The Believe It Tour has been out and about again…
I looked up at the sign to make sure I was in the right place as I slowly walked through the double front doors. I looked to my right and saw an electric chair holding a hapless victim. I looked to my left and was assailed by piles of bones and disembodied human and zombie heads. I had officially entered the world of BJ Winslow and his shop, Dapper Cadaver.
I walked through this amazing store past shelves holding fluid filled specimen jars containing interesting bits of people or animals. I passed by alien skeletons, tombstones, the occasional feegee mermaid, vintage autopsy tools, and mutilated bodies covered only in decaying flesh. Normally, this would be considered a gruesome crime scene or something out of a horror movie, but instead it was a testimony to one man’s imagination, intense creativity, and an unwavering commitment to the belief in some things that could exist.
A tall guy with glasses, paint stained hands, and curly hair made his way over to me with a crooked grin. This was BJ, the man behind the vision and a self-described “monster agnostic.” Dapper Cadaver is a mix of realistic body parts and props and oddities like aliens, cryptids, and assorted mutated creatures. With Dapper Cadaver BJ sees a monster trend that started about ten months ago. He said this is evidenced with movies like “Hellboy II” and “The Mummy III.” He also said the fact that Bigfoot hunters recently made it onto CNN was groundbreaking. With a smile he said, “The nation wants there to be proof of Bigfoot.” Around the time the monster trend began, BJ started a blog entitled, Monster Mondays, where he explores different cryptozoology creatures at length and also tackles other creepy topics. You can see his blog athttp://www.dappercadaver.com/blog/horror/monster-mondays.
BJ got his start making props when as a child he repainted his toys, deconstructed other toys that he reconfigured into new ones, and then put some toys into jars he filled with liquid. When asked about his inspiration, BJ replied, “When I grew up I had a cemetery and a forest next door.” As he got older he moved into creating props for carnivals and haunted houses. After doing that for ten years, BJ co-founded Dapper Cadaver three years ago. Dapper Cadaver has provided realistic props to over 475 productions. These range from TV shows like “Bones” and “Law and Order” to movies like “300” and “Pirates of the Caribbean II.” They manufacture most items in-house and have a crew of several artists with specialized backgrounds that produce the props.
To follow BJ’s creative process all you have to do is ask him about feegee mermaids.When he designed his amazing feegee mermaid he envisioned how it could have really evolved while he was creating it. He saw it start as a bat on the island of Fiji that went from land into the water. Its winged body elongated and the lower extremity webbing evolved into a tail, it’s arms became human-like and the webbing moved to the fingers, and it’s sonar adapted to work under water. It was clear his story was the inspiration behind his pseudo-cryptid creation.
When I finally left BJ’s world I found it hard to step back into the reality that was outside of the shop doors. What an amazing gem to discover in Los Angeles. Stop by Dapper Cadaver and say hi to BJ and the crew. You can find them at 5519 Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles, CA or on the web at www.dappercadaver.com.