1985 was a big year for me. I graduated high school, I had my first full-time job and I was introduced to the hobby of collecting Halloween masks. Prior to graduating I started receiving catalogs in the mail from companies such as Don Post Studios, Distortions Unlimited, House of Horror Studios and Be Something Studios (now known as Zagone Studios). I was mesmerized by these catalogs as to prior to this, I had only been aware of the latex masks you could buy in your local department or drug stores every October. I had never seen anything of the quality being offered by these companies.
Something else also changed this year. It was the first time a mask selling stand had been set up at the mall, right outside of Sears. I don’t remember if they sold masks by companies other than Be Something Studios, but I do remember one mask that I couldn’t stop looking at, the Shrunken Head. The detail on this mask was unbelievable. I ended up not buying the mask at this time.
This same year for me saw the introduction of an actual Halloween store, many years before big box stores like Spirit and Halloween Town became the place to go for your Halloween shopping. This small store was actually in an old, one-story house that featured creaky floorboards. Outside in the back was a long garage used to house a haunted house each night.
Two things always stood out to me about this store. First off, in the corner of the main room there was a real coffin propped up with a real human skeleton inside. This was for a photo op. I still wonder where that came from and where it ended up. Second, they also sold the Shrunken Head mask. To me this was fate telling me I had to buy it, which I did.
1985 also saw the beginning for me of being a yard haunter. This first year was not very elaborate but it was very effective. I had a bought a second mask for that season, called Living Death, by House of Horror Studios. I also bought matching hands for it. I created a body for it and had it sitting just inside the front door, illuminated with red Christmas lights (this was before I knew about up lighting). I would then hide off to the side of the door, out of sight of the trick or treaters, wearing my Shrunken Head mask. I can still remember the reactions of the kids, and even one adult in particular, who I was able to scare. I was hooked.
That Halloween led me to twelve more seasons of yard haunting, with the Shrunken Head mask being used every year until it couldn’t be used any more. The gloss started to crack and it began to look very worn and tired so it was retired from the show. This first mask featured blondish colored hair. When I replaced it, the new one had black hair. This mask eventually had to be retired as well thanks to overuse during my haunted houses, which were outside so were subject to all kinds of weather.
This mask will always be my favorite mask, not only because it was the first one I ever bought but also because it is just so cool! The level of detail is phenomenal, thanks to the dry-brush painting. The deep creases in the skin as well as the tear in the forehead, revealing the skull below, looks amazing. Though there are stitched areas sculpted on the mask, the mouth also features a leather cord keeping it somewhat together, allowing the teeth to be shown.
The use of googly-eyes is also pretty inventive. Your initial thought is that this may detract from the creepiness of the design but believe it or not, it really works well. It’s also another example of how Zagone Studios are masters of the undercuts as those eyes have to be held in place by the eye lids.
This is also one of the most comfortable of masks that I have ever worn. The latex part of the mask is actually just what you see, attached to a fake fur piece that fits over the rest of your head. It fits very snug and you can see quite well over the eyes of the mask. The breathing hole is actually concealed very well at the bottom of the chin. You can’t see it at all and it provides plenty of air.
Though this mask has been out of production for many years, it does appear on eBay once in awhile and if you can find one, I highly recommend adding it to your collection. This mask is a classic and as you know, anything that you purchase from Zagone is the best you’re ever going to get when it comes to quality.