My love of Halloween masks started in 1984 when I received my first mask catalog from Distortions Unlimited. I was totally blown away by the creativity of the designs, especially with the aliens. From there I received a catalog from the now defunct company House Of Horror Studios and immediately bought my first mask, Living Death. This mask was a zombie corpse and I also bought a set of matching hands. This purchase was all it took to become obsessed.
Besides these two companies, you could also buy from places like Don Post Studios, Savage Eye, Be Something Studios (now known as Zagone Studios) and a handful of others. From there I was introduced to a company called Death Studios and that was it, I was hooked. My first order to Death Studios was for over 20 masks and the quality of these pieces was second to none.
At its largest, my collection featured over 150 masks and foam filled display busts from many different companies and artists. Because I was also doing a yard haunt at the time my collection also included some full size figures and all kinds of props. As time went on, and priorities changed, I began to sell off my collection and I pursued other interests. To this day I regret selling off some of those pieces but as time and money allow, I have replaced some of those that were most influential to me. There are still some I need to replace but I am confident that in time, I will get these back as well.
Though I may not collect to the degree that I once did, my love for this art form has never wavered. What these people are creating in latex and resin is amazing. Thanks to Facebook I have met others with the same love of mask collecting and it has been so much fun looking through their collection photos, seeing things that I once had or would still like to get now.
One collector in particular has really stood out. His name is Scott Solomon, from Austin, Texas. Over the years he has amassed quite the collection of masks, busts and full size figures that would make any collector drool with envy. His collection is not based on any one type of monster or limited to one company as many collectors seem to do. He collects what he likes and what makes him happiest. If he likes a monster that is not available, he is not above commissioning an artist to make it for him.
This was the 2nd mask I ever bought, Be Something Studios Shrunken Head.
Welcome to the world of Scott Solomon, a former police officer and a lover of monsters. Scott was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions for me concerning his collection and how he got started. I cannot thank him enough, not only for doing thing, but for bringing back so many great memories of when I used to collect as well.
Were you a monster kid growing up?
Yes I was definitely a monster kid. I lived in Coney Island, in Brooklyn, and my mother used to take me to all the spook houses. When I was young I accidentally cut my wrist on the backside of my hand, so I had a scar just like Frankenstein did. In fact I took a picture of myself with the scar and mailed it to Universal Studios, telling them if they ever needed a Frankenstein to call me. My mother also called me a Little Monster many times.
What were some of your favorite monster movies as a child?
My favorite monster movies to watch while growing up is definitely the old classics like THE WOLFMAN, THE MUMMY, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, FRANKENSTEIN, THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, 20,000,000 MILES TO EARTH, IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE. The old black-and-white classics are simply the best. I do remember one movie that has stuck out in my mind over the decades called THE HAUNTING with Claire Bloom and Julie Harris and directed by Robert Wise. It was made in the 60s and to this day I still think it is one of the scariest movies ever made.
What got you into mask collecting?
I think the seed of monster masks were implanted into my brain when I was about 11 years old. My mother’s friend came over to visit and she brought me two monster masks as a gift. I remember one was the old Don Post 60’s Wolfman and the other was some kind of Sea Monster. I wish I would’ve kept those as I’m sure today they are quite valuable. I didn’t get the mask buying bug until the 1980s. I happened to walk into a store here in Austin called Atomic City. When I walked in I first noticed these unbelievable monster masks that I’ve never seen before. Turned out they were Death Studio masks!!! I immediately bought two or three. When I got home I contacted Jeff over at Death Studios and he sent me a catalog. I ended up buying quite a few of his 1980s masks.
Then of course I got a computer, and the mask buying craze started for me.
Do you remember what your first mask was?
Well my very first masks were the ones that were given to me by my mother’s friend back in the 60s. But the very first mask I bought was one of the masks from the Atomic City store. So I’d have to say it was a Death Studios mask called RIP.
Do you have a favorite mask company?
You know I really don’t have a favorite mask company. I buy more from sculptors then I do from companies itself. So I rarely buy a mass-produced mask. But I do have some favorite sculptors that I buy from. Henry Alvarez, Harry Inman, Jeremy Bohred, Casey Love, Anthony Pitocco, Phil Nichols, Chuck Jarman (we covered Chuck HERE and HERE), Jon Fuller, Neil Goldsmith, Russ Lukich, Joe Dolinich and Jordu Schell. I consider these some of the heavy hitters but it does not preclude me from buying masks for many other sculptors like Jake Anderson and Chris Baer. I also give commissions to sculptors like Phil Nichols, Chris Marchwinski, James Ferreira, Tom Spina and of course I buy a lot of masks from private collectors like myself. I have bought from some companies I truly admire like Distortions Unlimited, Don Post and Death Studios.
Do you have an all-time favorite mask?
I have so many masks that I truly love, so it is hard to say that I have an all-time favorite. But if I have to say which is my all-time favorite piece it comes down to three. The first being my full-size werewolf that I commissioned Tom Spina to make for me. This is an absolutely beautiful piece that took close to a year to do. We used the best hair, the eyes were custom-made and the teeth are out of this world. On the same level is my full-size Reagan piece. What amazes me about this piece is the head. It is a first generation pull from the original Dick Smith 1973 movie mold. This piece has been on display at the MonsterPalooza Museum. It took years to get the owner Michael Walters to sell it to me. My last favorite is the “Ymir” I commissioned Tom Spina and his friend to make for me. The creature is from the movie 20,000,000 MILES TO EARTH. It is completely made from a styrofoam block. Truly an amazing piece of work!!!
Is there a Holy Grain piece that you haven’t been able to add to your collection?
Yes there is a Holy Grail mask that I have not been able to find. Or if I do find it the price is so high that I cannot buy it. As some people know I collect the Halloween Society pieces. I have amassed quite a few but I have not been able to procure the Halloween Society Wolfman. I know one person that has it but he wants $10,000 for it. There is one at Universal Studios in a café but Rob Cametti tells me it’s not for sale. I must admit though that I do have a Holy Grail piece or two here that I never thought I would find. Such as I have the 1960s Don Post Wolfman that used to be displayed in the 60s at a wax museum in California. I also have the Dick Smith 1960s Frankenstein which I consider a Holy Grail piece.
How many masks/busts are in your collection right now? Have you run out of space yet?
Well I have to say I have over 600 masks and approximately 20 full-size figures. I live in a 2400 square-foot home and almost every inch of my wall space has shelves that contain monster masks. It is very difficult for me to pass up on a mask or full-size figure that I love because of a lack of space. It is just too difficult for me not to buy something that totally blows my mind because of space. I have heard of people selling things because of a lack of space but I could never bring myself to do that for that reason. I just have to manage to find a spot for something that truly blows my mind rather than passing on it. Heck I even have monsters in my bathroom.
How many full-size figures do you have? Which one is your favorite?
Well I have about 20 full-size figures and as far as my favorites I believe it comes down to three, the life-size werewolf, the life-size Ymir and the life-size Reagan. Of course there is another one coming but isn’t completed yet which is the Creature From The Black Lagoon that Greg Duffy is doing for me now. So in closing I want to say that every single mask and every full-size figure to me is a piece of artwork, not just a piece of latex or silicone or resin. When an artist makes a mask or a full-size figure I believe he is putting his heart and soul into it. So when I look at one of my masks, to me I am looking at a piece of art which brings me tremendous joy. It is my hope one day to open up an amazing monster museum so the public can come in and see these great pieces of work. I’m sure I will continue to acquire these great pieces until God decides to take me from this earth.