Permanent Collection: Halloween Masks | Varyer

Halloween Masks

"Halloween has changed. We still get dressed up, but it's increasingly not required to be scary."

According to Ian Rapsey, the horror element of Halloween has fallen off slightly.


We first met Ian in his role as Chief Creative Officer at Auxly Cannabis Group, based in Ottawa, Canada. We found out in passing one day that he has a collection of 40-50 rare Halloween masks.

Resurrecting the Universal Monster canon of horror, Ian helped us reconnect with the era-of-the-analog-scare.


Tell us about your collection.

Once you're a monster kid, you're always monster kid. As a kid, I loved monster movies, the special effects and Halloween. There was a place in Barrie, Ontario where I’d visit my grandmother that was a mask shop. I remember walking there all the time as a little kid and just being blown away by the gruesomeness of it all.

I have never been an avid collector of anything, but as I got older, I thought: I used to have amazing toys and masks, and I want those back.

I don’t collect things to keep them in a box and never look at them. I think you should wear it, you should play with it, you should love it, you should destroy it. It owes you nothing after that.

There's something beautiful about how gruesome these things are, and well, why not. So, it started like that.


Was that your first IRL experience with special effects and the ephemera you had observed in horror movies?

Yeah, I think the seminal moment for me was this dark, seedy little shop that sold dollar jokes, fake vomit, glasses with slinky eyes and really cool masks. I doubt it's still there, this was like thirty five years ago. The owner had this bust of this rotting skeleton that he made, and I was fascinated by it. He'd walk me through how he made it, I would revel in the detail and think about how I could make money so that the next summer I could buy it. I never did buy it but I also never walked away empty handed.

Donald Post, dubbed by many as "The Godfather of Halloween," created and sold some of the first rubber masks, which remain popular today. In the 1970s, Post made masks of such actors as Tor Johnson and William Shatner, the latter of which was slightly altered in the 1978 film, Halloween, into the infamous Michael Myers mask.

When collecting, are you looking for specific characters, or is it more about the mask style and craftsmanship?

There are three main mask studios:

1. Zagone studios, which used to be Be Something Studios. They make great masks – some better and more popular than others like the Nun mask used in the movie The Town.

2. Topstone, which made cheaper, poorly painted latex masks that you'd order from the back of monster magazines, comic books and discount stores. The craftsmanship was subpar, the designs were mediocre, but they were attainable for a kid. Now there is some mystique to them— something really unique about them.

3. And then there's Don Post masks, which is the holy grail in this space. Since the 60s, they were the ones sculpting real masks of monsters you watched on the television – the Universal Monsters – Wolfman, Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein, etc.

Every mask you think you know probably came from one of those studios, but most likely Don Post. But then again, you most likely never actually think about masks, so we are net neutral.


Are masks sold today mostly reproductions of those three studios' designs?

The majority of what you get at Spirit Halloween or those pop-up Halloween shops are all junk masks but there are still studios that continue to make high-quality and considered masks.

Trick or Treat Studios does a great job of respecting the craft and has reissued some of the Don Post masks and high-quality reproductions of licensed characters. Don Post started in the sixties and produced masks all the way up to 2012 when they were purchased by Paper Magic Group. In that time they developed hundreds if not thousands of unique masks as well as licensed masks from Universal monsters, ET, Star Wars, Halloween, Freddie Kruger, etc.

The sixties were the golden years for Don Post with the launch of the Universal Horrors line, which represented the ultimate in monster masks. To advertise this line, they created a monster calendar featuring 12 custom painted and haired Universal monsters. The calendar sold for $1 plus 10 cents shipping and the featured masks would go on to become the catalyst for monster kids to become collectors. Getting one of the original masks from the 60’s is very challenging. Luckily in the 90’s they created a limited edition reissue of the calendar masks for collectors.

So there's a lot of creative license for the artists behind these?

I think so. There's something nice about the production version of a lot of these masks, but when you realize that these are blank canvases created by painters and sculptors that treat them as art, you understand, well, this is art. This is a sculpture.

There is a whole community of grown up monster kids that continue to design masks, re-cast original masks, repaint masks and help preserve and restore masks. I have masks that have been repainted and haired by Ron and Cathy Tharp – who worked at Don Post Studios as sculptors and painters.

The community is small, and while I am not deeply entrenched in it, I have a huge appreciation for the passion within it. When I first started thinking about re-amassing my collection, I stumbled upon @crimsonghostmaskroom – who has to have one of the most comprehensive mask collections in the world. I was in awe of this collection and when he posted that he was going to be selling a few masks, I immediately jumped at the opportunity and that was really the beginning of my collection. With this said, my mask collection is nothing like his collection, he’s a real collector.

Even if a mask is banged up and it's a good price, or I think it’s going to look good, maybe it reminds me of a mask that I used to have, or is a mask that I wanted, I'm going to get it. For me, it's not about a resale investment. I might get the masks in an original box or with the tag still on, but I'm going to throw those boxes out, even though I know that is, from a collector's view, the worst thing you can possibly do. But what do I need a box for?

For me this isn't an investment for me to recoup money, this is an investment that continues to appreciate because I get joy from looking at them.

Ian Rapsey

Is there a quality standard for you, or do you collect across the board? Are all yours hand-painted latex masks by Don Post or are some of them cheaper?

No. Some of them are masks that I just think are cool. That's it.

What is your oldest and what is your newest mask?

Some of them are from the sixties, going up to the 2000s.

You mentioned that market rarity isn't your main focus, but are any of your masks coveted pieces— rare or hard to find?

