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Faces of Fear: Local man has huge collection of horror masks

PILOT MOUNTAIN — From the outside, Gary Marshall’s home on Main Street is quiet and unassuming. But walk through the front door, and you’re immediately greeted by a figure of a crouching 8-foot-long werewolf from “An American Werewolf in London” and a full-size replica of the Predator alien, with shelves full of monster masks behind them.

The Frankenstein Monster — multiple interpretations of him, in fact — stares from the shelves, alongside werewolves, aliens, witches, swamp monsters, evil clowns and more nightmare fuel. A replica of the killer doll Chucky stands by a window, knife ready to strike, and the skull of the Terminator cyborg sits on the mantle of his fireplace.

Marshall, 67, is an avid collector of masks and other horror movie memorabilia. Four rooms in his house are filled with more than 280 masks, he estimates. In addition to the masks, there are busts and towering, full-sized replicas of such horror characters as the spindly beast from the “Pumpkinhead” movies, the swamp hag Meg Mucklebones from “Legend,” and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Upstairs is a library filled with shelves of books and DVDs, most of them also devoted to the horror genre.

“This isn’t the result of a plan, this just happened,” Marshall said. Most visitors to his home enjoy the collection, but there are exceptions; he recalls a recent visit from someone giving an estimate on his windows who got out so fast he left part of his equipment behind.

Marshall, a Mount Airy native, has been fascinated with horror masks since he was about 4 years old, when he went with his great-aunt to a Halloween festival in Westfield. “I saw a kid in a mask, and I knew it was a kid with a mask, I understood the concept. but what fascinated me was it just changed the whole persona — it wasn’t a kid anymore, it was something else.”

He doesn’t recall details of exactly what it was, but remembers that it was an otherworldly, demonic mask, and he was more intrigued than frightened. “I was thinking, if this kid takes this off am I going to be looking at a normal kid or something worse? And that was what stunned the hell out of me.” His great-aunt referred to it as a “scare-face.”

After an uncle introduced him to the classic Universal horror movies with such characters as Dracula and the Wolf Man, he became an avid reader of “Famous Monsters of Filmland,” a magazine about monster movies, and watched late-night horror shows such as “Shock Theater” that showed the old movies. Magazine ads selling monster masks drew his attention, and when he was about 10 he saved up the money to buy a Wolf Man mask. He then found after jumping out and scaring people with it that he also enjoyed simply having it on display in his room. He bought some other “lower-tier” masks that he could afford as a kid and had a small collection. “That was my first art appreciation,” he recalled.

In 1974, while serving the Air Force, he went to a Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in St. Augustine that had “Planet of the Apes” masks for sale in the gift shop, which revived his interest. He purchased a mask of Cornelius, the chimpanzee scientist played in the movie by Roddy McDowall, which is still part of his collection. In the 1980s, he began collecting in earnest, going to horror conventions where he met fellow enthusiasts, makeup and special effects experts, and artists who worked on the masks.

Walking through the rooms, he excitedly points out masks representing dozens of movies, most with multiple shelves each holding three masks side-by-side, often from the same movie. As he does so, he recounts favorite scenes and talks about the artists and studios behind the masks. He loves classic horror movies and also keeps up with more recent films, including “Brightburn,” “Joker,” “Hellboy” and Rob Zombie’s “3 From Hell.”

“Monster movies take the fears of a particular culture at the time and project them, and encapsulate them,” he said.

While working as a mail carrier, he would often take on extra shifts to buy special items, and recalls taking out an equity line to pay for the American Werewolf figure in his living room, which cost $4,500. “I volunteered for overtime all summer long until I paid for him.” He retired from the Postal Service in 2017 after 32 years, celebrating the event with a photo of himself in a werewolf mask beside his truck.

The masks in his collection range widely in price, and he has artist friends who sometimes do touch-up work on them to make them look more authentic and make them display-ready. About 30 to 40 percent of his masks are still wearable, but some he bought in special untrimmed versions directly from the manufacturers without the eyes cut out so they could be used for display.

He doesn’t keep track of how much he has spent on the collection. “I have no notion,” he said. “I’m constantly staying broke ... constantly spending way too much.” But, he added, he’d rather spend his money on new memorabilia than something like going on a cruise ship “and just looking at the water.”

At one point, he kept the collection isolated to a single room, but after he got divorced he decided to let it creep into other rooms. Even his kitchen has become a showroom, with life-sized replicas of two critters from the “Gremlins” movies, statuettes of The Munsters, and Godzilla toys occupying the breakfast nook area. The only room in the house without any of his monster memorabilia, he said, is his now-grown daughter’s old bedroom.

