A few months back, I had the esteemed pleasure of meeting and interview Jason McKittrick, owner and artist of cryptocurium. We sat down for lunch and spent two hours talking about Lovecraft, horror, the train wreck that is “50 Shades of Gray,” exorcisms, and the horrible HORRIBLE 80s hairstyle of the restaurant’s manager. We also witnessed a poor elderly woman fall from her booth and yell out “I hope my hip doesn’t give out again!” This resulted in an ambulance showing up and taking the poor woman out on a stretcher. Did two horror and Lovecraftian obsessed fans bring black magic into this restaurant which caused an old woman in the booth behind us to fall? It remains to be seen, (actually she stumbled on a small step that lead up to her booth) but either way Jason McKittrick is one of the most knowledgeable Lovecraftian people I have ever met. Now I’m sure you are asking yourself – wait, who is Jason and what is Cryptocurium?
“Cryptocurium is a New Jersey based maker of ‘Handmade Lovecraftian Horrors,” custom made artifact specimens and Cult Wear inspired by the works of weird fiction authoer H.P. Lovecraft and the lore of the Cthulhu Mythos. Also home of the Parcel of Terror.”
So without further ado, I present my interview with Jason McKittrick:
SM: So, lets just get right into it, Arkham Asylum is from Lovecraft right?
JM: Yes, it has never been proven to be Lovecraft, but there is a connection. One of the publishers that Lovecraft worked for, a guy named Julius Schwartz, ended up working for DC Comics and worked on Batman titles. He was also an editor for Weird Tales (I believe that’s where he worked) and there is kind of a tenuous connection – Schwartz may have pulled from Lovecraft but there has never been solid proof of this.
SM: Tell me about these statues that you make
JM: All of these [artifacts] are based off of Lovecraft stories. I started doing Cthulhu idols and other creatures based off of Lovecraft stories. The original sculptures are made out of clay and cast out of resin. Also, did you know that the Alien Universe (in the Alien movies) is based off of Lovecraft?
SM: No I did not!
JM: The alien universe exists in Lovecraft’s universe. The guy who created Alien, Dan O’Bannon, basically said that the creatures that the Xenomorph’s became started as the Shoggoth’s from “At the Mountain of Madness.” The Xenomorph’s are basically the evolved Shoggoths.
SM: I never knew this and obviously you just owned me on all Lovecraftian knowledge. How long have you been creating these idols?
JM: I’ve been doing straight Lovecraft artifacts for about 5 years
SM: Do you do this full time?
SM: How did you get into this?
JM: I went to school for Illustration in Philadelphia at the University of the Arts. Once I got out of school, I quickly realized you couldn’t make a living being an Illustrator. I was always doing art, doing gallery shows that kind of thing, and I kind of picked up sculpting. I was doing these big painting with fake paint and stuff but there wasn’t enough to it and I needed something more tactile so I started sculpting stuff. I didn’t come around to Lovecraft for a couple of years, I though it was just this thing that no one really knew about and it was just some oddball thing that I liked in highschool. I came back around [to Lovecraft] and started reading the stories again and I was like, you know what I’m just going to go for it [making the sculptures].
SM: How long does it take to make an idol?
JM: The idea takes about a week to come up with, from the full sculpture then to making the molds, pouring it, and then figuring out the paint scheme, I would say about a week. Once I have everything done, and the molds have been made, then it only takes a couple of hours.
SM: What was the first thing you created?
JM: The first thing I did Lovecraft, which is kind of funny, was for Easter one year, I decided to make chocolate Cthulhus. I was like, no one is going to buy these. I put them up for sale and woke up the next morning and I had something like 150 orders and I had to close availability by like mid-day because I ended up making something like 275. That’s what started me off. After that, I started doing candies for awhile, Lovecraftian candies, and it was cool and I was having fun but I kept running into the same problem – people were like, I want to keep this I don’t want to eat it. So then I was like, well maybe I can make some resin casts of these (having never touched resin before). So I decided to do a resin Cthulhu line to see what happened and people loved it. I started making more and I put the candy away and out of necessity I had to keep making stuff and here I am!
SM: Do you do other sculptures other than Lovecraft?
JM: Yes, that’s actually pretty new within this year. It’s not that I took a break from Lovecraft it’s just that I wanted to expand because Lovecraft has only so many stories and only so many things that you can sculpt and instead of beating a dead horse and continuing to make rehashing of sculptures, I thought let me create other things I’ve always wanted to sculpt. Also, I was feeling a little trapped, like what the next thing I want to do and how is it “Lovecraftian,” and then I was like well, now I’m not having fun anymore. It was starting to feel too much like work. So I decided to start doing some other things I like.
SM: Since you’ve started sculpting new things and they are horror related, do you have a favorite Universal Monster?
JM: The slasher’s are like my universal monsters. My universal monsters are Freddy, Jason, Michael Meyes, and Leatherface. My favorite slasher is Jason because my name is Jason and I was also born on Friday the 13th.
SM: Speaking of slasher icons and horror, do you have a favorite horror movie?
JM: What got me into horror was I loved Monster Squad, Creepshow, Ghostbusters – which probably got me primed for Lovecraft because they have weird other dimensional creatures. My favorite horror movie of all time – that’s rough, I mean Amityville Horror was filmed here [Tom’s River]. I can’t narrow it down – I mean, The Shining is one of the greatest movies ever made. It doesn’t have much to do with the book, but as a movie, my God.
SM: My all time favorite horror movie is The Exorcist
JM: Speaking of exorcisms, I’ve had two of those
SM: Wait, what?
JM: I used to get in trouble a lot at school, I went to a Catholic school and grew up Catholic. I would be sitting at my desk reading Stephen King. I got two exorcisms from my church for reading “Cycle of a Werewolf.” It isn’t like what you see in the movies where they were praying over me and speaking in tongues.
