Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cover Story - Scott Solomon's Monsters

Creepy Collection Keeps Former Cop Company

By Veronica Garcia
Photos by Sean Claes

It isn’t 1313 Mockingbird Lane; just a quiet, shady cul de sac in South Austin. But the minute you open the door of Scott Solomon’s two-story house, you feel like you’ve entered the set of “The Munster’s” or a fantasy world of gore and horror where it’s Halloween year round.

Solomon, a 23-year semi-retired veteran of the Austin Police Department, has a unique collection that could turn anyone green with envy and fright. Throughout the year’s he’s amassed 500 masks and 10 full-size figures including the alien from “Predator,” Freddy Krueger and Hannibal Lecter, to name a few. Everywhere you turn, there’s another hauntingly familiar face looking back at you.

Solomon grew up in Brooklyn and spent much of his youth on Coney Island.

“My mother would take me down there and I used to go to the spook houses and the creepshow rides,” he said. “That got me into the monsters. And of course I would watch the old black and white Dracula movies, Frankenstein and Mummy and all that.”

He also fell in love with such classics as the Wolf Man, Godzilla, and of course, the Exorcist.

He recalls a day when he was about 13-years-old and a friend of his mother came over with a couple of monster masks.

“I wish I had kept them because they’re probably worth a fortune nowadays,” he said. “Those were the only two masks I had as a kid, but I would buy these Aurora monster model kits. I would put those together and collect them.”

Then one day, in the early 1980s, he went into Atomic City in downtown Austin and saw some masks that caught his attention. He bought three or four of them then.

“Back in the ’80s these masks were considered state-of-the-art because they weren’t the mass-produced versions made in China,” he said. “They were sculpted in studios by artists.”

Solomon then got hold of a Jeff Death catalog and started collecting more masks through the mail. Soon he started buying online from the Halloween Mask Association, other collectors and sellers, and from movie sets.

“My Predator is actually pulled from [special effects artist] Stan Winston’s mold,” he said. “And Pumpkinhead is also one of Stan’s. It’s irreplaceable.”

“People I could buy a $300 mask from in 1995, can’t touch it now for less than $800-$1,200,” he said. “Every time I sell a mask, I always make a profit.”

His most recent acquisitions include a mechanical exorcist doll that rolls its eyes back while its head spins around.

“It would be my dream to have a museum where I could show these off and put a couple of scares in there,” he said. “It would be wonderful.”

It’s touching to see the amount of affection Solomon has for his house full of creatures, and to see how his face lights up when he tells the history behind each one.

He’s built shelves and displays to give them homes. They occupy the bedrooms, living rooms and kitchen.

But they aren’t always at home - Solomon’s pulled a few pranks with his masks. Like the time he took his sea dragon mask and scuba gear to Town Lake and had a good laugh when the creature’s head broke the surface for a few seconds.

I could hear people screaming,” he says with a grin. “I saw all these feet kicking, and there must have been 30 to 50 people on the edge looking scared. That was a great prank.”

“I’m actually hoping to do a good scare with a Bigfoot costume I had commissioned,” he added. “I advertised on Craigslist if anyone wants me to scare their friends, I’m available for hire.”

Collecting has also taken Solomon around the country to conventions for likeminded folks, including Monsterpalooza in LA and Transworld in Vegas.

“We all have dinner together and talk masks,” he said. “It’s really a good place to buy some good masks.”

Solomon very rarely sells his masks unless he has more than one of certain type or he’s looking to buy something new.

“The rarest masks are from the Halloween Society,” he said. “A group of collectors would all chip in and commission a sculptor to make a certain mask. They only made 14 different masks. They’re the most sought after masks on the planet. Out of the 14, I have accumulated 12.”

He plans to keep looking for the two missing pieces to that collection. He also plans to keep expanding his entire assortment of memorabilia.

Alicia Havlick and Wayne Salzmann rent a home from Solomon next door. The first day they met him, he gave them a tour of his collection.

“We were shocked and impressed at how extensive and diverse his collection was,” Havlik said. “I was most afraid of the full-size replica of Hannibal Lecter in a straight jacket. His eyes look so realistic that it seems like he could jump out at you any second.”

Havlik and Salzmann bring friends and visitors over to see Solomon’s place when they find out about the masks.

“Most people love to see all the masks and hear the stories behind each one,” she said. “Scott is actually the best landlord we’ve ever had.”

Havlik and Salzmann even house sit for Solomon when he’s out of town.

“It is definitely scarier in the dark,” Havlik said.

Solomon admits he’s scared himself before.

“I used to have a full-size Exorcist in my bed,” he said. “Sometimes, I’d walk past that bedroom, forget that she was in there and it would startle me.”

He also got a start from accidentally setting off the motion-activated monster baby under the hallway table as he was ending our tour. Nicely done.

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