Marshall holds an open house at his home on Halloween night each year, often drawing hundreds of people who tour rooms full of memorabilia. The peak time is about 6:30 p.m. at his home, which is at 521 E. Main St. in Pilot Mountain. “It’s my favorite holiday,” he said. “That’s when all the other adults allow themselves to see what I get to see every day. Every year I work putting down the plastic, working on the feng shui, and making sure that nothing’s going to get knocked over and everything.

“And I’m thinking ‘why am I doing this? I should be watching Turner Classic Movies,’ and then when I’m in the house I always see someone who’s just all wide-eyed, you know, and going ‘this is actually art.’ So that’s my reward, there.

“It’s about the monsters, monsters deserve to be seen ... that’s a good epitaph.”


Local
Final off-road motorcycle race for Folwell ends with broken arm, reflections

The last lap of the last race in Dale Folwell’s 45-year off-road motorcycle riding career ended not with another victory, but with his first broken bone.

The state treasurer and Winston-Salem resident posted on his Facebook page that he broke the humerus in his right arm — “snapped it in two.”

The incident occurred Oct. 13 in a Grand National Cross Country Racing event at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Beckley, W.Va., where one lap takes 35 minutes to complete and the whole race about 2½ hours.

“I had taken the white flag in second place and was trying to take it easy,” Folwell said in an interview last week with the Winston-Salem Journal.

“I was riding into an open area ready to make a jump when I grabbed too much throttle, fell and hit the ground.

“I knew pretty much right away I had done something serious to my arm.”

Folwell, 60, was competing this year for what he had hoped would have been his second national championship for riders age 50 and older, as well as a third state championships.

The GNCC series is the nation’s premier off-road motorcycle and ATV circuit. The Mountaineer at Summit Bechtel Reserve was the 12th of 13 races.

“All the luck and favor I have been blessed with in my racing career ended with a clear-cut sign that it was time to hand over the handlebars to the next generation,” Folwell said in his Facebook posting.

“I like to compete, and I had realized during (this) season there were people my age who were just faster and bolder than me.”

The broken arm, which his doctor believes will heal without surgery, placed Folwell “in a forced state of reflection on all of the success, support and experiences I have been able to have through dirt biking and that community.”

Folwell, a motorcycle mechanic by trade, said the sport has been a constant for his life.

“I am grateful to everyone who has been here for me, and look forward to finding a new hobby that might not feel as literal when they say, ’break a leg’ .. or arm in my case.”

Yet, Folwell stressed he is not giving up riding the motorcycle for fun.

“Riding has played a big role in helping me sort out things and finding solutions,” Folwell said.

“There’s a sense of fulfillment and release in riding that I’m not giving up anytime soon.”


Local
Wake Forest Baptist, Duke selected to participate in $90 million statin study on elderly adults

The value of taking cholesterol-lowering drugs for elderly adults not experiencing cardiovascular disease will be evaluated in a joint $90 million study by Wake Forest Baptist Health and Duke University Medical Center.

The National Institute on Aging will examine the overall benefits and risks of prescribing statins in adults age 75 or older.

It is one of the largest health study grants in Wake Forest School of Medicine history.

In particular, the trial will help determine whether a statin can help prevent dementia and disability in this age group, as well as heart attacks and other cardiovascular-related deaths, while not increasing risks of adverse health outcomes.

The study will be conducted over seven years. It will be known as Pragmatic Evaluation of Events and Benefits of Lipid-Lowering in Older Adults and the acronym PREVENTABLE.

“This is a major push by the federal government in partnership with places like Wake Forest School of Medicine to start including older people in clinical research and to redesign it so that they can participate more easily,” said Dr. Jeff Williamson, co-principal investigator of the study. Williamson is a professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine in the medical school.

Williamson said study participants will not have to make an office visit, but rather have a trained research assistant come to them to do the physical and cognitive function assessments, and check on their overall health status.

Medications for the study will be shipped directly to their home.

“There has been considerable uncertainty about the benefits and risks of statin use in persons over age 75 years without known cardiovascular disease,” NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes said.

“This large trial with older adults in real-world clinical settings will provide the opportunity to further our knowledge and better inform treatment decisions for older adults.”

Participants will be enrolled from 60 hospitals and 40 health care systems that are part of clinical trial networks supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network.

The investigators will enroll 20,000 participants without signs of heart disease, but who may be frail, take multiple medications and have mild cognitive impairment. Each participant will be randomly assigned to take either the statin atorvastatin or a placebo daily for up to five years.

“Because of the large size of this study, we may be able to identify subgroups of older adults most likely to benefit from taking statins to prevent dementia, disability or cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Susan Zieman, medical officer in NIA’s Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology.

rcraver@wsjournal.com 336-727-7376 @rcraverWSJ