You’re up for midnight snack. Looking down the dimly lit hallway you see a heart-stopping sight.
Slowly lurking your way is what appears to be the stuff of nightmares – ‘Halloween’ movie character Michael Myers. In a split second one of two things will happen. You’ll faint or fight, but since it’s October, the season of spooky, your chances of a positive outcome are pretty slim. Even if you run, the inevitable rock is waiting to trip you.
Lucky for you, behind the mask is 15-year old Palm Coast mask designer John Stiles.
For this home schooled horror aficionado, it all started years ago with a trip to a costume store and a love of authenticity.
“It started out when I was 8. I watched Halloween for the first time and I was like ‘wow, that mask looks pretty cool’,” said Stiles.
“I found one at a Halloween store but it didn’t look like as good as I thought it would look. So, I brought it home, and I completely redid it. I took off the hair, I repainted the mask to make it look more accurate and I glued back on the hair, and it looked screen accurate,” he explained.
With an arsenal of tools at his disposal, started with saving up his allowance, he’s fine-tuned the art of the makeover. Known in the industry as a “rehaul”, a mask redesign can take six or seven hours.
Sometimes Stiles isn’t satisfied with the premade options and begins the meticulous three to four day building and design process from scratch.
“At Halloween stores, masks usually have really good sculpts as themselves – it looks like the proportions are correct, it’s just the paint is wrong. Usually that is when I would do a rehaul,” he said.
“But if I wanted to make a mask from scratch, let’s say a Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) I recently did, I would build it up with clay, pour plaster over it and that would make the mold, so I could pour latex into it. That’s when I make the mask from scratch. If I can’t find a mask that looks accurate, I’ll make them from scratch.”
Of the 50 or so he’s created over the years, Stiles definitely has his favorite horror characters.
“Michael Myers because it’s the most iconic. I also paint Jason Voorhees hockey masks. I’d say those two are my favorite.”
Turning his hobby into a revenue generating opportunity, he started an Etsy store, and his inventory was quickly snapped up. The savvy entrepreneur reinvests the profits back into his business, crafting two or three masks a month.
“It started out with Etsy. I had a couple laying around and I guess I wanted to sell them to see what I could make off of them. I started out with looking to see how much rehauls cost usually, and I put them up on Etsy and they sold. I was like super surprised, so I started doing it a lot more often,” he said.
“I make three a month, depending on how much I sell previous to that. The masks themselves before I repaint them are not that cheap, so I have to sell one before I buy another, basically.”
John’s family is having a blast watching him create a business he loves, while sharing his scary talents with them.
“I’ve been so very proud to watch John come up with his own business idea and make it successful with pure determination and hard work ethic,” said dad, Rob Stiles. “He’s going places for sure.”
Mom Faith Stiles agrees.
“I’m beyond proud that he is such a focused and hard worker. However, what makes me the most proud is that at such a young age has the courage to step out and follow his passion even if to some it might seem unconventional. He is truly an inspiration to watch and I’m blessed to be his mom,” she said.
It was during a recent trip to Halloween Horror Nights that John found his tribe, and hopes to parlay his talents into a career opportunity.
“I do want to end up opening some sort of mask shop or Halloween store. I have seen some Halloween stores, just typical mask stores, that do rehauls for customers, so that would be a pretty cool business,” he said, with a possible expansion beyond just the horror genre.
But for now, it’s one big, scary dream at a time.
“I actually went to Halloween Horror Nights two weeks ago and being a scare actor is like one of my biggest dreams.”
Check out John Stiles’ creations at https://www.etsycom/shop/JASmasks?ref=profile_header or on Instagram at @j.a.s_masks.