUS: People will say must be great for the kids. And I'll be like, no, what's really great is that somebody who's 80 years old goes down the slide laughing hysterically, that I could turn them into a kid.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Screaming). Dream come true.

CRAWFORD: That's exactly what Klaus hopes Castle Noel will do - make Christmas dreams come true. For NPR News, I'm Kendall Crawford in Medina, Ohio.

(SOUNDBITE OF DECCA CONCERT ORCHESTRA'S "CHRISTMAS MEDLEY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kendall Crawford