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Entertainment: You Monsters!

Horror Museum
Photography by Brent Holmes
Photography by Brent Holmes

Creature creator Tom Devlin has concocted a horror haven in placid, unsuspecting Boulder City

As you drive along Nevada Highway in Boulder City, perhaps to see Hoover Dam, go antiquing, or check out the park where the bighorn sheep hang out, you’ll encounter (shudder!) Tom Devlin’s Monster Museum. The landmark sign beckons from the road, accompanied by monsters on motorcycles, a mischievous-looking dinosaur, a hearse, and a fearsome version of Spider-man greeting you at the door.

Devlin is a special makeup effects artist whose work has appeared in more than 100 films. He showcased his talents on Season 1 of Syfy’s Face Off and teaches special makeup effects at the L Makeup Institute. His museum, a time capsule containing all the sleepovers you spent frightened by the horror films your friends compiled on VHS, is home to many creatures, beasts, mutants, and monsters that Devlin has created — including work from Killjoy, Gingerdead Man VS Evil Bong, and Puppet Master: Axis Termination. His mission, he says, is “to preserve the art and history of special makeup effects.”

“I’ve had a career in makeup and monsters for so long, but it was temporary. I spend hours and months making a creature suit, like full body, and then I go apply it three times and it’s gone,” Devlin says. “So the idea of the museum was, like, man, I put all this effort into this stuff, and I want it to last. I want people to see it and enjoy it.”

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Walking into his self-guided exhibit, you are greeted by the Crypt Keeper, with a customer-service smile. He inhabits a coffin as he rotates his skull, telling you the rules and to enjoy your stay. Then you are free to sightsee and take plentiful selfies.

Some of the first few characters you might encounter are the classics — Phantom of the Opera, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Wolfman, and Frankenstein. You soon learn that the full-scale displays are not just a tribute to the monsters that reside there, but also to the artists who made them. We’re pretty familiar with Frankenstein’s monster, as well as Boris Karloff, who played him, but at this place you will find the informational text that makes it a museum rather than just a collection. You’ll learn about Jack Pierce, who really created Frankenstein, as well as more about the folks you might already have heard of, such as George Romero, Wes Craven, and other legends in the monster world.

Around each corner dwell more familiar characters, more surprise, more scare. Killer Klowns from Outer Space occupy an area, but if clowns horrify you, then turn the corner, where family-friendly Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles await.

Though some of the location’s personalities are a bit terrifying, like Freddie Kruger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers, there’s still plenty to laugh about in the museum filled with B-movie characters like Poultriegeist, and The Toxic Avenger, who’s dressed in a tutu and carrying his weapon, which is just a mop. These kooky guys assure that you don’t have to be a horror nerd to enjoy a short walk through the attraction.

“My favorite horror films are chock-full of comedy, and sometimes its not even a horror film,” Devlin says. “Where my favorites lie are like Monster Squad, where it’s a kids movie with monsters, or Little Monsters with Fred Savage. I love the design and the creatures. I grew up on He-Man and Ninja Turtles and that stuff. It’s the monster figure that I was attracted to. Not necessarily being terrified. A lot of the museum encompasses the world in B movies, because that’s where my whole career was. So like the Toxic Avenger, Critters, and that stuff. It’s over-the-top and goofy. It’s fun, you know.”

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Boulder City has been home to the Museum and Devlin’s family for more than a year now. “Man, I just fell in love with the town. That’s what brought us here. It’s kind of like a town that time forgot. Everybody knows their neighbors. Kids walk to school. It’s cool.”