Jimmy Dilley - Macabre Artists, Haunter - VERVE - 5 | KUED.org
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KUED's online series exploring creativity

Jimmy Dilley - Macabre Artists, Haunter

For artist Jimmy Dilley, hearing screams is like hearing an applause. Specializing in the art of “haunted house”, Jimmy has a love for Halloween that goes beyond October 31st.

Jimmy is the artistic director of Nightmare on 13th, one of Utah’s premiere haunted houses.

“We’re thinking about this all year round, planning in November, December, January, and we’re building all throughout the year,” says Jimmy. “We just don’t open our doors in September, we actually have to think about all these little nuances to make sure people scream.”

When you scroll through Jimmy’s Instagram feed, you’ll come across a meme that reads “All I want for Christmas is Halloween”. His birthday being in October, it’s no wonder Jimmy found a love for Halloween at a young age.

“By the time I was seven, I had gone through my first haunted house and I was just obsessed. I thought it was better than Disney Land,” he recalls.

At 8 years old, he designed and built his first haunted house in his bedroom and closet, making his older sister crawl on hands and knees to go through. He began “home haunting” each year after that.

One of the reasons Jimmy prefers to call himself a macabre artist, rather than a horror artist, is because he sees the macabre as a form of culture that recognizes the art and aesthetic in the creepy and the eerie without being traumatizing or using excessive gore. He also finds inspiration in German Expressionism and the use of grotesque shapes in his structural designs.

“‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ is a perfect example of the macabre,” says Jimmy. “All those expressionistic shadows and the play on how things move that draws your eye through, that is actually something that plays into scaring people a lot – shadow play.

About 10 years ago, Jimmy started working as a make-up artist at Nightmare on 13th and eventually worked his way into set design, costume construction, theme planning, and overall art direction. Eventually he became frustrated with the high costs for some of the masks and props and started to build and design things himself. Today, he builds and sells his own masks as a side business under the moniker “Nex-FX”.

“I remember as a kid I could never find a good scarecrow mask and it bothered me because I really wanted to be the coolest, scariest kid on the block,” explains Jimmy. “And so as an adult, I think that was subconsciously in the back of my head and I was like ‘I’m going to make masks the way I want them.’”

According to Jimmy, his portfolio isn’t just something you can flip through. It’s something you experience, something you feel.

For more information on Jimmy and his work, visit his website, Nightmare on 13th, and find him on Instagram and Facebook.

Produced and edited by

Ashley Swanson