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Friday, Jun 2, 2023

Prop House Does Heady Business

B.J. Winslow has made a lucrative career out of scaring people. Winslow is owner of the Dapper Cadaver, a 7,000-square-foot Sun Valley prop house that has drawn attention for its unusual Halloween costumes for sale to the public. The majority of items are manufactured in-house, such as pieces made specifically for the prop dressing departments of popular television shows with supernatural themes, including Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” and the FX Network’s “American Horror Story,” or movies such as Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man,” for which he created a freaky science laboratory. “It’s important for me to do things realistically,” said Winslow, 35. “This is the kind of thing that grows out of a lifelong love.” So what’s new this Halloween? A 6-foot tall zombie known as “Jawless Martin” and a product called “permanent blood” that dries solid but retains its wet appearance, are some of the offerings. And the gore doesn’t necessarily come cheap. While a bag of rubber baby snakes goes for as little as $1.40, a 14-foot tall guillotine sells for $2,000 on the store’s website. These days Halloween is big business for young and old alike. The National Retail Federation estimates that American adults will spend $2.6 billion on Halloween costumes this year. This comes as no surprise to area locals; the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval was launched in 1987 and currently welcomes approximately 500,000 revelers each year. Winslow took a round-about way into the prop industry. After studying journalism at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he moved to Los Angeles to make a career out of his childhood fascination with building things. He was employed by a prop house but it eventually went out of business. In 2006, after doing freelance work he opened his own company. “It’s hard to do props without a shop,” he noted. The Dapper Cadaver was initially headquartered in Hollywood but after considering a move to Vancouver or New Orleans, Winslow moved to 7572 San Fernando Road near some other prop houses. Not all of Winslow’s work is for entertainment purposes. Some loyal clients include forensic schools and rescue training programs. Autopsy props are created for students that need to study life-like organs up close and burn cadavers are sold to enable fire and rescue schools to aid in assessing the severity of emergency situations. – Rosie Downey

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