A local Gothic family that enjoys picnics in local cemeteries and celebrates the “dark side” of life will soon make its television debut on the ABC show “Wife Swap.”

Eric and Sheila Schroeder of Anderson said their alternative lifestyle and unique parenting styles were put to the test when they swapped lives with a fashion-conscious, fanatical hockey family from Long Island, N.Y., last summer.

The couple said they were first contacted by the show in 2006 after a family friend recommended them to one of the “Wife Swap” producers.

Over the years, Eric said, scheduling issues with other swap families got in the way of the Schroeders’ television debut.

On Friday, the Schroeders’ episode of the popular reality television series will finally air.

ABC’s “Wife Swap” is a reality series that films two families as they trade lives for two weeks.

During the swap, the new mothers are allowed to change the household rules, forcing their swap family to live out of their comfort zone.

Eric, who wears a black top hat, black clothing and knee-high platform boots, said the family wanted to do the show to “break misconceptions of the Gothic community.”

Instead, Schroeder said he ended up tossing the swap mom out of his Anderson home midway through the filming of the show.

Eric said he asked Long Island hockey mom Stacy Wardle to leave his westside Anderson home after she began behaving inappropriately in front of his children.

The Schroeder family includes four children, Jordan, 13, Alek, 11, Ravynn, 7, and Whisper, 6.

Viewers won’t see Eric kicking the new mom out of the house, but they will see heated arguments between the two adults.

It was edited out, Eric said.

“I did throw her out of the house. I threw her out because here’s somebody who came in all bouncy and smiley who was espousing negative things that my kids don’t need to be exposed to. She was saying horrible things about our family and about the kids in front of my kids. A lot of the worst things she said were cut out. They left the losers and the freaks and the weirdos and that sort of stuff in.”

While Eric fought with his swap mom throughout the filming of the show, Sheila said she genuinely enjoyed meeting the Wardle family of Long Island.

Although she didn’t enjoy watching the competitive family place so much emphasis on sports, Sheila said she found the family to be warm and welcoming.

“There wasn’t a lot of head-butting in New York,” Sheila said.

Back in Anderson, Eric battled the new mom’s constant criticism of the Schroeders’ parenting styles.

“We went in thinking the kids would be exposed to some new activities or some new things ... She thought she would save them from the darkness,” Sheila said after watching the episode in a private screening.

Enjoying the darker side of life, Sheila explained, does not mean that the Gothic family worships the devil or participates in the occult.

“There are probably as many Goths involved in the occult as there are cheerleaders,” Eric said.

The Gothic culture, he said, has nothing to do with religion.

The Schroeder home is accented by symbols from multiple major religions, including Christianity and Buddhism.

Being a Goth, he explained, is about choosing one’s own personal style and self-expression. “If you like a certain style, you should be able to wear it.”

The kids take part in the Goth life as well.

Sheila runs an online alternative clothing site that sells shirts and accessories for children, including clothing decorated with spiders and skulls.

The bedroom of the couple’s daughters is decorated with spiderweb-inspired curtains and black spiders painted on purple walls.

The swap mom was concerned that the Schroeder children would be teased for their parents’ preference for the Gothic lifestyle.

“It’s not that we don’t care if they’re teased, so far they haven’t been,” Sheila said.

The Shroeders say they’re excited to see the episode air nationally, and are mostly pleased with the portrayal of their life.

“I’m not nervous at all. Having seen the episode, I didn’t do anything I regret. I didn’t say anything I’m ashamed of,” Sheila said.

The Shroeder family’s episode will air Friday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Contact Brandi Watters: 640-4847, brandi.watters@heraldbulletin.com

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