SM: This is one of the best stories I’ve ever heard. You would think after failing the first time they wouldn’t want to do another exorcism. Where you like what the hell?
JM: Haha pretty much. I’m a hardcore atheist now, I don’t if that is due to the exorcisms. I was like 10 or 11 when I had them.
SM: I would love to talk about the fact that Lovecraft and the Horror Genre don’t seem to mesh often. What do you think?
JM: There’s a big divide because most Lovecraft fans identify as literary fans whereas most horror fans are movie-going fans. This is not to say that horror fans don’t like to read, cause they do. I love horror and horror fans – they are awesome – but I think there is a big divide because the Lovecraft fans identify as literary fans because they love the literary side whereas the horror fans love the slasher flicks and all that other great stuff and they identify more with the movies. There’s that bridge gap [between Lovecraft and horror] that hasn’t happened yet because there hasn’t been as many Lovecraft movies as there should have been by now. Most people know of “The Reanimator” which is as far removed from the Lovecraft story as it can be, but the director still did a good job with the movie.
SM: Speaking of Lovecraft stories, what is your favorite Lovecraft story?
JM: It changes with the season haha. The first one I ever read was “The Call of Cthulhu,” which I will always love, “The Colour Out of Space” is amazing. All of his short stories have their own universe, they do link together a little bit but it’s almost like going into their own universe for each one which is kind of crazy, but I love it. I have ones I don’t like of course, but I guess I would say “Dreams in the Witch House” might be my favorite. I’ve read everything that Lovecraft has written and I own almost everything that Lovecraft has written – there are some of his anthology of letters that I don’t have but story-wise I own all of those.
SM: Now that we know what is your favorite story, what is your least favorite Lovecraftian story?
JM: In my mind there has always been a somewhat negative connotation with the “Reanimator” for me because I saw the movie first and then read the book and it was hard to get the movie out of my mind. I like the story now because I can read it and forget about the movie. There’s also some early Lovecraft stories that aren’t so great.
SM: I know we talked briefly about the divide between Lovecraft and horror but do you think people realize how much Lovecraft influenced horror?
JM: Everything in horror comes from Lovecraft. It’s weird because if you’ve been a horror fan for year and have never read Lovecraft and you pick up one of his books it’s like ‘Oh, I’ve read/seen all of this stuff before’ but really this [Lovecraft] was first. All the other stuff sprang from this. Stephen King had a steady diet of Lovecraft and claims him as one of his main influences.
SM: How big of a Stephen King fan are you?
JM: I used to be when I was a kid and then as a teenager I came across Lovecraft and never read anymore Stephen King. It’s not that I don’t like him, it’s just that Lovecraft builds universes and Stephen King builds towns and worlds.
SM: My first review on my website was for Stephen King’s “IT” – if you don’t know, I have a fear of clowns.
JM: I bet I can beat your fear of clowns. My great uncle was a Barnum and Bailey clown and he was buried in his clown outfit. When I was really young, I went to the funeral and saw a clown in a coffin. So I have a visceral reaction to certain types of clowns.
SM: I have no words. Moving on from clowns haha, do you have any weird fan stories?
JM: Sure! I have tons! I’ve had good and bad fan interactions. It’s cool to see on social media people reaching out to me and telling me they love my stuff. I’ve had a lot of awesome and positive feedback. There’s been some disconcerting things in the last couple of months since I stopped doing just Lovecraft stuff. People have been like ‘Oh you’re cheating on Lovecraft.’ ‘What happened? Are you trying to sell out?’ That’s always thrown me for a loop.
SM: Since you have a such a presence in the Lovecraft community, do you have a lot of Lovecraftian friends?
JM: I have a lot of internet friends who are into Lovecraft. Not a lot of people know who he [Lovecraft] is. Lovecraft seems to be kind of hipster right now. Even literary people; you would think they would know him by now but it’s because, I think, Edgar Allan Poe got more recognition. Poe didn’t just write horror, he had a lot of satire stuff and detective stories, but most people know him for “The Raven” and “The Fall of The House of Usher”, but Poe did other types of writing, whereas Lovecraft completely devoted himself to weird fiction.
SM: Have any celebrities reached out to you or have you done any work for celebrities?
JM: Yup! I sold Lovecraftian idols to Guillermo Del Toro and Adam Savage from Myth Busters. Also, I did a Parcel of Terror in May that had “The Amulet of Coffin Rock” from the “Blair Witch Project.” The director saw this and ordered one and actually reposted it which was really awesome.
SM: Tell me more about your Parcel of Terror!
JM: I just started in February and it’s been really good. Instagram user Nolahorror, was a great help in spreading the word of the Parcels of Terror on Instagram since he is a fan of Lovecraft and subscribed to the Parcel of Terror. The Parcel of Terror goes out every month and it contains an assortment of handmade items ranging from Lovecraft to slasher icons. We are different than other monthly subscriptions in the sense that everything is handmade so you can’t get this stuff anywhere else.
SM: I feel honored to have received a Lovecraftian Parcel of Terror and I plan on adding more to this new collection of mine! Thank you so much Jason for allowing me to interview you. I had a great time and I look forward to seeing and purchasing more of your work.
Author’s Note: I was lucky enough to receive my own Lovecraftian “Parcel of Terror” and again, I want to thank Jason for his patience while I was delayed in posting this interview as well as for the amazing gift that I received. If you are a Lovecraft fan and are not yet following Jason and/or Cryptocurium please do so!
If you are interested in learning more about Cryptocurium, The Parcel of Terror, Lovecraft, or anything else that Jason does, he can be found at the following sites:
FACEBOOK: Cryptocurium: Custom Creations