Fatal Attraction

By CAMILLE DODERO  |  December 13, 2006

The store’s name is taken from a song by Schoeller’s favorite band, the Misfits, but inevitably people think the place is a leftover Halloween store. The room is painted green and purple, hues taken directly from the Misfits’ Earth AD/Wolfsblood album cover. “I brought it to Home Depot to have the paint color-matched,” Schoeller explains.

Schoeller mans the store all day Tuesday through Thursday and various evenings, then works at the funeral home three days a week. He got into the death business largely because he wanted to be a special-effects artist. “My family’s real poor,” he says, “I couldn’t afford to go to California and go to some specialized school. So my family friend owned a funeral home. I’d gone there before, and I’ve always had a morbid fascination with the dead. It’s never bothered me — I always thought it was cool.”

Schoeller later got a scholarship and went to embalming school so he could do “special-effects art on real, human people. I can make living people happy to see [the dead] one more time. So spiritually and artistically, I’m fulfilled at the same time.”

His specialty is reconstructive art — which is another way of saying that he can take a shotgun-blast-to-the-head victim and rebuild his face from a driver’s-license photo. He’s peeled burned faces from radiator grills and made them look fresh. He’s even rebuilt an entire baby who had been involved in a traumatic accident.

“The medical examiner cut all the bones out of this infant . . . ,” Schoeller recalls, “and they did a calvarian, which means they cut the top of your head off and take out your brain. So I had a baby that looked like a bear skin rug. I had to rebuild it in nine hours. I used everything: duct tape, masking tape, tissue builder, wound filler. I worked for nine and a half hours. Julie actually came after work and helped me sew up the legs and stuff. I put, like, coat hangers and caulk in there and put him into a little baby outfit. He even weighed enough too, because I packed his head and his chest. He looked awesome.”

The strangest thing is that Schoeller’s art is more than ephemeral — not only is he unable to preserve it, he can’t even photograph it. “I would love to be able to show, ‘This is what it looked like before and this is what it looked like after, and make a résumé out of it, but you can’t do that. If I were to sell my abilities to a funeral home, they’d just have to go on hearsay and other peoples’ words. I can’t show them a portfolio because they’d be like, ‘you took pictures?’ “

Alas, Schoeller’s starting to think that restorative art as a craft is, ah, dying. “People will live with a shitty-looking body. No one cares anymore.” His disillusionment with the industry is one reason he opened Horror Business, something he’d dreamed of for three years. “My art is being lost.”

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