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Steger man’s talent shows his ‘dark side’

Professional mask maker Paul Daniels (center) Steger his home-based DarkSide Studio Thursday October 23 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

Professional mask maker Paul Daniels (center), of Steger, at his home-based DarkSide Studio Thursday, October 23, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 30, 2012 6:08AM



Overlooking the green witches, grotesque goblins and killer clowns inside Paul Daniels’ Steger garage is a framed picture of Jesus.

“I’m a religious guy,” Daniels said, holding up a latex head of a crazed and bloody beast. “This is my dark side.”

For the father of four, who works the night shift stocking shelves at an Oak Lawn Jewel-Osco store, the dark side is also the fun side. It’s where he brings TV, film and never-before-seen monsters to life.

There’s Cackle the witch, Fluffy the ghoul and a whole assortment of freaky clown, scarecrow and animal heads.

Daniels, 42, has been making masks for the past 18 years. Each begins with an image he sculpts into a clay master mold, which then becomes a plaster mold and, finally, a latex mask that gets painted and sometimes accessorized with hair.

Daniels has been featured on National Geographic TV. The episode airs every Halloween season and is available via Comcast Cable’s OnDemand service.

His masks also have been used at Universal Studios and on Disney Channel shows. Mostly, though, he ships to regular customers — people who want to scare the bejesus out of trick-or-treaters or impress friends at Halloween costume parties.

He makes anywhere from 800 to 1,000 masks a year and ships them all over the United States and Canada. Prices start at $75.

Sometimes they end up in the most unexpected places. Once he was sifting through the bargain DVD bin at Wal-Mart and came across a $5 flick called “Sleepy Hollow High.” He bought it, took it home, popped it into the player and was surprised to see that “one of my masks was the killer,” he said.

He even got a credit at the end of the film.

Daniels grew up in South Chicago Heights, graduated from Bloom High School and got a degree in law enforcement from Prairie State College. He said he’s always been artistic, something he got from his father. He worked for many years as a clown, entertaining at birthday parties and such.

In 1995, he decided to start his own business, DarkSide Studio.

“It’s been rocketing ever since,” he said.

His youngest kid, Jacob, said, “When my friends come over, they don’t care what I’m doing, they want to see what my dad’s making.”

Each Halloween, Daniels does a “home haunt” for neighbors and friends. He invites the courageous to tour the back yard, which is strewn with handmade devil, goblin and Frankenstein heads.

“It’s fun,” Daniels said, but scaring people is not what gives him the most satisfaction.

“It’s being creative, it’s the details,” he said. “If I wasn’t making masks, I’d be making custom cakes or something.”

Sometimes he gets special requests. He’s made a demon pit bull mask for his neighbor’s dog and he once sent radio personality Howard Stern a mask of former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner, the nose replaced with another body part.

Daniels said his busiest times are Halloween and tax time, when “people have extra cash,” he said.

While his neighbors are gracious about the spike in trick-or-treaters Daniels’ studio and lawn decorations has brought to the neighborhood, they often chide him about now having to spring for five or six bags of candy as opposed to one.

Daniels’ wife, Kim, keeps the books for his home business. His 21-year-old twin sons, Scott and Chris, and his daughter, Marriah, 16, help with molding and base painting.

Daniels said that unlike some masketeers, he does not blast heavy metal or even hard rock music while working.

“Actually, I like light music, love songs, Phil Collins, that kind of thing,” he said. “I’ll probably take heat for saying that.”

His studio is filled with latex heads, plaster molds and tubes and pots of paint. Packages of pingpong balls, destined to become painted eyeballs, hang on a hook. There’s also hair spray, super glue and silicone molds for making acrylic teeth. Outside, 55-gallon drums of latex sit on his patio.

The studio floor is coated with plaster dust, he said, and good amounts of blood, sweat and tears.

Though the busy season is winding down, Daniels said he already has the next year’s work lined up. He soon will turn his attention to a new project: making clown masks for the next “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” movie.

For more information, visit DarkSideStudio.com or call (708) 754-4747.



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