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Steger man’s talent shows his ‘dark side’

Professional mask maker Paul Daniels Steger pulls latex mask out plaster mold while working his home-based DarkSide Studio Thursday October

Professional mask maker Paul Daniels, of Steger, pulls a latex mask out of a plaster mold while working at his home-based DarkSide Studio Thursday, October 23, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 30, 2012 6:27AM

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.

Each Halloween, Daniels does a “home haunt” for neighbors and friends. He invites the courageous to tour the backyard, 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 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.”

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