Mark B. Ledenbach's vintage Halloween collectibles blog.

Antique RARE! Original DEVIL HALLOWEEN LANTERN Heavy Paper Mache Flocked

I don't know what to make of this. Admittedly, I don't spend a lot of time collecting lanterns as I much prefer other genres, but I've never seen something like this. It looks like the reverse is a typical JOL with the typical coloration, but the front is a flocked (!?) devil face. From a proportionality perspective, it looks right. The modeling of the features doesn't ring alarm bells. However, having never seen something like this after going on 30 years of collecting, and with the plethora of fakes and fantasy pieces polluting the hobby, I am deeply suspicious. I am keeping in mind that the fakers have gotten better year after year, so I can't shake the suspicion that something is wrong here. Comments? 

I've received some comments. Thanks for taking the time for the replies, R, J and J!

Took a look at that devil lantern on ebay. It almost looks like someone got creative with an original JOL and sculpted a devil face over it with paper clay? The flocking was used to try and even out the texture. Those horns wouldn't be part of the casting. They would create undercuts in the mold. Where the red meets the orange on the base I wish we could see the chin a bit better. Not my area of expertise but if I were going to add a face that is how I would do it. The nostrils were indented with a tool of some kind. My assumption is someone made the alteration on the lantern in the past but how long ago is the question.

I agree with you on the flocked devil head on eBay. Something is just not right with it. It almost looks like the took a JOL and added the front to it. I passed on it.

Checked in with the blog tonight and am responding to your "Comments?" question about the devil lantern. On the one hand, the combination of orange and red seems odd to me. I'd think it'd be one or the other rather than a fusion of pumpkin and devil. On the other hand, at least some of the wear on it looks reasonable. I'd prefer to see more pictures or examine the thing in person to get a better impression. The wear patterns tend to tell me a lot about antiques, but pictures don't always make it easy for me to assess them. What messes with my head about it is that in some respects it feels to me like it could be right. What goes beyond that messing with my head to a whole additional level, though, is that if it is a fantasy piece, it reflects a much higher degree of aesthetics and competence than what I'm used to seeing. Art crime and forgery is one of my general areas of interest. An early area of improvement to art forgery (going back at least a century or two for "fine art") is to intentionally damage rather than simply age pieces by staining them.

08/29: Here's another comment that I endorse. Thanks JS! 

I'd like to comment about the mysterious devil head lantern. I found this object puzzling because it looks like a fantasy piece but also shows seemingly accurate signs of age and wear. After viewing the pictures in the original listing, my theory is that the devil features were added to an original vintage pumpkin lantern sometime in the past. The backside looks just like a vintage pumpkin lantern in color & sculpting. I think in the distant past someone got creative with this piece and added a chin, nose, and horns to make this pumpkin into a devil. That might explain why only the front is flocked red while the backside was left untreated, & the seams left sloppily unfinished. This theory could explain the appropriate signs of age, and the incomplete insert. I imagine a forger in current times would not leave an otherwise convincing piece unfinished in the back and at the seams if the intention was to deceive. Thanks for alerting us to this interesting listing!

08/30 Here's a contrary opinion. Thanks SA!

Just a few more comments on the flocked devil lantern, if I may: Many figural Halloween lanterns from the German composition era through the American pulp era have had humanoid or cat faces on the front and a pumpkin-type ribbed back. So, that in itself is not unusual, albeit that with this piece the transition from devil to pumpkin is more abrupt than most. No doubt the German craftspersons producing holiday goods sometimes mixed, matched, restyled, and repurposed design elements and spare parts over time, and created end-of-day pieces besides. Without benefit of close inspection, I'd say the devil face is original to the time of manufacture. The craftsperson may have with a generic compo pumpkin and grafted on the devil face, or used a generic pumpkin mold for the backside of the lantern coupled with a devil face mold for the front side.
As always, a close inspection could change my mind, but this lantern it strikes me as quite plausible. If an ordinary compo pumpkin was used as the foundation for the lantern, I think it was done when originally manufactured. Otherwise, it, it would have to be a recent fake of exceptional skill--the old flocking would be very hard to reproduce, I would think. Nobody was bothering to fake old Halloween stuff until the last couple decades--it simply wouldn't have been worth someone's time prior to the 1980s.

This questionable item sold for $515.00!