There's a baseline of rarity to them, especially the calendar masks. To get a calendar mask now is hard. There is one mask in my collection that is pretty rare and has an interesting story, and it's the Verne Langdon zombie mask:

Some reissues aren't from the original mold, making them replicas.

Verne Langdon worked at Don Post as a sculptor, and in 1972 (4 years after he left DPS) he produced this mask that appeared on the cover of the Creepy Spooktacular magazine. I believe they may have only produced about 20 of them in total.

My understanding is that are only two known copies of the original 1972 version. I know the Crimson Ghost Mask Room has one, and I believe Kirk Hammett (the guitarist from Metallica) has one. This is the holiest of holy grails in terms of monster masks

Mine is a first-generation reproduction from the original mold cast in the 80’s by Dwayne Whitehead. I think there are only 11 of these in the world. There's a whole story of how he got the mold, and how he got the rights to reproduce it from Verne Langdon, but that’s a whole other story.

Is there preservation work you can do to ensure that they don't age poorly?

To preserve them, some of them are filled with an expanding foam molded around a stand. The foam fill will preserve the shape and keep it from drying out and cracking. You can also stuff them with plastic bags to keep their shape, and you should keep them out of sunlight as much as possible.

Verne Langdon Zombie Mask

G A L L E R Y G A L L E R Y

Fang Face

My favorite mask in my collection is Fang Face.

These two are from Be Something Studios, the brown one is the male version and the green one is the female version. This was the first mask I ever bought with my own money at that little shop in Barrie. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Universal Monsters Calendar Masks.
From left to right: Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein, The Mummy.

These are the calendar masks. This Wolfman and Frankenstein we're repainted and haired by Cathy and Ron Tharp, and the Dracula is an off-the-shelf, as is the Mummy, so they're a little less polished but still amazing. These Universal Monsters are also my favorites, they’re just so iconic.

Quasimodo the Hunchback

Two Masks from the same mold, with different artistic variations.

This is Quasimodo the hunchback. Here for example: these are the exact same mask.

The one in the background is the one you'd get straight from Don Post, but then the one in the foreground is a re-imagining of the paint scheme and the hair job (re-hairing), by Ron and Cathy Tharp. Look at that eyeball. It's disgusting.

Mr. Hyde, from Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde.

Two versions of the exact same mask, again repainted and re-haired by Cathy and Ron Tharp.

Don Post Skulls

These are the Don Post Skulls. There's so many different variations of this skull, there's brown ones, big ones, small ones, glow in the dark ones — but the Vermillion Skull, the red one, is one of my favorites.

The skull on the left is from the movie Halloween 3 – Season of the Witch. Originally, the Halloween franchise wasn’t supposed to be centered around Michael Myers but based on different Halloween stories. Hence Halloween 3 being a departure from what we know to be the traditional Halloween plot. The production studio used two existing Don Post masks – the skull and the witch – but hired DPS to design a third mask – the pumpkin – for the film. The movie is centered around “Silver Shamrock,” an evil Halloween mask company that is urging kids to purchase one of their masks and watch their commercial on Halloween evening. Long story short, these masks would interact with the commercial and melt these kids' heads, and somehow bugs and snakes would come pouring out of the eyes… You don’t get more iconic than this set of masks.

Now this one in front— I never actually owned this mask, but my buddy who wasn't a mask collector (and didn't even really like Halloween that much) had this mask. I asked if I could borrow the mask hoping that he'd not care about getting it back.

He did ask for it back, but I saw it on eBay and had to get it. So that's another favorite mask. This is a Topstone mask.

Creature from the Black Lagoon, calendar mask

One of the favorite Universal Monsters— you don't get a better monster than the Creature from the Black Lagoon! Truly iconic.

You can really see the attention to detail that goes into not only painting them properly, but crafting masks to last. This mask right here is probably 25-30 years old! This is one of my favorites, for sure.

Christopher Lee Dracula (front right); Bela Lugosi Dracula (back left).

Personally I never really thought that DPS did Dracula that well, but I have two Dracula's. The Christopher Lee Dracula (front-most) is an old, crusty mask from the sixties that’s all dried out. Then there’s the Bela Lugosi calendar Dracula in the back.

Gargoyle

From the Don Post 'Back from the Grave' series

This Gargoyle is a Don Post original from the sixties. In the 60’s Glow in the dark paint became popular and so DPS designed a whole series of glow in the dark masks, which were typically devoid of any major painting details. They have a lot contrast and structure in them so that that when they glowed they looked their best.

You can imagine a kid in the 60's running around with that thing on; no parent now-a-days would ever let their child put their head in a mask like that, the eye holes are like this big 🤏 , you can’t hear and I have to assume that breathing maybe was less of a priority back then.

Don Post masks

These are some gross-out Don Posts masks, not my favorite in the bunch, but they have their place.

Phantm of the Opera, Don Post

Phantom of the Opera masks. Both are Don Post masks, and the front one is repainted.

Metaluna Mutant (calendar mask)







You know, bad sci-fi movie, and this one is the 90’s reissue, but there's been several variations of this mask. I believe that @crimsonghostmaskroom has every version of this mask ever produced.

These are all new masks from Justin Mabry, a mask sculptor who works with Trick or Treat Studios:

Jack from Werewolf in London (left), the Sand Monster from Creepshow (middle), and Bub from Dawn of the Dead (right).

Trick or Treat Studios makes inexpensive but high-quality masks. They do a good job of marrying the need for large-scale production with respect for craftsmanship, history of the collector community.