Benjamin Dameron has a sense of humor when it comes to his famous house.
Worthington Manor, the historic home he shares with his partner, Ralph Miller, has been featured in three seasons of "The Vampire Diaries," the hit television show that films in Newton County, and is tucked discreetly into one of Covington's neighborhoods, just off the historic square.
That sense of humor is evident when Dameron introduces his three black ducks - "vampire ducks," he calls them - all of whom are named after the sound technicians who work with the show.
"This one is Patrick. Here's Trevor and this is Kevin," he says, introducing the ducks. He goes on to explain with a grin that he named the ducks after the sound techs who work on the show, because the ducks are often so loud the techs "fuss at them to hush during filming."
The couple purchased Worthington Manor, better known as the Lockwood Mansion to "Vampire Diaries" aficionados, back in 1997. Miller described the home as "deplorable" when they first took ownership of it.
Renovations took a year and a half. Rotted floors had to be ripped up and replaced. Dilapidated bathrooms had to be removed and relocated throughout the home. The list of improvements and renovations goes on and on.
The homeowners point out instances where windows, doors, bricks and other materials were salvaged and reused when possible. These details helped maintain the dignity of the home's past while imbuing the sense of a well thought out living space that is both timeless and comfortable.
Decorating their home themselves with antiques they've collected over the years, the retired couple enjoy mornings on their back porch, overlooking a landscaped vista of their own design which features a pond that was on the property when they purchased it, fruit trees and immaculate gardens.
Three years ago, the directors of the show came calling after scouting locations for the character Elena's house in Covington. The directors were walking down East Street, discussing the look they wanted for the mayor's mansion on the show. They stumbled upon Worthington Manor and the couple's home was thrust into television fame.
"We were very flattered and really just enjoy the thrill of it all," said Dameron.
The crew comes in about a week before shooting and sets up camera angles. The couple stay in their home during filming and have come to know the cast and crew, as family.
"They've adopted us and we've adopted them," smiles Dameron, going on to explain that they've all had dinners together and have run into people from the show in Atlanta.
"We were at a flea market and we heard someone calling our names and there was Nina [Dobrev, the actress who plays Elena on the show]. She comes running up and hugs us."
The couple says the cast and crew are always polite. Sometimes as many as 250 cast and crew descend upon their historic home, but Miller and Dameron are unfazed by this large crowd. Dameron points out that they film "from the front gate all the way to the back waterfall."
The last time the cast and crew were there filming, Susan Walters, the actress who plays the matriarch of the Lockwood Manor on the show, sought out Dameron and Miller in their kitchen to say goodbye and give them a parting hug.
"We love Mrs. Lockwood," said Miller. "We think she's fabulous."
The couple, who watch the show, feel like they've watched some of the younger cast members grow up and mature over the past three years as well, both as people and as actors.
And along with the crew members, Miller and Dameron also have high praise for the show's fans who come by daily to take photographs of their famous home. Dameron describes the fans as "the nicest people from all over the world."
Once after a 12 hour day of shooting - made even longer because of rain delays - the actors were leaving Worthington Manor in the early hours of the morning. About 20 or 30 fans were gathered at the front gates and had been waiting there all day. Ian Somerhalder, who plays the character Damon on the show, and several other actors stopped the van that was taking them home so they could sign autographs and take pictures with the crowd. The fans loved the attention from the cast.
"For them it's the first time and for [the actors] it's the millionth, but it's still genuine," explained Dameron, who said all of the show's actors behave that way.
Dameron and Miler are just as gracious with sharing their home with the show's fans as long as the fans don't go too far in trespassing on their property. After all, it is a private residence. The couple doesn't mind people taking pictures from the road, but peeking in their windows is going too far. For the most part, the fans respect them and Worthington Manor.
A replica of the home has been created on the set in Decatur. Miller calls the to-scale set of their home "impressive" and says they can immediately tell after watching the show for three years if the scene was shot in their home or on set. "It's a game now when we watch the show," he said with a smile.
Back out by the pond, the vampire ducks are kicking up a fuss and the resident swans, one of whom is named for actor Steve McQueen, who plays Jeremy Gilbert on the show, glide by, unaware of just how famous they and their home are.