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Giving Back to the Community... With Monsters
Ed and Marsha Edmunds bring people together with "Monster Day."
Greeley, Colorado became my home in the early 1990’s when I was working on my bachelor's degree at the University of Northern Colorado. Back in those days of long-winded classroom lectures, roommate pranks, and an ungodly number of pizza-delivery orders, I’d sometimes hear the story of a mysterious fellow somewhere in town who created monsters for the entertainment industry.
Yes, I said monsters.
Being a big fan of Science Fiction and Horror movies, and also a bit of a Halloween enthusiast, I thought this was pretty cool. A local monster-maker! The guy’s props had allegedly even been featured in one of the “Alien” films, as well as rocker Alice Cooper’s concert tours. Still, the whole thing sounded more like an urban legend than anything. No one seemed to know exactly who this guy was, or even where he worked his magic — just that it was somewhere in or around Greeley.
Was he even real?
The answer… was yes. After graduating, I remained in Greeley, where I worked as a software developer and later started a family. And over the years, I came to learn that the man’s name was Ed Edmunds. He and his wife Marsha owned a company called “Distortions Unlimited” that was leading the way in animatronics innovation, high-quality masks, and other frightening props. I would occasionally see their nightmarish (and very impressive) work on display at Halloween time, at stores and in haunted houses.
As time went on, the Edmunds became less and less of a mystery. In fact, the City of Greeley, a little over a decade ago, began featuring them in an extensive marketing campaign hoping to draw new businesses, residents, and tourism to the area. It finally let me put faces to the names, and two smiling faces at that.
The Edmunds had even become reality-TV stars, starring on the Travel Channel’s “Making Monsters.” The very entertaining program, filmed in Greeley, featured their unique work and colorful crew.
Once I discovered that one could actually schedule a tour of the Distortions warehouse through their office, I immediately booked one.
I brought my kids with me that day, and it was a fantastic experience.
The large building (which is surprisingly discreet from the outside) was overflowing with monsters, aliens, and other unusual beings. They hung from the walls and ceilings, sat on large shelves, and stood upright in haunting poses. The creature creations ranged from their beginning stages (monotone casts and molds) to the very end (airbrushed, detailed, and ready to ship). There were lots of amusing photo opportunities, as well as newspaper articles and poster memorabilia from Distortions’ extensive past.
But the most memorable part of the tour was meeting the mastermind himself. One might expect Mr. Edmunds to be kind of a morbid, creepy fellow, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. He wasn’t at all the mystical recluse I had envisioned him as during my college years. Instead, he was an outgoing, energetic, super-nice guy who clearly takes a lot of pride and enjoyment in sharing the details of what he does with others. His passion for his profession was obvious and infectious, and he and his charming wife Marsha were an absolute delight to talk to.
In fact, a lengthy post-tour conversation I had with Ed was surprisingly deep and meaningful. After the Boy Scout group we shared the tour with left, Ed and I got to talking about all kinds of things, from the industry, and his love for old SciFi television shows, to faith and the meaning of life.
I kid you not.
He’s a natural, authentic conversationalist, and it was like we had been friends for years. And a few days later, after I wrote an article about the tour and Distortions for the local paper, I think that’s what we became.
I always enjoy running into Ed and Marsha in Greeley, or joking around with them on Facebook. I’ve also brought friends, family, and clubs over to the Distortions tour, and we’ve always been greeted very warmly. The Edmunds even let my son do a job-shadow at their company for a high school requirement.
Plus, Ed’s pretty cool about doing book promos… 😉
But what’s especially impressed me about the Edmunds in recent years (beyond their art and becoming Internet sensations) has been their remarkable commitment to community. They’re no longer Greeley’s hidden secret, but rather the city’s pride and joy. And they’ve given back in extraordinary way.
In 2017, Distortions joined forces with the City of Greeley to bring us “Monster Day,” a day-long, two-block, downtown festival dedicated to all things “monster.” It began as an anti-bullying campaign for kids called “Don’t Be a Monster,” and though the campaign is still its centerpiece and fundraising focus, the annual event has grown to an all-ages extravaganza.
Distortions creations and demos fill the blocked off streets, joined by costumed volunteers and attendees, monster-themed vendor booths (including food), monster trucks, a hearse car-show, etc. The entire downtown area gets into it, and the event attracts people from across the country. And again, it’s all for a good cause.
It’s a huge and time-consuming undertaking, especially for the Distortions crew, but they never disappoint.
Last Saturday was this year’s Monster Day, and like every year, it was an absolute blast. The smiles were as plentiful as the frights.
On display (and in operation) was a new product from Distortions that might just be my favorite yet. “The Mutant” is so over-the-top awesome that you’ve got to check it out:
A few months ago, my wife and I attended another annual (but much smaller) event called, “Do Tell.” It features local members of the community, on stage, sharing the pivotal moments that shaped the direction of their lives. Ed and Marsha were speakers this year, and we very much enjoyed hearing all about their interesting past, but also what drives them today.
The Edmunds, who I’d discovered were fellow Christians when I first met them back in 2013, elaborated on how much faith has played a role not only in their lives, but their company. Ed views his work with his close-knit crew at Distortions as a ministry. The bond has not only added spiritual value to their lives, but also the lives of those who’ve been touched and influenced by their creations. Marsha shared an incredibly touching letter from a woman whose autistic son had deeply connected with Distortions’ work, and how when he finally built up the nerve to talk to Ed at a horror convention, the attention and kindness the child received meant the world to both of them.
My community is so blessed to have these generous, thoughtful folks among us.
You can learn more about Ed, Marsha, and Distortions on their website. And if Monster Day sounds at all intriguing to you, and you’re thinking about checking it out next year, make sure you follow the event on social media.
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