When I visited Dimensions Comics Music & More a few months back for a story, co-owner Ben Jordan mentioned that the horror masks and Alien figure on display in the horror-comics section had been lent to him by a retired police officer who quite possibly has the largest monster collection in the country. I was intrigued, and shortly thereafter, through Jordan, Scott Solomon contacted me via Facebook and invited me to his home in Seabrook to take a look around.
So on a recent Saturday afternoon, I knocked on the door of Solomon’s nice two-story suburban house and was quite amazed upon entering. The house is bursting with horror masks, life-size horror figures, movie props and other miscellaneous collectibles and cool things. I asked Solomon how he got into horror movies and collecting.
“Living in Coney Island, my mother used to take me to the old spook houses; then when I was very little, I guess I was about ten years old, my mother’s friend gave me a couple of monster masks as a gift. If I had kept them, they’re worth a fortune now; that’s kind of where the seed was planted,” Solomon explains. “I later started collecting autographs first and then in Austin, I walked into this kind of like head shop called Atomic City and I saw these masks in there that were really, really good masks; they weren’t masks produced from China or Mexico.
"They were done by a sculptor, so I bought a couple of them and I wound up getting the catalog to the company called Death Studios that sculpts their own masks and sells them," he continues. "So that’s where I got started, and then of course I got a computer and that opened up a whole new world of collecting.”
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Solomon joined the military and was stationed in Fort Hood in central Texas. Before getting out of the service, he applied for police jobs in Dallas, Houston and Austin. The first city to reply was Austin, so he worked there as a patrol officer for 23 years before retiring and moving himself and his collection to Seabrook.
“I was only involved in one shootout my entire career and I missed the guy, but we caught him later,” Solomon recalls. “It’s exciting because when you go to work you don’t know what you’re going to do, what you’re going to run into, what the calls are going to be so it’s interesting.”
The masks that Solomon collects are equally interesting. They can’t be bought in retail stores, and the sculptors usually make a limited supply of them, he explains. Some make only ten masks of a particular character or monster before destroying their own molds.
“It’s a passion, because these are museum-quality pieces and this is more like artwork than it is actually something you can go into a store and buy for Halloween,” says Solomon. “I seldom buy wearable masks — these are all displays with nice eyes in them.”
Solomon did wear one of his masks last Halloween, however. “I have a silicone zombie mask. Silicone masks are very, very realistic; when you move your mouth, the mouth moves, the teeth move, so I went down to the Kemah Boardwalk and scared a bunch of people just walking around with that zombie mask on,” Solomon says. “It was a lot of fun; kids were screaming, running away.”
Solomon says these silicone masks can be very expensive, ranging from $500 to $4,000, and they have even been used on the Walking Dead TV show. Solomon knew Walking Dead executive director and special makeup effects creator Greg Nicotero years ago when he started out sculpting masks.
Solomon has several one-of-a-kind masks that he hired sculptors to make for him, including a silicone mask of Linda Hamilton’s character Sarah Connor from Terminator 2, who Solomon says is his favorite; another custom mask he had made is of Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolf-Man. The mask captures the look on the Wolf-Man’s face and in his eyes when he steps into a trap in the film.
Other high-quality masks in Solomon’s collection include Christopher Lee’s Dracula, Godzilla, Leprechaun, Norman Bates from Psycho, Pennywise the clown from It, Herman Munster, the Elephant Man, Swamp Thing, and characters from Poltergeist 2, Fright Night, Return of the Living Dead, Ringu, the original Dawn of the Dead, and many more too numerous to mention. Many of the masks are also original creations not seen in any horror films.
Solomon has several life-size figures in his collection as well, including one of the possessed child Regan as portrayed by Linda Blair in The Exorcist; the figure’s head was pulled from the original 1973 movie mold. According to Solomon, there are only three in the world. The figure was on display in two different museums in the past; Solomon calls it one of his favorites, along with a custom-made werewolf he spent $6,000 on.
“We used the best hair on the werewolf; it's yak hair,” Solomon explains. “It’s not from any movie in particular. I wanted to design it to look a little like The Howling werewolf and a little bit like Bad Moon, so it’s a combination. People are really pretty shocked when they come in this house and see all this stuff because they’ve never seen anything like it before.”
The masks are no doubt cool, but the life-size figures are even cooler and they give the place a sort of wax-museum vibe, though the figures that Solomon owns are made of better-quality material that lasts longer than wax figures do. Other figures in the collection include the “Crate” creature from Creepshow, Pumpkinhead made from the original Stan Winston mold, the American Werewolf In London werewolf, Robert De Niro’s Frankenstein monster from the 1994 film, The Terminator, Carrie, Hannibal Lecter, Predator, The Fly, The Invisible Man, and animatronic figures of Pinhead from the Hellraiser films and Jason from Friday the 13th.
It's pretty surreal to walk into a home in the quiet suburbs and find all this horror stuff inside. I asked Solomon if any of it ever gives him nightmares. “No, not really. I kept one bedroom monster-free for any visitors that are afraid,” Solomon explains.
Solomon has some other intriguing stuff in his collection besides the horror stuff, including vintage celebrity autographs from Mark Twain, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow and others; pieces of Elvis’s and Marilyn Monroe’s hair; signed pictures of himself with celebrities like the aforementioned Linda Hamilton and Quentin Tarantino favorite Michael Madsen; and props including Alan Alda’s dog tags from the TV show M.A.S.H., clothing worn by Will Smith in the film Hancock, items from the Alien movies, and much, much more.
As you can probably surmise, Solomon has a passion for collecting. He even has some huge dinosaurs in his living room he bought from Frazier’s Ornamental Concrete in Hempstead.
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Next up for him is a piece he paid for that he's waiting to receive in the mail: a custom mask of Donald Pleasence’s character Dr. Loomis in the Halloween films, with a burned face that the character suffered in the sequel to the original film. Solomon is also planning on attending Mask-Fest & HorrorHound weekend in Indianapolis later this year.
I’m always on a quest to find the scariest movie ever made (or just scary movies, period), so I asked Solomon for his thoughts on the subject. “Actually, there’s two movies that I believe to be the scariest movies ever made, and anytime I recommend the movies, people watch them and agree completely,” says Solomon. “The first one is called The Entity, with Barbara Hershey, and it’s based on a true story; absolutely terrifying movie. And the other one is The Haunting, the original black-and-white one from the '60s. It was really good; it was psychologically scary.” So go check those out if you haven't already and see if you agree.
If you’re interested in starting a collection of horror masks or figures yourself, Solomon has a couple of Facebook groups you can get involved with to learn more: Buying And Selling Monsters and Monster Collection. He says his ambition is to open up a Monster Museum someday near Kemah Boardwalk, so we’ll let you know if and when that happens. In the meantime, you can see much more of his collection in the video he made below.